Religious extremists kills another freethinker

Avijit Roy , an atheist writer and blogger of Bangladeshi origin, residing in USA was brutally hacked to death yesterday night in Dhaka.

This is an old post written by him in the website founded by him Mukto Mona

The answer of religion to criticism has always been violence.

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Today is September 30th, also known as Blasphemy Rights day. This day is dedicated to those who are systematically being persecuted, harassed, or killed for their simple expression of Freethought (more precisely, for their ‘blasphemous’ views towards religion).

In medieval ages “blasphemy” was equated with sin, as it was considered an insult to a deity or Holy Scripture. But as time progressed, we apparently became more civilized by promoting the idea that any belief should be open to examination and taboo-free. In most progressive parts of today’s world, particularly in Europe and North America, the old blasphemy laws have been overturned. However, few other parts of the world have retained social ideas that are reminiscent of the mediaeval age. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bangladesh are some prime examples. In Bangladesh, as we already know, several bloggers were recently put behind bars on the sole basis that they were openly atheist (Pls. refer to my write up published in current issue of Free Inquiry Magazine on this topic). In Pakistan (as from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report), at least 203 incidents of violence in the name of religion have resulted in some 1,800 casualties and more than 700 deaths in just the last 18 months. These Islamic countries, based on their religious legal code known as Sharia, are deeply anti-woman as well. Recently, a 19-year-old gang rape victim (yes, you read right – rape victim, not the rapist) was sentenced to 200 lashes and to six months in jail for the crime of indecency and speaking to the press in Saudi Arabia (read here). In another incident, Raif Badawi, a blogger in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes on charges of blasphemy (here). The nonbelievers in these Islamic countries face the most severe treatment at the hands of both mullahs and the state.

Today, we state clearly that considering apostasy to be a criminal offense in state level in fact is an inexcusable offense. If being religious is someone’s right, then being critical to religion is also one’s right. There is nothing wrong to be critical to any idea or ideology, as CFI aptly put on its Blasphemy day banner – ‘Ideas do not need rights, People do’!

I wished I would write more on this year’s celebration of blasphemy day, but one unexpected email changed the entire theme of my planned write-up. The email arrived from Patuakhali, one of the remote districts in South-western Bangladesh:

“Every human being wants to be happy; but if we don’t know how to find a way to walk the road of happiness then we will just grow up naturally and die someday without getting the taste of real happiness.

Few years ago, I was desperately looking for a way to find the path of happiness. I guess I have found it at last. Now I know the real happiness is reading “Mukto-Mona [Freethinker] blog” every day. The real feeling is to know the truth and all I have got from you. I’m really thankful to you for showing the right path. I wish your happiness and bright future always”.

However, it was the last paragraph of the email that really touched my heart. It says:

I have a daughter. As a mark of respect to you and your creation – Mukto-Mona blog, I call her ‘Muktomona’ [freethinker is Bengali] as well. She is two years old now. I will try my best to make her real muktomona I look forward to my daughter growing up and one day asking me, among the millions of names, why did I pick and choose her name ‘muktomona’. That day I would tell her about you and show her your site and explain -‘That’s why’!

This was a wonderful gift for me on ‘Blasphemy day’. I founded this ‘blasphemous site’ Mukto-Mona (www.mukto-mona.com) in the year of 2001, with a singular intention: to debate and discuss on controversial, but utterly important issues. Only with this principle, I thought, can the construction of a progressive, rational and secular society be possible in mainstream Bangladesh and South Asia. I was proud of MM’s growing popularity in the progressive community over the years, but I never imagined that a person from remote Pauakhali would one day inspired one day so much that he would name his little girl ‘Mukto-Mona’.

What a pleasant surprise! I hope just as her name suggests, the little girl will one day grow up to be a ‘blasphemous’ freethinker. I hope she maintains an inquisitive mind throughout her life, and will be a wonderful person and that she will enhance her life with an ethical, scientific, and philosophical outlook. I wish her all the best.

Happy blasphemy day 2013. We will celebrate the day as ‘Mukto-Mona Day’ from now on.

Avijit Roy
Founding Moderator, Mukto-Mona
Blasphemy Day, 2013
(September 30, 2013)

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Dr. Avijit Roy is a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free thought movement. He is an engineer by profession, but well-known for his writings in his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona—an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent. As an advocate of atheism, science, and metaphysical naturalism, he has published seven Bangla books, and many of his articles have been published in magazines and journals. His latest book, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief), has been critically well-received and is a popular Bengali book on science, skepticism, and rationalism. He writes from Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached through twitter (@avijit_roy_MM) and Facebook.

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Islam in the State is the end of everything worthy of a 21st century life

Maryam Namazie’s opening remarks at the World Humanist Congress on 9 August 2014.

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“In this day and age, there is most certainly something about Islam.

Not because it is any worse than other religions.

As I have said many times before, all religions are equal and equally bad.

No religion looks favourably upon women, gay and lesbians, freethinkers, dissenters, other religions or atheists, and blasphemers, heretic and apostates… Punishing freethinkers is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. But there is something about Islam primarily because it is the banner of Islamism, a far-Right political movement, spearheading what I call an Islamic inquisition.

