Early this morning (Saturday 23 April) a university lecturer was hacked to death in Bangladesh. Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique was a teacher of English Department.
The Guardian quotes a fellow English professor and friend of Siddique’s saying, describing an artistic man who played Tanpura, and wrote poems and short stories. “He used to lead a cultural group called Komol Gandhar and edit a biannual literary magazine with the same name. But he never wrote or spoke against religion in public”.
Police said that the killing bore all the hallmarks of recent attacks on atheist bloggers and activists. Students and teachers immediately protested the latest violence.
Less well-reported internationally is that, in the short time since the previous latest attack, the murder of Nazimuddin Samad (or Nazim Uddin) earlier this month, police have also arrested a Facebook user Jishu Chowdhury for supposedly “anti-Muslim” comments on the social network. Chowdhury actually wrote that if Bangladeshi was to become safe again, then people must protest and take military action (“kill”) the millitant Salafi terrorists; comments which have been intentionally distorted in the media to “kill all Muslims”.)
President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Andrew Copson, comments:
“With the government blaming the victims and presiding over a systemic and conceptual collapse of justice in the country, Bangladesh continues to commit suicide in the eyes of world. Its best hopes for a civilised future are being hacked down. The police and security services fail to make any real dent in the Jihadist networks behind these attacks. And the government in borrowing the attitudes of the killers themselves — condemning non-religious people who simply express their honest criticism of religious beliefs or parties, or as in the case of Rezaul Karim Siddique offer their own cultural contributions outside the narrow constraints of Islamism — is only helping to fan the flames of extremism.
“Unless the government immediately begins to defend the right to speak and write freely, without adding the unprincipled and anti-secular qualifications that it keeps applying to freedom of expression, then very soon the only voices that will be heard will be those of murderous extremists. It is long past time that the government reverses its retrograde attitudes and unapologetically condemns extremism and stands up in protection of the secular, free society that they were meant to be working to defend.”