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Denounce Those Playing Political Games with Women’s Lives over Sharia and Islamophobia

Rumana Hashem

This is probably an overdue update for community women’s blog readers on our campaign against Sharia Councils in Britain. We are aware that our blog has largely been dominated by stories of Bangladeshi community for a while. Due to the ongoing political situation and violence against women and minorities in Bangladesh, we needed to prioritise stories of Bangladeshi-British women and news from Bangladesh. However, this is a critical juncture when we must return to an ongoing issue of Islamophobia and the status of our campaign against parallel legal systems in Britain.

 

Muslim women and secular activists in East London joined Nari Digantas's panelists and representatives of eight Muslim women's organsiations, to abolish Sharia In Britain. Monteforio Centrre on 15 Oct 2014 by Golam Rabbani of Diamond Studio

Muslim women and secular activists in East London joined Nari Diganta’s panelists and representatives of eight Muslim women’s organsiations to abolish Sharia in Britain. Monteforio Centrre on 15 Oct 2014 by Golam Rabbani of Diamond Studio

Following the commitment to dismantle abusive practices of Sharia Councils, religious arbitration in family matters and parallel legal system in the UK, minority women’s rights campaigners have been urging the government to fully and impartially investigate Sharia bodies.  Although the UK government is conducting an inquiry into the operation of Sharia Councils which was launched in spring 2016, this is being boycotted by secular and minority women’s organisations, including East London based women’s rights organisation Nari Diganta and the core coalition against parallel legal systems, for reasons explained in this article . In short, the remit of government’s inquiry is too narrow, and the panel of judges are not ‘independent’ enough to undertake an impartial investigation.

On July 4, a letter, signed by an unprecedented number of women’s rights campaigners and organisations from Britain and internationally, was submitted to the Home Secretary raising serious concerns about the government’s ‘independent review’ into Sharia councils in Britain. Our letter stated that the limited scope of inquiry and its inappropriate theological approach will do nothing to address the discriminatory effect and intent of the courts on private and family matters – areas where, arguably, the greatest human rights violations of minority women in the UK take place. Rather than taking a human rights approach, the government has constituted a panel and terms of reference more suited to a discussion in theology than one which serves the needs of victims whose human rights are violated.  By making religious appointments, the government has lost a vital opportunity to examine the discriminatory nature of not only Sharia bodies but all forms of religious arbitration.

Despite grave concerns, Theresa May’s government is moving ahead with its controversial Sharia review.  At the same time the UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the compatibility of Sharia with British law. Some frontline organisations and women’s rights activists including Southall Black Sisters, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Centre for Secular Space, One Law for All, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the Culture Project, and Yasmin Rehman have submitted written evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee. A few of these campaigners were invited to attend oral Evidence Session held on 1 November and they gave robust evidence under hostile environment by Islamist MPs.

 

Women's' rights campaigners challenged the unbalanced inquiry on Sharia Councils at the public meeting on "Sharia Law, religious arbitration and access to Justice" at the Parliament on 7 November 2016. Photo credit: Southall Black Sisters

Women’s’ rights campaigners challenged the unbalanced inquiry into Sharia Councils at the public meeting on “Sharia Law, religious arbitration and access to Justice” at the Parliament on 7 November 2016. Photo credit: Southall Black Sisters

 

There are currently two parallel enquiries running, one by the government and one by Home Affairs Select Committee, both of which appeared to have imbalances.  Earlier this month, certain committee members in the UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee launched personal attack against a secular women’s rights campaigner, Maryam Namazie of One Law for All, who was invited to provide oral evidence following a call for evidence submission  against abusive practices of Britains’ Sharia Councils. Muslim women’s rights campaigners such as Yasmin Rehman, who expressed wish to attend oral evidence session by all means, was left out of the committee room as uninvited, while Maryamn Namazie an Iranian born secular feminist who worked closely with victims of Muslim origin and who provided powerful oral evidence on Sharia abuse at oral evidence session was faced with a personal attack as unrepresentative of Muslim women.

A committee member Naz Shah MP asserted that she wants to have a choice for Sharia divorce. The Pakistani origin -‘British-Muslim’ committee member Shah insisted that she is aware of many Muslim women who may use Sharia Councils. For Shah, a closure of Sharia Councils in Britain would mean that the option for a Sharia divorce of many Muslim women in the UK would be taken away. She asserted: ‘My choice would have been taken away’.  We don’t know if Shah will ever go to a Sharia council for divorce though, she wants to have the choice to have a Sharia divorce!

Using her parliamentary privilege, Naz Shah MP accused Namazie that her suggestion for closing down Sharia Councils would have discriminated against all religious believers. Without any proof, she said: ‘the people I have been talking to in the last 24 hours have told me that there is an air of Islamophobia and racism about this whole debate’. It would be interesting to know who are those people that Naz Shah MP had spoken for 24 hours to defend Sharia councils.

The antagonist comments by the MP in question was criticised by concerned secular groups and women’s rights campaigners. Yet she has not apologised for her misconduct and disgraceful attack against a women’s rights campaigner, while the oral evidence session was supposed to focus on Sharia Councils and its adverse effect on women’s lives.

 

The shocking part for me was the latest news that the Home Affairs Select Committee has asked victims of Sharia abuse to attend a physical event in Whitechapel in East London to be testified by committee members.  As an activist-academic – having completed a doctoral research in gendered violence, being engaged in teaching and research in feminist methodology and ethics in social work, and having invested nearly two decades in working with Muslim women and survivors of religious arbitration in Bangladesh and Britain – I found it hard to believe that the Committee intended to meet with survivors and victims’ in this manner. Whatever it is- insensibility or insanity – this raises many questions in connection with the ethics of the Home Affairs Select Committee appointed to investigate a delicate matter like abuse of women by Sharia in private life, and abuse in the name of religion. Whilst wondering about the motive, opportunity and objective of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I am leaving this blog by keeping my doubts to be explained in a later article at a wider platform, beyond the community women.

