It is a dark time for freedom of speech. It is a return to the medieval ages wherein men (and women) were burnt, impaled and tortured for daring to exercise dissent and free will. Now we live to see the day where men are hacked to death on the streets for expressing their views. Another blogger, 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman, was murdered right outside his home by two men armed with knives and meat cleavers on Monday. This heinous crime comes on the heels of the public hacking to death of secular blogger Avijit Roy, who was attacked along with his wife last month on the streets of Dhaka. Horrified onlookers did not come to their aid in fear of being targeted too. In the last two years several outspoken bloggers have been killed in this way. The finger of blame always points towards Islamists and in the cases of Roy and Rahman the suspects arrested have come from religious seminaries. What is ironic is that the two arrested in the murder of Rahman have even confessed to not being familiar with his writings but were only carrying out the orders of someone higher in an Islamist group.
The murders of Roy and Rahman have sent a chilling message to anyone who is foolish enough to think they will be safe if they freely express their opinions. The dangerous uptick towards conservative Islam in Bangladesh has also released a counternarrative by the likes of these bloggers who feel they need to present their views in an increasingly oppressive environment. It is for this reason they are being killed so mercilessly, so that no other voice except the dogmatic remains. Any dissenting views or secular opinions are being fought tooth and nail by the radically strengthening Islamists in Bangladesh who are willing to go to any length to protect their draconian view of the world.
This entire region is suffering from an affliction. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are spewing vitriol in the name of religion, exhibiting never-seen-before barbarity in the name of ‘protecting’ religion. We have seen a woman lynched in Kabul for daring to defy a mullah at a shrine, we have seen many hauled up for blasphemy, especially the minorities, and now in Bangladesh we see this savage display of religious ‘devotion’. What is this region coming to? What kind of Islam is this where differing views, instead of being accepted and open to discussion, are hacked down like their expressers? Roy and Rahman are casualties of this disease and their killers and the powers behind them must be brought to justice. *