I am one of the signatories of an open letter, organized by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, to the Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh. This protests the horrific situation for atheists, humanists, and secularist thinkers in Bangladesh - a situation in which the government is deeply and deplorably complicit.
Five bloggers have been murdered brutally in Bangladesh in the past two years - four of them since February this year. There have been numerous other murders and atrocities stemming from the activities and propaganda of religious extremists. Extremist groups continue to call for the violent suppression of atheistic, humanist, and secularist thought. Meanwhile, police have frequently engaged in victim blaming, and in their own attempts to expose and harm atheists and others who reject religion.
Alarmingly, the government has itself demonized free expression, has sought to appease the extremists, and has taken its own steps to suppress the views of atheists, humanists, and secularists. As recently as 9 August 2015, the Cabinet Committee for Law and Order decided “to declare Atheist authors as criminals” - making them subject to prosecution. Intelligence agencies have been asked to monitor blogs to find atheist writers.
The IHEU letter contains extensive detail. It concludes by imploring the Prime Minister and President to take decisive steps to ensure the safety of individuals whose lives are threatened by religious extremists, and to ensure Bangladesh’s compliance with international norms relating to freedom of conscience and expression.
Please check out the full text of the letter. This situation merits far more international outrage and protest than has been seen to date.
Russell Blackford is affiliated with humanist and secular organisations including the Center for Inquiry. He is a laureate of the international academy of humanism.
Authors: The Conversation