 

To end this report, I would like to call upon all community women’s blog readers to name and shame these politicians who fail to see how their policy could violate women’s fundamental human rights. Both the government and the Home Affairs Select Committee seem playing with Muslim women over Sharia and Islamophobia. In the name of choice of Muslim women and religious freedom, the Home Affairs Select Committee is directly acting on behalf of Islamists whose votes matter to the MPs more than women’s lives. The Committee members seem blind enough to not able to see how this ask for testifying victims and survivors of Sharia Councils could cause secondary trauma and further safety issues to many women who are in need of legal protection and access to justice.  Instead of protecting the women who gave witnesses in anonymous forms to their nominated women’s rights advocates, the committee has embarked on a project to promote violation of human rights of those survivors who are already faced with violence and abuse.

 

This update for community women’s blog readers includes a new Written evidence submitted to Home Affairs Select Committee by Southall Black Sisters, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Centre for Secular Space, One Law for All, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the Culture Project, including Evidence Session held on 1 November. The new written evidence that was submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee by the core coalition of women’s rights organisations against Sharia Councils in the UK is as follows:

We refer to recent emails from the Home Affairs Select Committee to Southall Black Sisters and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation requesting us to help find Muslim women who have ‘used’ Sharia Councils, to attend an event in Whitechapel, East London, on 24 November 2016 in connection with your inquiry.

We are a coalition of organisations who have an immense track record in providing front line services and in campaigning for the human rights of black and minority women. Our coalition includes Southall Black Sisters, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Centre for Secular Space, One Law for All, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the Culture Project: we represent some of the most marginalised groups in our society. Between us, we have over 100 years of combined experience of working with women from all faith backgrounds, the majority of whom come from a Muslim background.

Many of us have supported minority women, adults and children of all religious backgrounds to resist powerful cultural and religious constraints that prevent them from exiting from violence and abuse and impede their ability to assert their rights as citizens of this country. It has taken long and often painful struggles to give minority women a voice and to facilitate their access to the formal legal system that many see as their ultimate safety net. We have seen that, without proper and informed access to the civil and criminal justice system and to the welfare state, women are left to the vagaries of arbitrary and discriminatory systems of community arbitration, including Sharia Councils – the subject of the current inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The experiences of women in these circumstances suggest that such parallel legal systems create a lethal space for the resurrection and perpetuation of patriarchal control over and harm to women, vulnerable adults, and children. It is precisely because of these experiences that, in many parts of the Muslim world, women are resisting Sharia laws and religious impositions.

It is against this background, that we are compelled to raise three specific areas of concern that have arisen in relation to your inquiry:

  1. First, we have to say that we are puzzled by your request for women who have personally used Sharia Councils to participate in the event in East London, and we are compelled to decline it for a number of significant reasons:

(a) Why is the Select Committee only interested in hearing from Muslim women who have ‘personally used’ Sharia Councils? There are an equal if not greater number of Muslim women who, for very valid reasons, do not wish to use these Councils out of fear and distrust arising from their own negative experiences of religious control in their communities. Many women confronting honour based abuse, for instance, will not use Sharia Councils because they feel angry and let down by their communities and religious authorities. Many recount the ways in which they have been subject to religious abuse of power, including sexual abuse, and for these reasons they are fearful of being subject to further abuse and humiliation in Sharia Councils. Their experiences and reasons for rejecting Sharia Councils are as valid as those who ‘use’ Sharia Councils. When will these women’s voices be heard?

(b) Many women that we see are deeply traumatised and still in crisis situations. They are often unwilling or fearful of taking part in events that involve revealing intimate details of their lives, especially of a sexual nature, in front of other people (even women) not known to them. Most fear making any kind of disclosure or of raising any criticism of religious authority in unfamiliar and unsafe environments. Our experience of providing counselling, group therapy and support for the extremely vulnerable women with whom we work is that they need to feel confident in safe spaces with which they are familiar before they will disclose their experiences. They have to develop a strong affinity with other women based on shared experiences and mutual respect before they open up to others, even if they are from the same community.

(c) It is impractical for some women who live in North and West London or even outside London to travel to East London. Many are extremely vulnerable or destitute, or have work or child care responsibilities that make it difficult for them to travel long distances. We therefore propose that the Select Committee gives serious consideration to our request to meet women who have used Sharia Councils as well as those who have not, in safe venues across London and the UK, with the support of their advocates and to also consult and take evidence from their advocates who can speak to their experiences. SBS and IKWRO for example, are willing to facilitate access to women who use their services by organising a closed session at the premises of SBS, in West London, where advocates and counsellors will also be on hand to provide evidence and additional support to the women who attend.

  1. We are concerned that the inquiry sessions on Tuesday 1 November 2016, at which witnesses were invited to present their evidence, were highly unbalanced and weighted in favour of those who support Sharia Councils in some form or other.

(a) The sessions consisted of 3 panels of witnesses. Out of a total of ten witnesses who appeared, seven spoke in favour of Sharia Councils (four of whom actually ran Sharia Councils), one remained neutral and only two witnesses – Dr Elham Manea and Ms Maryam Namazie – were called to present their counter arguments. We note that some of those who gave evidence were invited to do so even though they had not made any written submissions to the inquiry.

(b) Whilst we accept that witnesses who speak in favour of the role of Sharia Councils have every right to be heard, we question whether the inquiry can be said to be fair or impartial when the evidence sessions were so clearly slanted in favour of those who have a vested interest in maintaining the role of Sharia Councils over family matters.

(c) In our view, the inquiry needs to hear evidence from expert witnesses who can provide specific examples of how abused women have been re-traumatised and placed at risk following their engagement with Sharia Councils. Most of the abused women that use our services seek a divorce only after they have left abusive relationships, but they are almost always compelled to return to the abuse by Sharia Councils and other religious arbitration bodies, even if this breaches civil and criminal laws and good practice and policies in respect of mediation and reconciliation in gender-based violence cases. In other words, they are forced back underground.

