Bangladesh arrests atheist bloggers
For those concerned with recent events in Bangladesh with regards to the suppression of free expression and prosecution of atheist bloggers. Below is a letter I have sent to the High Commission of Bangladesh in order to help raise awareness of these events and others across the world. These individuals need our help to protect their freedom of expression and right not to believe. If you feel moved by, or feel that such a struggle represents your views, I implore you to take action in any way available to you such as sending a letter to their ambassadors or joining a local protest. The International Humanist and Ethical Union can provide resources for such a letter writing campaign. The demands of those that persecute the bloggers as well as Christians in the country (Muslims) can be seen here. Their justifications predictably come from God and their chants are savage including “one point, one demand, atheists must be hanged”. It is only through our action, that the values of a free, democratic, secular society can be protected.
Dear (name of ambassador),
I am contacting you to express my concern with the terrifying situation involving three atheist bloggers in Bangladesh and laws that make the expression of a person’s religious beliefs or lack thereof illegal if that expression might be offensive to Islam.
Police recently arrested these atheist bloggers in Bangladesh after they were accused of “defaming Islam and the prophet Mohammed.“ As a result of their atheistic blogs, each faces up to 10 years in jail, although a crowd of over 100, 000 marched on Dhaka to demand the death penalty for something that should never be a crime in any country that claims to respect religious freedom and the freedom of expression.
This is not the first case of atheists being arrested for “crimes”against Islam. The Egyptian atheist Alber Saber, who was arrested and remains in prison for insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammed is one such case as well as the vicious stabbing of Asif Mohiuddin in your own country. This is also not the only case by far of human rights abuse being marginalised to protect the Islamic faith, a faith that some perpetrators claim they draw their justification from such as in Egypt, Kuwait, Tunisia and Pakistan.
This alarming trend of arresting atheists is spreading throughout the world. I need your help to raise awareness of the situation to high-level government officials who must take action now against the fundamentalist Islamist groups. The party seem to be reacting to the anti-Islamist Shahbag movement and trying to shift the focus of the criticism of their past transgressions onto atheist bloggers for apparently defaming Islam. This manipulation of social emotions for political gain cannot be allowed to stand unopposed. I applaud the Prime Minister who has spoken against any new blasphemy law and welcome her commitment to a secular state as the Bangladeshi constitution protects free expression, has a nonreligious parliamentary democracy, no blasphemy law, or Sharia. It is, however, in the same instant very worrying that she and other officials have said they will “take action” against atheist bloggers as if to placate Religious sensitivities.
Please do your part to protect freedom of speech by ensuring the UK embassy is vocal in condemning these activities. Religious beliefs should be respected, even if they differ drastically from our own. However, religious groups and individuals must remember that they chose their faith based identity and political alignment and are not immune from having their beliefs questioned, nor do they have the right to imprison others who they feel have insulted their faith. Such insult does not constitute grounds for the prosecution of atheists. Offence taking should not take the form of mob influence on the government or worryingly mob induced “justice” seeking that seems to have been orchestrated by Islamist parties. Rather, feeling insulted indicates a lack of emotional maturity and intellectual honesty in the individual and group when dealing with sensitive belief based matters and manipulating such things by those in power is an intellectually dishonest and divisive tactic.
Please stand up for the rights of these atheists not as atheists but as fellow human beings deserving of equal rights and protection from faith based persecution. After all, each of us belong to the same imperfect species of homosapien and should recognise the similarities in eachother rather than detest the self-imposed differences. These men do not deserve to sit in jail for being atheists or for challenging religion. With your help, we can help assist them in their quest for freedom and vindication.
Thank you for defending the basic human right to believe and not believe.
Glen Andrew Carrigan