Islamists want the far-Right restructuring of societies – concretely this means a Caliphate or Islamic state, the implementation of Sharia law, the imposition of the burka and compulsory veiling, gender segregation, defending Hududd punishments like death by stoning, and the execution of apostates to name a few.

You don’t have to look far to see what Islamism is. The Islamic regime of Iran. The Saudi government. Hamas. Boko Haram. Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Ut Tahrir and the Taliban.

And of course the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) which has made tremendous advances over the past few days and months and which continues to shock and outrage humanity with its sheer terror and brutality.

ISIS is Islamism without its palatable wrappings often fed to people in Europe and the West where its manifestations like Sharia courts in Britain and the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia wills (which institutionalises Islamist values) – are portrayed as people’s “right to religion” even by some humanist groups.

Whilst there are differences in degree amongst Islamists as there are in any phenomenon, fundamentally they are all striving for the same things. Including groups like IERA in the UK which has charitable status and debates well known scientists and atheists whilst defending the Caliphate, death to apostates (they say beheading is painless) and segregating British universities.

Some keep telling us of such “moderate” or “soft” Islamists. There are none.

Fascism is fascism no matter how it is wrapped and dressed.

There is also, given the context, no moderate Islam. Even if there are a million interpretations, today, Islam is what ISIS tells you it is. It is what Khamenei in Iran says it is. It is what the Taliban says it is by sheer and brute force. In many places, you must either submit to their Islam or die.

When religion is in the state or has influence it is no longer a question of personal belief but of political power.

Of course when I talk about Islam I am not speaking of Islam as a personal belief or Muslims who are believers like my father and mother or some of yours.

People practice Islam and religion in innumerable personal ways; they pick and choose what aspects fit their lives and more often than not, people’s humanity shines through whatever their religion or belief.

Being Muslim doesn’t mean one is an Islamist anymore than being Turkish means you support Erdokan, or being Nigerian means you are with Boko Haram or being British means you are a supporter of the British National Party or Christian Right.

No group, community, society is homogeneous. As Kenan Malik says “secularism and fundamentalism are not ideas stitched into people’s DNA. They are, like all values, absorbed, accepted, rejected”.

In fact, Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims are the first victims and at the forefront of resistance against Islamism.

Karima Bennoune highlights nearly 300 such people and groups of Muslim heritage as she calls them who refuse and resist in her book called “your fatwa does not apply here”.

Also, over the past decades, many have “voted” against Islamism with their feet by fleeing Islamic states and movements in unprecedented numbers.

Right now, thousands of Yazidis considered devil worshipers by ISIS languish in the mountains of Sinjar with children dying of thirst and nowhere to go surrounded by ISIS.

Islam today isn’t a private matter, especially not during an inquisition.

Islam is not just the ‘opium’ of the masses as Marx has said but their genocidaire.

Of course, it is good to be balanced and speak of all religions as being equally problematic. Even after the enlightenment has removed much of Christianity’s power and influence, Christianity is still not a benign force; it creates misery where it can.

But you cannot look at ISIS right here and now and its beheadings and crucifixions and sexual jihad and speak of similar attitudes during Victorian England or Europe’s dark ages.

ISIS represents our dark ages today in the 21st century.

It is good to be balanced – particularly when you have a far-Right using the issue of Sharia law and Islamism to attack immigrants and Muslims and absurdly demanding a ban on the Koran as if the Bible was banned to stop the Spanish inquisition. A far-Right that feigns “crocodile tears” for those killed by Islamists yet cheers the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza by the Israeli state.

It is important to be balanced but one must also be fair and just.

If we cannot see that there is something about Islam and Islamism, then we cannot respond as we must.

And if we don’t, who will?

Defending freethought and expression is crucial in this fight. Defending blasphemy and apostasy cases are important. Removing blasphemy laws from the legal system is key.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain deals with hundreds of such cases every year. But it is not enough to defend free expression and thought within a limited human rights or legal context.

We must see blasphemy and apostasy laws and a defence of free expression within the larger context of religion in general and Islam in particular vis-a-vis the question of political power.

Islam in the state or with political power is the end of freethought and the end of free expression.

It is the end of democratic politics.

It is the end of women’s rights and gay rights and the rights of minorities. It is the end of everything worthy of a 21 century life.

It is a return to the dark ages.

A Humanist congress today can only begin and end united for Sinjar and united against ISIS.

It must stand unequivocally against Islamism, Sharia law and the Caliphate. This is not about “people’s right to religion”. It is about stopping Islamism’s right to kill and slaughter and oppress.

A humanist congress must stand for equality (of people – not religions and beliefs), for universal rights, and for secularism and the separation of religion from the state – not just for Europe but the world.

This is not a clash of civilisations. It’s a clash between the theocrats and fascists versus the rest of us – Muslim, Atheist and none.

As the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat said:

“In Islam … the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled.”

Restraining it – controlling it – in this day and age – that is our task.”

Originally posted here