(d) It must be a matter of concern that the Select Committee appears to have chosen not to hear from witnesses experienced in front line advocacy work with BME women – work which has necessarily involved the invocation of human rights and equalities legislation to challenge Sharia laws. The Public Sector Equality Duty for example has been successfully invoked to address the ways in which fundamentalist interpretations of Sharia laws have been utilised by advocates of parallel legal systems to demand gender segregation in public spaces and Sharia compliant wills in inheritance matters. These very same fundamentalist interpretations of Sharia laws are invoked in Sharia Councils and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal. We are also worried about the focus of the inquiry on divorce when these ‘courts’ address everything from polygamy, child custody, domestic violence, marital rape, marital captivity, forced marriages and more.

  1. Finally we wish to place on record our concern about the line of questioning of Maryam Namazie at the evidence session referred to above.

(a) In particular, the tone and manner in which she was allowed to be questioned by Naz Shah MP brought discredit to the Select Committee and its approach to the issues under scrutiny. In particular, the specific suggestion that Maryam Namazie was ‘anti-faith’ appeared to provide a pretext to discount Maryam’s evidence: such tactics can and do contribute to a culture that incites religious hatred and violence towards those, especially from Muslim backgrounds, who are perceived to be apostates, atheists and non-conformists.

(b) As you will be aware, we have already seen a rise in religiously motivated hate crimes towards so called apostates that has even led to murder in the UK. (See the case of Asad Shah who was killed in Glasgow in March 2016.) Given her own background, we would have expected Ms Shah to understand the dangers of portraying those who do not conform to their faith in such negative terms.

(c) We trust you will agree that, as an MP and member of the Select Committee, Ms Shah has a duty to exercise due care and to behave fairly to all the witnesses at all times, whether or not she agrees with them. In our view, she breached that duty in this instance, and we shall be interested to know what you have to say in that regard.

We hope that you will give serious attention to the concerns we have raised. Please treat this letter as a submission to the inquiry. We are also attaching an open letter by us regarding the government’s review of Sharia Councils setting out our concerns which are relevant to this inquiry too.

We look forward to your response.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any clarification or have queries arising from the contents of this letter.

Signed by:

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Maryam Namazie and Gina Khan, Spokespersons for One Law for All
Diana Nammi, Executive Director of Iranian and Kurdish Women’s organisation
Nasreen Rehman, Co-Founder and Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
Yasmin Rehman, Muslim Women’s Rights Activist and Trustee of Centre for Secular Space
Houzan Mahmoud, Spokesperson for Culture Project

 

Further related information:

Elham Manea (2016), “Women and Sharia Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK” (documentation of the harmful and even life threatening consequences of privatised justice and legal pluralism for minority women who are denied the right to equality before the law), UK: I. B. Tauris. 

Video of oral evidence given by women’s rights campaigners of our coalition against Sharia Councils can be accessed here :

Video Footage of never before seen testimonies from women, and the public meetings in London and Manchester, organised by Southall Black Sisters with BME women’s groups: http://tinyurl.com/zk5q697

Written testimonies gathered with partner organisations can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/gqk83ms

Written evidence submitted by the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO)

Written evidence submitted by Southall Black Sisters

Written evidence submitted to Home Affairs Select Committee by One Law for All

Written evidence submitted by the British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Report on Sharia Council and evidence submitted by freelance consultant Yasmin Rehman

May’s inquiry into sharia is not fit for purpose, The Times, 11 July 2016

Inside Sharia Councils, Victoria Derbyshire Programme, 11 July 2016

Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?, Open Democracy, 11 July 2016

More than 200 women’s rights campaigners have sent a letter to the Home Secretary raising serious concerns about the government-appointed independent review into Sharia councils in Britain. Maryam Namazie and Mona Siddiqui discuss, BBC Radio 4, 10 July 2016

Polygamy is not a cultural conceit. It is an affront to women, Guardian CiF, 10 July 2016

Sharia courts review branded a ‘whitewash’ over appointment ‘bias’ concerns, Independent, 10 July 2016

Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sahgal joins UK women to protest “discriminatory” review of Sharia courts in Britain, Counterview, 4 July 2016

Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK? Open Democracy, 4 July 2016

Critics say a UK probe into Sharia courts is a sham, Freethinker, 3 July 2016

Britain probes Sharia courts treatment of women, UPI, 28 June 2016

Britain’s Sharia Courts Under Scrutiny, News Deeply, 24 June 2016

Calls to Dismantle Parallel Legal Systems by women’s rights campaigners on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2015

 

 


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Report on My Bangladesh visit in March 2016

Pushpita Gupta

I am the Co-founder and President of the pressure group called the Secular Bangladesh Movement UK(SBMUK). In December 2015, I was also elected President of the Campaign for the Protection of Religious Minorities in Bangladesh (CPRMB).

In March 2016, I visited Bangladesh on a fact finding trip to see for myself the victims of the atrocities committed against Hindu minority community. During my tour of the country, I visited a number of places to better understand the recent situation of Hindu minorities and victims tortured in the name of religion. This report provides a detailed description of my tour and will give an insight about the current difficult situation faced by the Hindu community.

My trip was jointly supported by the SBMUK and CPRMB who covered the expenses of all travel and modes of transport.

 

Background, political context

Bangladesh is a country where the majority 90% of the population follow the Muslim faith. After the partition of India in 1947,the Hindu population became an endangered community in their motherland, Bangladesh. Through time and changing political situations, pressure on this community has accelerated at an increasing rate.

During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Hindus were one of the main targets of the killing and rape by the Pakistani military and their local militias, simply because of being a Hindu. After independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the percentage continued to dwindle with time through persecution and oppression on a mass scale. Only for the reason of religion, the community has faced large scale brutal attacks by Islamist fanatics in 1991-1992, 2001-2002. Atrocities include murder, rape of women and children, forcefully acquiring Hindu property, destruction of religious idol and temple.

Current context

In recent years, with the rise of Islamism, atrocities against Hindu minority community has increased to an ever more alarming rate. In the last 12 months alone, people have been murdered, raped and forced to leave their property and leave the country becoming refugees in neighbouring countries.

