Another most barbaric, most heinous crime had been committed by religious fanatics in the name of religion in full public view on the street of Dhaka. Dr. Avijit Kumar Roy, a Bioengineer presently working in software engineering in the USA, had been brutally murdered as he and his wife were going home at about 9:00 pm on Thursday, 26 February after attending the Ekushey Book Fair and launching his newly published books. They were attacked by two or three assailants with machetes. The Coroner of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, only a short distance away from the crime scene, testified that the attack was an act of a professional killer. Two deep rooted stabs at the back of the skull were so severe that the victim died within a short time from severe bleeding. His wife had also been attacked and she is now in critical condition.

So what did Avijit Roy, a software engineer, an author and a blogger, do to warrant such ire of the murderous men? Avijit Roy and his Muslim wife came to Bangladesh from America only a week earlier with the specific purpose of launching his books on ‘Biswasher Virus’ (Virus of Faith) and ‘Sunyo theke Mahabiswa’ (From Vacuum to the Universe) in the Ekushey Book Fair. The Virus of Faith was his latest book. The content of the book, ‘The Virus of Faith’ was nothing new and no derogatory comment to Islam in particular is present. It deals with the overall obsessive behaviour with spiritual or divine doctrinaire, which may be dubbed as the spell, which leads people to become numinous and obsessive. This numinosity was not restricted to any particular religion, it is prevalent to all religions and to all religious minded people.

The American Philosopher and polemicist, Daniel C. Dennett in his book ‘Breaking the Spell’ propounded the idea that although Darwinism is the overriding natural instinct for survival, there are instances when subtle and almost covert drive overrules this instinct. He gave an example of the ants in the meadow which perpetually try to climb up a blade of a grass. The ant may fall down but it would try again to climb. This strenuous effort of the ant is counter-productive to the survival instinct, as the ant in the grass may be devoured by a sheep or a cow and hence no biological benefit accrues to the ant. That is where the catch is! The brain of the ant had been commandeered by a tiny parasite that needs to get into the stomach of the animal to complete its reproductive cycle. The ant simply acts as a vehicle. Similar, but not exactly same, trend is observable in human kind. A strong incentive, an obsessive feeling, a particular human endeavour can become so overpowering that normal biological function in a human being becomes somewhat redundant. The biological function that is carried out under instructions from ‘genes’ in various organs and tissues, is now replicated in brain by ‘memes’ for brain functions. The concept of ‘memes’, similar to genes, had been advanced by Professor Richard Dawkins (Oxford Professor in Evolutionary Biology). Once this ‘meme’ gets into the brain, it can mutate, it can reinforce itself and drive or manipulate human behaviour. Once it is infected, it grows like a virus.

Avijit Roy took up this theme and elaborated it in his book. It is simply a hypothesis, which can be applied to all other spheres of human activity, besides religion. For example, when someone falls in love, madly in love; to him or her love is the only thing that matters in life at that time. Quite often, the boy would say that he will not live without her. His brain signal has become so strong and manipulative that all other competing signals, such as physical needs, social pressure etc. have become temporarily dysfunctional. Another example may be that occasionally a man may become totally obsessed with money. He wants more and more money, which we may call greed. He would want more money than he can possibly spend in his lifetime; but that does not stop him from wanting more.

The Islamic fundamentalists found this sort of articulation in his book too much to tolerate, although there was nothing particularly against Islam. This virus of faith can grow in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and so forth. Indeed, when it does grow it produces corresponding pool of fundamentalists. So why did the Islamic fanatics take such strong exception to this idea as to warrant the termination of his life? Has life become so cheap to them that they can eliminate it at their pleasure. Or do they feel that they are so strong that any dissenting voice is unworthy of being allowed to live on earth? What sort of human value do they propagate when they carry out their barbaric act in the name of religion?

Undoubtedly, this act of murdering a man for proposing or upholding an idea is most heinous, to say the least. An Islamic organisation by the name, Ansar Bangla 7, has purportedly claimed the responsibility of this crime. This is not the first time or only one incident that Islamic organisation has carried out such barbaric acts. In Bangladesh alone, a number of bloggers, including Ahmed Rajib Haider in Feb 2013, as well as a prominent author and educationist Humayun Azad in 2004 had been killed by Islamic assailants in similar fashion. There are innumerable other cases where religious intolerance directly leads to the murder of individuals!

Worldwide, Islamic fundamentalists have become so completely deranged that it is indescribable. From the 9/11 attack, killing over 3000 people, and London underground attack, killing 38 people, to attacks in Mumbai, Madrid, Mali, Bali and so on by Islamists are all extremely insinuating to the religion. The internecine conflicts between Sunnis and Shias all over the world only bring disgrace to the religion. The beheading of nurses, news reporters, voluntary workers as well as innocent men, women and children by the IS in the Middle East in the name of Islam does not bring any good name to the religion. Is Islam so very fragile that any question, however remotely be applicable to Islam, has to be violently suppressed? No other religion has such jingoistic violent attitude. Is it not the time mullahs take a good look at themselves and analyse their behaviour and see how they fit in the modern world?