Yesterday, when my wife was reading news from Bangladesh on the internet, she told me that she was reading about the murder of Avijit Roy in Dhaka. I exclaimed to her, “our Avijit?”, got on to internet immediately, and started reading the news myself. I felt like I was having a nightmare, did not want to believe the news to be true.
In September 2014, Avijit wrote a blog in English in Mukto-Mona:
There he cited examples and argued with logic that the virus of faith was real. Obviously, he did not have any word of hatred against the Islamic fanatic forces of the world that he was talking about. He did, however, point out how those fanatic forces have been committing heinous crimes against innocent humanity. I called the article “very scholarly” and him “brave”; but asked him not to visit his (and my) “beloved birthplace, Bangladesh, anytime soon.” For, I knew that his life could be at serious risk in that land, where the major ‘secular’ political party keeps Islam as the ‘state religion’ and proposes to build a mosque in every sub-district with government money.
While there are some visible activism among the youth for secularism in the country, Bangladesh has seen an exponential growth of mosques and madrassas (Islamic religious schools) over the last few decades. These religious institutions are for promoting submission to ‘almighty Allah’, and for defending Islam. Thus, even the ‘secular government’ bows down to the Islamist forces. With so many people willing to kill and die for Islam, and with so many hopeless people who can be hired for committing any kind of crime, Bangladesh remains a very hostile place for anyone who criticizes Islam in any way. Thus, the threat on people like Avijit Roy was very real in Bangladesh.
Now, the promoters and defenders of Islam have done their religious duty of killing Avijit Roy, a remarkable non-believer. But here is what Avijit had in his mind for the Muslims, the followers of Islam:
“আমি নাস্তিক। কিন্তু আমার আশে পাশের বহু কাছের মানুষজন বন্ধু বান্ধবই মুসলিম। তাদের উপর আমার কোন রাগ নেই, নেই কোন ঘৃণা। তাদের আনন্দের দিনে আমিও আনন্দিত হই। তাদের উপর নিপীড়ন হলে আমিও বেদনার্ত হই। প্যালেস্টাইনে বা কাশ্মীরে মুসলিম জনগোষ্ঠীর উপর অত্যাচার হলে তাদের পাশে দাঁড়াতে কার্পণ্য বোধ করি না। অতীতেও দাঁড়িয়েছি, ভবিষ্যতেও দাঁড়াবো। এটাই আমার মানবতার শিক্ষা।”
“I am an atheist. But a lot of my near and dear people, my friends, are Muslims. I am not angry at them; I have no hatred against them. I feel happy on the day when they are happy. I feel pain when they are oppressed. When the Muslim people of Palestine or Kashmir are repressed, I do not hesitate to be beside them. I have done that in the past; will do that in the future. This is the lesson from my humanity.”
The above is from a Facebook post by Avijit Roy while talking about his books, ‘বিশ্বাসের ভাইরাস ‘ (The Virus of Belief) and ‘অবিশ্বাসের দর্শন’ (The Philosophy of Nonbelief).
Indeed, atheists are humanists and no hate-mongers, because they are free to think. They do not have the compulsions of defending illogical religious beliefs, which often breed and sustain hatred between differing religious groups, such as what have been going on in the Middle East with no real hope for peace anytime soon. Religious groups have also been committing heinous crimes against absolutely innocent non-believers of religions. In the history of mankind there is no example of atheists committing hate-crimes against people of religious faith or of lack thereof.
Through the murder of Avijit Roy, the part of humanity that does not hate has lost a great soul. Avijit was a young man in his early forties. He was an extraordinary human rights activist. He excelled in science and technology at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and at the highly prestigious National University of Singapore, earning a Ph.D. degree. He was a genuine scholar in science, technology and humanities. He wrote ten books that promote freedom of human minds, and human rights and dignity. He had all the potential for contributing greatly to humanity. Due to his untimely death, I cry a lot more for the loss that I feel for humanity than for my personal loss as a friend.
In the Mukto-Mona article that I cited above, Avijit criticized the US President for attempting to separate Islamic State from Islam. I agreed with him, and wrote, “It is indeed a shame that the US President and the British Prime Minister try to dissociate ISIS (also known as ISIL/Islamic state) from Islam. It is dangerously dishonest. They could have limited their political correctness to suggest that most Muslims do not subscribe ISIS’s idea of the state/world, which can be argued to be the fact.”
I really feel very strongly that the intellectuals and the socio-political leaders of the civilized and humane world need to stop playing games and political correctness with the fire of religion-based hatred. It is overdue for the world to look at religions with common sense and honesty, which would inevitably discard hatred due to religious faiths and clanships.
About the Writer: Sukhamaya Bain is a US citizen who was born in a place that is a part of today’s Bangladesh. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry in 1987, and currently works for the US federal government, evaluating chemistry. While being a scientist by profession, he believes that societal justice is vital for the well-being of mankind. Thus, he occasionally writes on sociopolitical issues.