It should be mentioned with the secular government led by Awami League that came to power in 2008 and the formation of International War Crimes Tribunal in 2010 the attacks on Hindu minority has increased. Amnesty International in its 2013 report said, ‘The attacks come in the context of large scale violent protests that have been raging across Bangladesh for weeks over the country’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).’

Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher at the time said, “The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at extreme risk, in particular at such a tense time in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religion. The authorities must ensure that they receive the protection they need. (Amnesty International:2013)

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015: Bangladesh stated, Supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami party threw petrol bombs to enforce strikes and economic blockades. Before and after the election (referring to 2014 election), attackers also vandalized homes and shops owned by members of Bangladesh’s Hindu and Christian communities. (HRW:2015)

This trend seems to be continuing as Bob Blackman MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on British Hindus observed in a debate at the House of Commons on 8 Sept 2016. He said the widespread and persistent violations of human rights and the persecution of minority religious groups—Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other tribal communities in Bangladesh—by the extremist armed groups are deeply worrying to all concerned within the country and in this country.

In late September and early October 2015 two foreign nationals were shot and killed. Since then and as recently as July 2016, attacks against religious minority groups including the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Shia and Ahmadiyya communities, have killed several people and injured many more. Previous methods of attack have included crude explosives, grenades, shootings and knife attacks.

 

The trip

I went to Bangladesh on 28thMarch, 2016 for a three week visit, returning to the UK on 19th April 2016. In this period, I had visited different places of Bangladesh with a high ratio of minority attacks and families, who had faced atrocity.

Whilst in Bangladesh, SBMUK and the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) provided support for me to visit different places and they made arrangement for various local facilities.
 

Places Visited

 

The following table chronicles the tour:

Place Date of visit Incident
Feni  is a district located in the South-Eastern part of Bangladesh 3rd April,2016 A Rabindra Das and his family was asked to give money by the neighbouring Muslim family for permission to celebrate the Hindu festival of Lakshmi Puja. When Mr Das refused to give money, the Muslim family attacked on 29th October 2015, the day of Lakshmi Puja. At one point Mr Das’s wife Tulsi Rani Das, who was 5 months pregnant came to protect her husband and was beaten up badly. As a result she lost her unborn baby. Doctors said she might not be able to have a baby in future. After the incident Tulsi has become mentally traumatised.
Jhinaidha, a southern district of Bangladesh 4th April,2016 This is an incident of property grabbing.  One Hindu community’s fishing area has been forcefully grabbed by a powerful local Muslim family. Mr Nikhil Dutt is one of the Malos (fishermen) who is losing his traditional profession of farming and catching fish in the local water bodies of Maheshpur Kathgora Baor. The Hindu family went to court and got the verdict in their favour, but are still being restricted from fishing there. At least 30 to 40 families depend on this piece of land for their livelihood. They live under threat of losing their land and property, and even their lives are in the hands of the powerful locals who have told them to look for alternative means for surviving. Corrupt people in the local administration are also against the fisherman.
Khulna, Khulna Division  is one of the seven divisions of Bangladesh and is in the south-west of the country. 5th April, 2016 In March 2016,during the local government elections in Bangladesh, Hindu families have been widely tortured for voting their own choice of party by the opponent party. Suvash Das and his family was attacked for voting in favour of the ruling party whose candidate lost. For being in the minority they could not protect themselves. After election violence took place all over the country in 2016, and the Hindu minority community faced extensive damage to homes and businesses.
Habiganj District is in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh 12th April, 2016 On 14th January 2016, Dipali was getting ready to join the religious festival in the nearby temple. Her family members left the house earlier and she was alone at home. By taking this opportunity one of the Muslim neighbours took advantage of the opportunity and came in to the house and raped her. Dipali reported the incident to the police to file a general diary against that person. When that rapist came to know that, he came again on 16th January with few of his friends and was repeatedly raped by the gang, in front of her husband and children who were threatened with weapons.

The main culprit is the younger brother of a local Awami League (ruling party) leader. After the first incident, therapist was caught by the villagers, but his brother came and rescued him. When Dipali went to the police, the rapist came back and raped her again and threatened her family.

District: Sylhet   is  in northeastern Bangladesh 12th April, 2016 A renowned blogger and online activist, Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death on his way to office by some Islamist extremists. The incident happened in the middle of the road 12thMay 2015.

I went to their house to see his family and show condolence to them. Ananta’s father is still in shock and unable to come to terms with the family’s loss.

District: Sylhet 12th April, 2016 A 14 year old school girl Poly was teased daily by a local furniture shop worker on her way to school. One day, the man forced himself on her, but fortunately she escaped. She let her family and school know about the incident as she stopped going to school. Her uncle, Biplop confronted the man and requested him to stop harassing his niece. After couple of days, the owner of the furniture shop called her uncle Biplop to see him. Biplop went to talk but the shop owner and the furniture shop worker stabbed him. Polly’s uncle Biplop later died in hospital. He was newly married.

After the death of Biplop, Poly and her family started getting threats constantly and had to flee from their home and are in hiding in a rural area.

Pabnais a district in north-western Bangladesh 15th April, 2016 In Pabna, Papri was locking up to go next door where the rest of the family where attending a religious musical programme. Papri was the last to leave and whilst she was locking up, she was attacked by three men and dragged to the nearby jungle where she was gang raped. Student of Edward’s College in Pabna, Papri has not attended class since the incident.
Bograis a northern district of Bangladesh 15th April, 2016 Suchi, a 20 year old newly married lady went to a religious festival with her husband. They were taunted by a few local Muslim men. When her husband protested and asked the men to stop, he was stabbed and killed on the spot.

With the main source of income for the family taken away, Suchi has to now support her elderly mother-in-law and her blind father-in-law.

Suchi was only married for 18 days after only knowing her husband for the past 4 years.

 

Conclusion

In all cases, the perpetrators were known and their crimes were reported to the police, yet no charges have been filed.

Community leaders and local police officers are handling the cases of rape, but assailants generally buy their way out of the charges.

As a result, the entire community has been terrorised and feels very insecure. The minority community is not seeing any active role by the political parties or the government to find solutions to these problems that the religious minority of Bangladesh are facing.

