Tragically, the threats were carried out and his alleged killer was captured and is currently in prison.
This episode makes me wonder if I would have that kind of courage to publish in a heavily Muslim country as Roy did. Would I have even discovered freethought writings? Would I have had the courage to persist in the face of condemnation and threats? I don't know.
Dr. Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi-American freethought writer murdered last week in Dhaka, wrote in detail about a man who has been arrested as a suspect in his killing, Islamic extremist Farabi Shafiur Rahman. In his final article for the upcoming issue of the secular humanist magazineFree Inquiry, Roy describes the many threats made against him by Rahman, who has been linked to the radical Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, and the Hizbut Tahrir terrorist group.
In his article for Free Inquiry, Dr. Roy tells of the backlash he faced following the publication of his book, Biswasher Virus (Bengali for “The Virus of Faith”), and names Rahman as one who took to social media to encourage fellow extremists to murder Roy, referring to Rahman as “a known cyber-terrorist.” (Read the article in full at http://bit.ly/VirusofFaith.)
In his essay, Dr. Roy writes:
I suddenly found myself a target of militant Islamists and terrorists. A well-known extremist by the name of Farabi Shafiur Rahman openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook statuses. In one widely circulated status, Rahman wrote, “Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back.”
Roy also describes how Rahman publicly threatened other progressives and religious critics, and how the government of Bangladesh did almost nothing in response.
“While it is not yet known if Rahman played a role in this brutal murder, it is chilling that Avijit was already keenly aware of the threat posed by Rahman and those who could be swayed by his demands,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s representative to the United Nations, and a friend of Dr. Roy’s. “In our own private conversations from as far back as 2013, Avijit had mentioned that Rahman was among those who had been threatening his life.”
“It is imperative that the authorities of Bangladesh thoroughly investigate this and any other avenues that might bring Avijit’s killers to justice. And they must not stop there, but take far more seriously the deeper threat posed by extremists who openly call for the murder of the critics of religion and the supporters of secular government. Let Avijit’s death be the last of its kind in Bangladesh.”
Dr. Roy’s Free Inquiry article has been made freely available by its publisher, the Center for Inquiry, in advance of its official print publication athttp://bit.ly/VirusofFaith.
Free Inquiry‘s website is http://www.secularhumanism.org/fi.
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.