in Bangladesh have recently arrested a number of “atheist bloggers”
and subsequently shut down their websites. One of the more popular
bloggers, Asif Mohiuddin, had been viciously attacked in January,
almost resulting in his death. Islamists have given the Bangladeshi
government a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” who demand that they repent or face blasphemy charges. Actually, many of the
demands of these Islamists are much more malicious.
April 6th, hundreds of thousands of men (so we’re talking
about a pretty large mob here) filled the capital Dhaka to demand the
hanging of these atheist bloggers. According to their protests, these
bloggers were so offensive, so repugnant to the faith of Islam, that
they should be hanged for their opinions.
British Humanist Association (BHA) is calling for the British High
Commissioner to Bangladesh, Robert Gibson, to make a formal complaint
to the Bangladeshi government. The International Humanist and
Ethical Union (IHEU) has spoken against these arrests, saying that
the authorities are “walking into a trap set by fundamentalists”.
it seems that the authorities have taken offence to religion as
a serious crime. The authorities have traded in justice and
free expression for the violent and hateful interests of
fundamentalists. There are real concerns about the violation of human
rights that may go on in the legal proceedings. However, perhaps more
worrying than that is the danger these bloggers will face if
they are released without any blasphemy charges.
of the Jamaat-e-islami party have explicitly called for the death of
anyone who “insults Islam”. It’s not simply the case that members
of this party, and other groups like them, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. These
people are beyond psychotic – they are willing to parade their
threats of murder in public and then actually go through with it. In
February this year, a blogger known in connection with anti-islamist
protests, Ahmed Rajib, was murdered with a machete in his home.
irony of the whole situation is that these angry Islamist mobs should
in fact be arrested for what they’re expressing; not the atheist
bloggers. The atheist bloggers are not harming anyone in what they’re saying or doing. The Islamists, on the other hand, are clearly inciting
violence, an act which should be prevented by the authorities.
Furthermore, it should be prevented quickly, considering that
violence is much more likely to be incited by a mob which gathers in the
hundreds of thousands.
Copson, Chief Execute of the BHA, commented, “This is a grave
politically motivated situation which yet again shows the danger of
‘blasphemy laws’ to those who dare to express an opinion which goes
against religious and fundamentalist sentiments.” Andrew Copson has
also said that the British government must take a strong position on
this issue, ensuring that the arrests, violence and harassment stop
as soon as possible.
is correct in identifying this as a political tactic. There are only
6 million internet users in South Asia, out of its 160 million, so
it’s unlikely that the crowds of Islamists have even read the blogs.
The largest opposition party in Bangladesh, the BNP (Nick Griffin’s
not involved; it stands for the Bangladesh National Party) have
supported those who protest against a secular government. The anger
directed at the atheists could merely be a way to sway public opinion
in the lead up to next year’s country-wide elections.
fear of Western values, such as free expression, encroaching on Bangladeshi politics, has made some extreme-minded citizens opposed to the
idea of speech which attacks the status quo. The opposition party is
hoping to harness this fear as a way to support
their cause. It is clever and subtle move, but ultimately dangerous.
opposition party are using Islam as an excuse to vilify some imaginary
enemy – the bloggers who are attacking the faith of the Muslim
population. This deception is revealed by the fact that one of the
“atheist” bloggers, Asif Mohiuddin, specifically says, in his
actual blog entries, that he is not even anti-religious. By arresting
bloggers for causing offence to religion an even greater offence has
been committed – an offence against the right of free expression.