In addition, with the rise of Islamist radicalisation in Bangladeshit has caused a mass migration of Bangladeshi minority communities, including Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, who believe their lives are in danger as non-Muslims.

The global community has a stake in engaging with Bangladesh to combat religious extremism, which is a serious threat to Bangladesh as well as others in the age of globalisation.


Recommendations

I would like to remind Bangladesh Awami League of their 2014 election manifesto which stated that the religious rights of every people would be ensured and the state would treat equally with every citizen irrespective of their religion, culture, gender and social status.

With that in mind I would like suggest perpetrators of minority atrocities are brought to justice, specific laws are enacted for the protection of minorities, such as minority protection act, and for the protection of places of worship. A minority rights commission should be created to safeguard the rights of minorities.

I would also like to appeal to the UK Government to give careful consideration to minorities who are already in United Kingdom and have applied for asylum on the basis that they are seeking refugee status for their protection.

 

Sources

Blackman, B (2016) Bangladesh Religious Minorities, London, House of Commons

Faiz, A (2013) Bangladesh: Wave of violent attack against Hindu minority, London, Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch (2015) World Report 2015: Bangladesh, New York, HRW


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Memorandum of the Solidarity Vigil for the Victims of Dhaka Attack

Hand-paint flags and the names death has handcuffed at Traflagar Square . Photo by Araje Tomso. Copy right @Gonojagoron Mancho

Copy right @Gonojagoron Moncho, UK.

At Trafalgar Square Solidarity Vigil for Victims on 3 July 2016

Trafalgar Square Solidarity Vigil for Victims

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 3rd July, 2016, Trafalgar Square, London

We, concerned community members and activists from Bangladesh and internationally, along with representatives of human rights organisations and other civil society organisations and supporters of peace and humanity, are horrified and outraged by the terrorist attack that was perpetuated by extremists in the name of Islam on Friday, the 1st of July, in the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka. We strongly condemn the terrorist attack in Dhaka for which ISIS has taken responsibility.

Following the ongoing and systematic murders of bloggers and academics – variously identifying as humanist, rationalist, atheist, secularist, and variously writing about science, humanist values, against Islamist extremism, or in favour of human rights and justice – for the last three years, the religious extremists perpetuated a horrific attack on peaceful and unarmed Bangladeshi and international citizens in the Holly Artisan, a cafeteria previously known as a harmonious and progressive space at a (known as) pleasant town called Gulshan.  While the exact numbers of victims are not yet known, there were at least 22 people killed on Friday’s attack.

No word is sufficient to express the brutality of the slaughtering of innocent and unarmed women and men. The murderers and their ideological supporters are of course to be condemned and must be brought to justice without delay.

Poster at Solidarity vigil on Sunday 3 July 2016. Copy right @Gonojagoron Mancho

Poster at Solidarity vigil on Sunday 3 July 2016. Copy right @Gonojagoron Mancho

Today we stand in solidarity with the victims of the brutal attack in Gulshan. We are joining with the Gonojagoron Moncho in a rally against religious violence and terrorism at Trafalgar Square, London, in solidarity with the victims of Gulshan Attack. We call upon all concerned humans and well-wishers to Bangladesh to join us in the protest against terrorism and extremism.

Bangladesh is one of the largest democracies in the world and has a secular (non-religious) constitution. It has a largely Muslim population, along with a large number of Hindus, Ahmedia, Buddhist ,and some Christian population who were there since the birth of the nation. The country is one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia. It’s fight to be an independent nation based on democratic principles of freedom and justice was hard won 45 years ago.  Bangladesh will not give this fight up to any terrorist group. But religious extremists hate this position of Bangladesh and have been trying to destroy the nation’s secular space.

Community Women's Blog's Founder, Dr Rumana Hashem, at Sunday Solidarity Vigil for Dhaka at Trafalgar Square on 3 July 2016. Copy right@ Gonojagoron Mancho

Community Women’s Blog’s Founder, Dr Rumana Hashem, at Sunday’s Solidarity Vigil for Dhaka at Trafalgar Square on 3 July 2016. Copy right@ Gonojagoron Moncho, UK

We will not tolerate this. Bangladeshis everywhere will fight against fascism and religious violence and terrorism in the name of religion. It is time for us to stand united against terrorism in the name of religion. It is time to forget all of our differences. It is time to condemn unreservedly the brutal murders and violence in the name of Islam.

This protest and solidarity vigil has been joined by Bangladeshi community organisations and many human rights organisation concerned to the ongoing killings of humans in the name of Islam. Unconditional solidarity has been extended by the British Humanist Asscoiaiton, the Centre for Secualr Space, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Humanitarian Ethical Union, Council for Ex-Muslims. Among the community organisations, Community Women’s Blog, Jubo Union, Nari Digatna, Udichi Shilpi Goshti and many cultural and civic rights organisations have expressed unreserved solidarity with the Gonojagorn Moncho and Bangladeshi people protesting the heinous attack in Dhaka.

 

We stand with humanity and victims of inhuman killings in the name of religion. Bangladesh must not fail to confront and fight ISIS, will mark the beginning of the end of Bangladesh as a free and democratic country.

