“Fundamentalism Rising” – exploring threats in India and Bangladesh

"Many people will tell you that this is the fringe... But sometimes the fringe becomes the centre."

  • blog Type / Campaigns blog
  • Date / 25 April 2019
  • By / Humanists International

Photos of the event are available at the bottom of this article or on our Facebook page.

Humanists International and Conway Hall Ethical Society hosted an interactive panel discussion on “Fundamentalism Rising” last night (Wednesday 24 April), comparing the situations in both countries, looking especially at the threat from militant groups and political trends toward the Islamist agenda (in Bangladesh) and Hindutva ideology (in India).


Many humanists will argue that there has been a long-term global trend toward humanism, and progress in social norms, political discourse, science and medicine. However, it’s also very possible that countries, and entire regions, can witness reversing trends in one or more of these areas. Various parts of the world have seen alarming rises in recent years in new religious fundamentalist groups, demagogic leaders, white nationalism, and so on.

From different social, religious and political starting points, India and Bangladesh have both seen a backlash of violence against the rationalist and atheist community. These are two countries each with their own long-term secularist and rationalist trends, as well as their own long religious traditions. Both have seen secular political parties or constitutional secularism, making regressions toward religious partisanship and radicalization even more alarming and of global significance.

Since 2014, humanist and secularist activists have been threatened, attacked or murdered by extremist religious groups in both countries. Radicals or nationalists and the state itself have tried to silence humanist voices, with some forced to live in hiding or to flee the country.

We invited two panelists to join our president, Andrew Copson, on stage to discuss the trends and the challenges, as well as causes for hope.

Salil Tripathi, was born in Bombay, India. A contributing editor at Mint and at Caravan in India, he is currently Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, and author of books like “Offence: the Hindu case” and “The Colonel Who Would Not Repent”.

Bonya Ahmed, Bangladeshi-American author, is a humanist activist and blogger who in 2015 survived a machete-wielding attack by Islamic extremists. Her husband, Avijit Roy, was killed in the attack. Currently she is visiting fellow at LSE Human Rights Centre in the UK.

Live-tweets from the event follow below.

(Left to right:) Andrew Copson, Bonya Ahmed, Salil Tripathi, and Humanists International's Giovanni Gaetani and Bob Churchill

(Left to right:) Andrew Copson, Bonya Ahmed, Salil Tripathi, and Humanists International’s Giovanni Gaetani and Bob Churchill

Thanks to everyone who attended, and to Conway Hall for partnering with us to host this event.

All proceeds from the event go to Humanists International, supporting our work in defence of humanists at risk in India and Bangladesh.


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