Today is Avijit Roy’s 46th birthday.
This day, instead of celebration, has now become a reminder of challenges that are faced by secular humanist writers in today’s Bangladesh.
Until his last breath, Avijit, an engineer as well as a writer and a social activist, promoted human rights, rationality, and most importantly, dared to dream to transform a society troubled by superstitions.
He created Mukto Mona- a hub to promote rationality and foster democratic dialogue.
In Bangladesh’s conservative, and in many sense lawless society, the creation of Mukto Mona was a sense of freedom. Soon after its creation, the website evolved as a small but significant platform for secular writers.
The government of Bangladesh claims to be worried about the Islamic militancy. The commonly held view is that religious extremism is one of the greatest danger for the future prosperity of the nation, and promotes, at least in papers, a zero tolerance policy.
Yet, in recent years, scores of writers, publishers, intellectuals, journalists and secular politicians have been attacked or killed including the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by the Islamic militants.
But, unfortunately, the criminals are rarely, if ever, put on trial.
This environment of intolerance has become so severe that anyone who holds liberal, secular views and writes about it is now a potential target.
The despicable murder of Avijit Roy and injustice that followed it demand the reorganization of Bangladeshi liberal civil society to exert pressure on the ruling class to investigate and prosecute such incidents in accordance with the law.
In addition, the civil society must stand together to fight the autocratic nature of our government for assurance of constitutional rights such as free speech, rights to life and liberty, and judicial reform to hold the executive branches of the nation accountable.
It is important to understand, economic prosperity is just one part of nation-building. A democracy cannot function without respecting civil liberties.
And this is exactly what Avijit has fought for “our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the what arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy dictate, but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality, and science.
We argue for a rational and scientific approach to human problems as an alternative to religious dogma, strongly defend freedom of thought and civil liberties, and strive for the secularisation of politics, society, and the educational system.”