Gonojagoron Moncho UK activist, Ajanta Deb Roy, stood with a poster questioning the brutality of religious persecution

Gonojagoron Moncho UK activist, Ajanta Deb Roy, stood with a poster questioning the brutality of religious persecution

#WeAreDhaka #StandForDhaka

Gonojagoron Moncho and Alliances, United Kingdom

Here is a short video of the Sunday’s Solidarity Vigil at Trafalgar Square:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QPqcx38gic&feature=youtu.be

Further published news:

গুলশান হত্যাকাণ্ড নিহতদের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা জানিয়ে যুক্তরাজ্যে গণসংহতি প্রকাশ: Bangla Tribune

‘আমরা বাংলাদেশের পাশে দাঁড়িয়েছি’: পরিবর্তন ডেস্ক

 


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Out in School: Gender, Sexuality and Fundamentalism

A Feminist Dissent Event

 

When: Friday, 1 July 2016 from 12:00 to 16:00 (BST) 

Where: Institute of Advanced Study, Milburn House, University of Warwick – View Map

This Workshop brings together researchers, teachers, community members, activists and policy practitioners to provoke an in-depth discussion on the question of sexuality (including sexual orientation) and fundamentalist religious beliefs and practices within schools. What kinds of conflicts arise in the interface of individual and communal religious beliefs and sexual and reproductive choice? What kinds of specific challenges do children who identify themselves as bisexual, gay, lesbian or trans come up against in terms of dealing with religious orthodoxies within schools, communities and families? How can educators, policy practitioners and feminists create space for such discussions to be “out”, and what kinds of practices and policies are best suited to ensure the well-being of children and the values of secularism, liberty and human rights? These are some of the questions that the Workshop will seek to explore. We hope you will join us for this important discussion.

The event is FREE  to attend. Further details about speakers and panelists are available on eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/out-in-school-gender-sexuality-and-fundamentalism-tickets-25932194893

Places are limited, so please reserve a free place via eventbrite

Lunch will be provided for all those registered.

 

We are offering 5 travel bursaries to school teachers from any part of the UK, on a first come first served basis. To request one, please email Rashmi.Varma@warwick.ac.uk

Feminist Dissent is supported by: the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, the Warwick Impact Fund and the GRP in International Development.


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Nari Diganta and hundreds of women’s rights campaigners call for a Ban of Sharia Courts

Fresh Campaign Against Religious Law and Parallel Legal Systems in Britain

Women’s rights and secular organisations urge the new government to take concerted measures to stop the development of parallel legal systems and to facilitate full and proper access to justice for all citizens and to one secular law for all.

For decades, successive governments have appeased undemocratic religious power brokers in minority communities who have sought to gain power through multicultural and now multi-faith social policies. These policies have led to the homogenisation of minority communities including the ‘Muslim community’ and have recognised and legitimated ‘non-violent’ Islamists as ‘community representatives’, outsourcing legal justice to what are in effect kangaroo courts that deliver highly discriminatory and second-rate forms of ‘justice.’ Over the years, we have witnessed with increasing alarm the influence of ‘Sharia courts’ over the lives of citizens of Muslim heritage.

Any government inquiry into ‘Sharia courts’ must also examine the impact of the draconian cuts in legal aid that have adversely affected access to justice for the most vulnerable. Many abused women from minority backgrounds, for instance, are increasingly forced to either represent themselves in court in what are often complex family legal proceedings or go to ‘Sharia courts’ that operate entirely outside the rule of law. The loss of legal aid contributes to a context that is conducive to the consolidation of privatised and unaccountable forms of justice and ‘Sharia courts’ are amongst the main beneficiaries.

Though the ‘Sharia courts’ have been touted as people’s right to religion, they are in fact, effective tools of the far-Right Islamist movement whose main aim is to restrict and deny rights, particularly those of women and children. ‘Sharia’ laws are highly contested and challenged in many countries, including in Muslim-majority countries across the globe – from Iran to Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Pakistan. Those of us in Britain who oppose ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious forms of arbitration over family matters, are part of the same movement that challenge the religious-Right and defend the principle of one law for all underpinned by the notions of universalism, human rights, secularism and equality.

Opposing ‘Sharia courts’ is not racism or ‘Islamophobic’; it is a defence of the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their beliefs and background to be governed by democratic means under the principle of one law for all. What amounts to racism is the idea that minorities can be denied rights enjoyed by others through the endorsement of religious based ‘justice’ systems which operate according to divine law that is by its very nature immune from state scrutiny.

We have seen recent victories against the accommodation of ‘Sharia’ codes within law and policy in the UK. Using equalities and human rights legislation, we have successfully challenged both the Universities UK for issuing guidance that condones gender segregation in universities and the Law Society for endorsing discriminatory ‘Sharia’ codes in the area of inheritance. As well as challenging draconian state measures that criminalise whole communities and aid and abet xenophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, it is vital that we also push back the Islamist narrative and challenge ‘Sharia courts’ since they clearly represent yet another assault on our civil liberties.

We also urge the government to withdraw from its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. Such a move will represent a break from what was the most important social contract to have emerged between European States and citizens, following the Second World War. The agreement to sign up to a simple set of standards that uphold human decency and universal values led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to standards that protect and uphold the rights of all people in the face of state and non-state abuses of power. Now more than ever, we need the Human Rights Act to challenge the arbitrary and unaccountable power of ‘Sharia courts.’

We, the undersigned, therefore, call on the new Government to:

  1. Reinstate legal aid in all areas of civil and criminal law to ensure equal access to justice for all.
    2. Recognise that ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts deliver arbitrary and unaccountable forms of ‘justice’ that discriminate against women and children in particular. Citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.
    3. Abolish the use of ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious arbitration forums, including the Beth Din, in family matters since they undermine the principle of equality, non discrimination and universal human rights that must be enjoyed by all citizens.
    4. Reject calls for state regulation of ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts and tribunals. This will only legitimate parallel legal systems in the governance of family matters.
    5. Re-affirm the principle of the separation of religion and the law. The law is a key component of securing justice for citizens and one law for all.
    6. Desist from repealing the Human Rights Act 1998. This move will strip all vulnerable people of their right to protection and justice.

