Moderator’s Note: Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, an eminent mukto-mona blogger, was arrested on April 1st  on charges of Blasphemy. He is one among the free-spirited online writers who are being punished for virally spreading their reason-based opinions. Not once did Shuvo violate any stated Bangladeshi law, yet his actions have been declared as a crime in the eye of the government.  What’s more twisted is that Bangladesh does not even have an official “blasphemy” law, like Pakistan does. Human rights organizations all over the world are berating Bangladesh for restricting the bloggers’ right to freedom of speech (Please refer to the article published in Skeptic under the title, ‘The Struggle of Bangladeshi Bloggers‘) .

Dave Niose, the author of ‘Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans’ put in his recently published article titled, ‘Atheism Shouldn’t Be a Crime’ states, ‘Nonbelievers are valuable contributors to society and deserve no inferiority complex or stigmatization, yet their government encourages it. “Theistic supremacy” is too often the official governmental line, only because politicians find it easy to pander to religious voters by exalting religious belief. It may not be akin to throwing atheists in jail, but it still isn’t right’

We have to agree with Dave here. We do not live in a world of theocracy, rather we live in twenty first century when people are enriched by scientific ideas, rationalism and skepticism, not by a clergy of a mosque. State can’t impose religious views on others and punish them for disagreeing.

Today, May 7th, is the birthday of the naturalist blogger Subrata Shuvo. This is his last writeup in Mukto-Mona Bangla blog before he was taken to jail. Mukto-Mona is proud to share his writeup in this memorable day. We thank Shuborna Senjuti for translating this piece.

Happy birthday Suvo. Long live freethinking.

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In Which Direction the State Will Go? The state is at loggerhead with Fundamentalism

Subrrta Shuvo

[Translation – Shuborna Senjuti]

A few days back I gave a facebook status. The status read:

The British took over ruling of this land from the Muslims and in turn became their stern enemies. On the other hand the Hindus started taking up government jobs by enriching themselves in British education system. The British government started establishing schools and colleges for educating the mass of this region. Hindu colleges for the Hindus and madrassas for Muslims. One of the preconditions to have everlasting territorial and colonial power is to let one class be poor and weak forever. In Bengal region the Hindus were landlords while Muslims were mere subjects. The British started educating the Muslims in madrassa education. One thing to keep in mind is that there was no difference between madrassa and school. It was merely the words which were different.

We saw enlightened students coming out of Hindu colleges due to the fact that those colleges did not concentrate on teaching Ramayana and Mahabharata only. But the British and ignorant Muslims turned the madrassas into schools of Quran and Hadith teaching. Then again, Hindu students also studied in madrassas of Kolkata as those embraced modern teaching.

Despite freeing themselves from the British, Bengali Muslims have not been able to truly emancipate themselves indulging in free thinking. This is true especially in case of religious teaching. While Michael Madhusudan Dutt was able to write “Meghnad badh”(The killing of Ravana) Muslims were still strict hardliners about religion. Until we can bring reform in the madrassa education we are not safe from religious fundamentalists because those madrassas are their breeding grounds.

The reason behind quoting the status is that a large portion of Bangladeshi population is madrassa educated and majority of them support the idea of an Islamic state governed by Islamic law and rule. It is disheartening yet true that both general people and educated mass are guided by religious sentiment and are neither against madrassa education nor want any kind of reform. The result of this ignorance is evident to us. Any effort to reform the religious education system stirs the religious mass to go in warfare. At present madrassa education and Islamic revolution has become an abscess in society. The government is stuck on the horns of a dilemma.

 

On February 5 the youth of Bangladesh started Shahbag movement to ensure capital punishment for the 1971 war criminals. That movement also raised demand to abolish religious politics along with the demand to ban Jamat-Shibir, the pro Islamic right wing party which harbored most of the war criminals. However, later the activists strayed from the initial demand of banning religion based politics. Just a few days later, following the killing of blogger Rajib Hayder Shovon the movement was termed an atheist movement. It was perfectly propagandized by “Amar Desh”(a hard core right wing, pro Islamic newspaper). It republished various write ups and comments of atheists from blog and facebook. Strangely enough, this caused the public sentiment to droop. Right after this Hefazot-e- Islam (a shadow wing of Jamat-Shibir) became active in the field to combat Shahbag movement and demanded arrest of the atheist bloggers. Various Islamic magazines, webpages and web-mags started publishing list of atheist bloggers. Disappointingly, the government was in tune with the fundamentalists with regards to taking steps against atheists. They even formed a committee for that purpose.

Bengalis have two tigers in front of them. One is biting their neck; the other is sitting far away. The one biting the neck is Jamat-Shibir and the one away is the Islamist fundamentalist parties. I consider all Islamist parties to be in the same category albeit their direct opposition to Jamat. Because there is little difference between their ideals. Both Jamat- Shibir and Islamist groups have the same desire- to establish Islamic rules in the country. We have not forgotten the social character and activities of the Taliban. We saw how the Taliban smashed the Buddha statues and Zakir Naik, the religious exploiter supported them. We saw a number of frightening forms of Islamic fundamentalism including the demolition of sculptures in airport roundabout during caretaker government’s regime.