Signatories

A C Grayling, Philosopher
A Gilani, Spokesperson of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan
Afiya S. Zia, Active member of Women’s Action Forum in Pakistan
Afsaneh Vahdat, Spokesperson of Children First Now
Alber Saber, Egyptian Blogger
Albert Beale, Pacifist Journalist
Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Physician
Ali al Razi, Ex-Muslims Forum
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Blogger
Alison Assiter, Professor of Feminist Theory at UWE, Bristol
Aliyah Saleem, Secular Education Campaigner
Alya Marquardt, British-Iraqi Singer and Composer
Amel Grami, Tunisian Professor
American Humanist Association
Andrew Lowdon, Chair, Nottingham Secular Society
Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values
Anila Atharhasan, Rationalist Society of Pakistan
Anissa Helie, Professor
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-founder and Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Nirmul Committee
Anthony McIntyre, Writer
Armin Nabavi, Atheist Republic Founder
Aso Kamal, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Ateizm Derneği
Atheist Alliance International
Babak Yazdi, Spokesperson for Kanoon-e Khavaran, Organisation for Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran
Bahram Soroush, Political Analyst
Bariş Çetin, Board of Directors’ Member of Ateizm Dernegi
Ben Kerr, Chair of Plymouth Humanists
Bo Liao, President of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Bob Charlwood, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Bread and Roses TV
British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Centre for Secular Space
Chetan Bhatt, Professor of Sociology, LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Children First Now
Chris Moos, Secularist Researcher and Activist
Christine M. Shellska, President of Atheist Alliance International
Clara Connolly, Immigration Lawyer
Clive Aruede, Organiser of London Black Atheists
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Darren Johnson AM, Green Party, London Assembly
Dashty Jamal, Secretary of International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
David Silverman, President of American Atheists
Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker and Founder/CEO of Fuuse
Dennis Penaluna, Secular Activist and Organiser
Derek Lennard, Activist
Diana Nammi, Founder and Executive Director, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Dilip Simeon, Labour Historian
Dominic Wirdnam, Secretary of Bristol Secular Society
Elham Manea, Academic and Writer
Ensaf Haidar, Campaigner
Equal Rights Now – Movement for Women’s Liberation in Iran
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Iraqi Activist and Founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement
Faizun Zackariya, Citizens Voice for Justice and Peace
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Host
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director of Shirkat Gah, Women’s Resource Centre in Pakistan
Farideh Arman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Fatou Sow, International Director, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Federation of Iranian Refugees UK
Fitnah
Francis Wheen, Writer
George Broadhead, Secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust
Gina Khan, Women’s Rights Activist and Researcher
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Glen Carrigan, Scientist and Founder of AHSUCLan
Gona Saed, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Guy Otten, BHA Trustee and Humanist Celebrant
Habiba Jaan, Founder of Aurat- Supporting Women in the Midlands
Hamid Taqvaee, Leader of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of Quilliam Foundation
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Harsh Kapoor, Founder and Editor of South Asia Citizens Web
Hasan Mahmud, Advisory Board of World Muslim Congress and General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Homa Arjomand, Coordinator of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada and One Secular School for All
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Ibrahim Abdallah, Muslimish NYC Organizer
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
International Front for Secularism
Iram Ramzan, Journalist
Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Ishafak Tely, Technology Engineer
James Bloodworth, Journalist and Editor of Left Foot Forward
Jane Donnelly, Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland
Javed Anand, General Secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy in India
Jocelynne A. Scutt, Barrister & Human Rights Lawyer
Johnny Monsarrat, Secular Policy Institute Alliance Director
Jonnie Dean, Peace Activist and Filmmaker
Julie Bindel, Writer
Justice for Women
Kamran Ahmed Khan, Oncologist
Kamyar Dadfar, Secretary of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis School of Law
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kazimierz Lyszczynski, Foundation Poland
Khushi Kabir, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work at Nijera Kori with Bangladesh’s landless
Kiran Opal, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Human Rights Activist
Lakshmi Pala, Ateizm Derneği
Laura Guidetti, Rivista Marea
Lawrence Krauss, Foundation Professor of School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Dept., Co-director of Cosmology Initiative and Director of Origins initiative, Arizona State University
Leesa Gazi, Cultural worker
Lejla Kuric, Writer
Lila Ghobady, Filmmaker
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb
Lloyd Newson, Artist
London Black Atheists
Maajid Nawaz, Founding Chairman of Quilliam Foundation
Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development
Magdulien Abaida, Women’s Rights Activist
Maggie Hall, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Mahin Alipour, Women’s Rights Activist
Mariam Faruqi, Rapporteur National Commission on Forced Marriage
Mariam Taheri, Human Rights Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue and Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Mehran Mahbobi , Children’s Rights Activist
Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Mohammed Alkhadra, Human Rights Activist and Founder of the Jordanian Atheists Community Group
Morgan Elizabeth Romano, Vice President of the Board of Directors & Director of International Relations of Ateizm Dernegi
Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America
Muslims for Progressive Values
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism
Natalia Paszkiewicz, Campaigner for Refugee Women and Migrants Rights
National Secular Society
Nazanin Borumand, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany
Network of Women in Black Serbia
Nick Cohen, Journalist
Nina Sankari, President of the Europejska Feministyczna Inicjatywa
Nira Yuval-Davis, a founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zone
One Law for All
Ophelia Benson, Columnist of The Freethinker and Free Inquiry
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Social Activist
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Piara Mayenin, Solicitor and Producer of Legal Help with Piya
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Protagora
Pushpita Gupta, Women’s Rights Campaigner and Convenor of Secular Bangladesh Movement
Rafai Aadam, Leader of the SOAS Ex-Muslim Society & The Student Room Ex-Muslim Society Organiser
Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist
Ramin Forghani, Ex-Muslims of Scotland Founder
Reza Moradi, Director of Bread and Roses
Ritu Mahendru, Director of South Asian Sexual Health
Robert Stovold, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Robyn E. Blumner, President & CEO of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Rohini Hensman, Writer and Activist
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of American Humanist Association
Roy W Brown, International Representative, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Rumana Hashem, Nari Diganta Organiser and Founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group
Rumy Hassan, Author
Sadaf Ali, Writer and Civil Rights Activist
Salim Mansur, Vice President of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Sally Armstrong, Journalist and Human Rights Activist
Salma Siddiqui, President of Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations
Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International
Sara Mohammad, Chairwomen for Never Forget Pela and Fadime Organisation
Sarah Haider, Director of Development of Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarah Peace, Founder of Fireproof Library
Sawsan Salim, Director of Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation
Secular Policy Institute
Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Selma Dabbagh, Author and Lawyer
Shaheen Heshmat, Writer
Shahla Daneshfar, Coordinator of Workers’ Solidarity Network of the Middle East and North Africa
Sheila Crosby, Author
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Shirkat Gah
Soad Baba Aissa, Feminist
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner
South Asian Sexual Health
Southall Black Sisters
Stasa Zajovic, WiB Belgrade
Sue Cox, Survivors Voice Europe
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, co-editor of Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity
Sultana Kamal, Women’s Rights Defender
Taher Djafarizad, President of Neda Day Association
Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights Defender
Taslima Nasrin, Author
Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Terence Waites, Head of Teesside Humanists
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society
The Angelou Centre
Tolga Inci, President of Ateizm Dernegi
Tom Holland, Writer and Historian
Valerie Mainstone, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Wahid Rahman, President of Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society
Waleed Al-Husseini, Palestinian blogger and Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Women in Black Belgrade
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Women’s Action Forum Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Columnist
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Yasmin Weaver, Trustee of Aurat: Supporting Women in the Midlands
Zahra Asli, Coordinator of Friends of Women in the Middle East Society