Last 28th March Islamist protesters gathered under the leadership of the cleric of Chormonai. The cleric threatened to cordon Prime minister’s office on 5th April unless atheist bloggers were duly punished. In the meeting demand was raised to introduce punitive measures for defamation of Quran, Allah or Prophet Muhammad.

Meanwhile, Islamic parties have been quite active about implementing blasphemy law. Before last election Nizami (Head of Jamat) announced his intention to introduce blasphemy law as well. There’s nothing new to say about blasphemy law. This evil law is presently being practiced in Pakistan and newspapers clearly tell us about the negative aftermath. At least 53 people have been killed from 1990 till today involving Quran defamation. The Times of India (Dec 22, 2012) reported, aggressive Muslim mob raided a police station, snatched a man and burnt him alive because allegedly he burnt the Quran. Days earlier in another incident 50 Christian families were set on fire following religious swearing during a fight between two drunkards. The religious fanatics behind the heinous communal attack in Ramu complained that a Buddhist boy named Barua was tagged in a facebook photo where the holy Quran was being trampled. Now they may say, this has been plotted earlier. Indeed this was plotted, but they concocted this to exploit people’s emotion and to set fire to the Buddhist house and temples.

While writing this blog I came to know the following-

List of 84 bloggers to Home Ministry:

A list of 84 bloggers from 9 blogs has been handed over to Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs. These bloggers were accused of slandering against Prophet Muhammad (Sm) and Islam. Additional Secretary (Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs) Mainuddin Khondoker said to journalists,” An email account was created to lodge complaint to the ministry”. He informed, the ministry sought specific information and evidence from the alems (the Islamic clerics and leaders) regarding defamatory comments against Islam and the Prophet. Already some complaints have been lodged. Soon they will be sent to law enforcing authority for further investigation. Later there will be legal actions against the accused. He mentioned, “Anyone can submit specific complaints here. They are also encouraged to attach the defamatory writing along with the complaint.”

Editor of daily Al-Ihsan Allama Muhammad Mahbub Alam Arif who was present on the meeting said, “The bloggers are led by Asif Mohiuuddin. He is propagating all these.” He continued,“ people who defame Islam and Hazrat Muhammad (Sm) in the name of freedom of speech are synonymous to atheists. They have to be controlled. No Bangladeshi can comment on Indian blogs but Indians can comment on Bangladeshi blogs.” He accused BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) of not doing their job properly. A monitoring cell is to be setup to prevent this, he commented. It has also been suggested that government proactively initiate a case.

The list provided to Home ministry contains the name of the following bloggers: Arifur Rahman, Monir Hasan, brittobondi, Shoitan, Monjurul Huq, Kakhaga, Russell, Nastiker Dhromokotha, Durer Pakhi, Ariful Huq Tuin, Titiana, NazimUddin, Alamgir Kumkum, ForahUddin Swapon, Dosshu Bonohur, Farhana Ahmed, Ghonada, Rahan, Onnokeu, Paapi007, Horas, Proshonnottor, BhaloManush, BhondoPir, Boikuntho, Sottanneshi, Porua, Hulk(Sanaul), Biplob007, Rastar Chele, Ghatok, BishalBD, Sahoshi6, Lighthouse, Momota Jahan, Ratmojur, Koushik, Meghdut, Swapnokothok, Praypas, Ahmed Mostofa Kamal, Looker, SojaKotha, Transistor, diwan, Ami ebong Adhar, Oronnyodeb, Keltuda, Ami rodher chele, bhinnoChinta,Outsider and Pronob Acharya.

Besides this, the other bloggers who were reported are as follows: Asif Mohiuddin, Abul Kashem, Alamgir Hussain, Ananya Azad, Ananta Bijoy Das, Ashihs Chaterjee, Avijit Roy, Biplop Kanti De, Daripalla Dhomadhom, Nitai Bhattacharya,Ibrahim Khalil, Shobak(Sumon Saodagor), Koishik, Ahmad, NurNobi Dulal, Parvez Alam, Rajib Hayder Shovon (ThabaBaba), Ratan, Sonnyashi, Shoikot Chowdhury, Shormee Amin, Soumitra Mojumder, Soumya, Allama Shoitan(Biplob), Shubhojit Bhowmik, Sumit Chowdhury, Shoikot Barua, Subrata Shubha o Shushanta Das Gupta.

 

The picture below depicts current state of the bloggers:

On one hand the “Rumi Squad” called for fasting till death protest to ban Jamat-Shibir. On the other hand Islamist groups threatened to cordon the prime minister’s office demanding punishment of the atheist bloggers. Five of those fasting were admitted to hospital but they came back and rejoined the protest. Can we have our demand fulfilled, can we abolish Jamat-Shibir or will we be defeated by fundamentalist politics? I don’t know the answer of this question, even though I hope we will definitely succeed. The main question in front of us is whether we will make our golden Bengal another Afghanistan or an adobe for Bengalis. There’s no way to be so called neutral in this issue or to deviate from this question. The time has come to decide whether the state will embrace fundamentalist power or support the progressive block to move the nation forward. Either you are pro-fundamentalist or pro-progressive. There is nothing in between.