Banner of Sharia law consultation meeting 15 October 2014

See Further News below:

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Britain must ban sharia “kangaroo courts”, say activists http://www.trust.org/item/20150615155710-r8kxz/?source=shtw

The Daily Mail report : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3125047/Britain-ban-sharia-kangaroo-courts–say-activists.html

‘Nearly 200 hundreds signatories call to dismantle parallel legal systems’  http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/sharia-courts/

IKWRO news: ‘Nearly 200 signatories, including IKWRO, call for dismantling of parallel legal systems’ http://ikwro.org.uk/2015/06/signatories-including-dismantling/


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Support Those Fighting Religious-Right and Jihadists in Bangladesh

By Rumana Hashem

Nari Diganta is horrified and outraged by the brutal killing of Bangladeshi-born freethinker and humanist- writer, Avijit Roy. This is not the first time that we are shocked by watching how the fatal stabbing of humanists and freethinkers happens in Bangladesh. There has been a series of such killings for which fundamentalist and Islamic groups are responsible. Just about six weeks ago a freethinker and female teacher, Anjali Devi Roy, at Chittagong Nursing College was stabbed to death by Jamat-e Islami’s cadre for she had spoken out against Hijab and refused to cooperate to impose Hijab on her students in the college. Previously Bangladesh has witnessed the brutal attack on renowned humanist –literary Professor Humayun Azad in 2004, who was forced into exile in Germany and was succumb to death there. In 2013, humanist-bloggers Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by religious fanatics in Dhaka.

Avijit hattar Bichar chai Poster

Poster: Avijit hattar Bichar Chai #IamAvijit

As reports demonstrate, Avijit Roy was killed in a similar fashion to all of the above, by Islamic extremists and men hired by identifiable jihadist groups in the capital city of Dhaka on his way back to home from the Bangla Academy Ekushey Book Fair, a place/space that was historically known as secular in Bangladesh. The killing of Avijit by jihadists is neither an isolated incident nor surprising to Bangladeshi secularists and freethinkers. Rather it was expected, and now being accepted by many Muslims in and outside Bangladesh who believe that Avijit was “a talent but a bit insensible and careless! He spoke and wrote things that he shouldn’t have. People belonging to Hijbut Tahrir are extremists, how could we fight them?”

After this killing of this renowned freethinker on Thursday, 26 February 2015, such a statement is outrageous and unacceptable. It is time to recognise that expressing indignation, denunciation and paying tribute, as so many are doing, is not enough. It is time to act and prevent the brutal attack and killing of freethinkers from happening. We need to support our freethinkers openly and without reservation. Everyone will be killed one after another unless we have recognised the importance of freethinking, secularism and humanism – unless we stop being partial to the religious-Right.

A glance at the Bengali-speaking media shows that whilst many Bangladeshis condemned the violence itself, the majority of them are hesitant to accept the fact that the killers were hired men of Islamic groups, and deny the fact it is religious-right that is responsible for Avijit’s brutal killing. Some also expressed a view that freethinkers like Avijit must have insulted Islam and hence this is his ‘fate’. These stories are similar to what we have seen and experienced after the fatal stabbing of Professor Humayun Azad, another humble atheist, a triumphant academic and an unforgotten Bengali literary who was killed in August 2004, following the publication of his last revolutionary book ‘Pak Sar Jamin’ [the Holy Land]. Professor Azad’s narrative is so very like Avijit Roy’s. Both of them were fatally stabbed during the month of February, near the Bangla Academy, in Dhaka University neighbourhood and as returning from the historical Book Fair in February. The Dhaka University’s secularists, humanists and freethinkers have broken into outrage that time too. But as usual, a large number of the population in the country was undecided and hesitant to support us – those who were fighting at the frontier, those who demanded justice for Humayun Azad, just like today.

Many have said that it was ‘sad’ that the Professor ‘had to experience this brutality’, however, it was ‘arrogant and insensible’ of the Professor to attack Allah and the holy Quran in the way that he did in his Pak Sar Jamin. The media and civil society in Bangladesh were divided into two sections, along the above lines. Their attitudes suggest that atheists must ‘be polite or face death’. This trend in the media, government and civil society in Bangladesh demands our grave attention. It is shocking to see that secularists and atheists are the ones who must keep silent and who do not get the kind of respect that the believers do. It is shocking to see that believers and Jihadists could kill people if any individual wants to enjoy free speech to the same degree as the believers do in a state that was created to enjoy secularism and freedom of speech. The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 was primarily to establish a secular state which would ensure freedom of speech and would promote freethinking. But today’s Bangladesh and the murder of a renowned freethinker tell us that we belong to a state of extremism and a state of Jihadist/killers.

We believe that the attitude of government, media and civil society in a supposedly secular and democratic state, Bangladesh, has given birth of too many Jihadists, who continue to kill voices and stab freethinkers like Azad, Rajib, Anjali and Avijit Roy. It is indeed the obsessive religious-Right that is being supported and given centre stage in a supposedly secular state. This must stop. It is time for cure and prevention. Those who are on the forefront of countering armed fundamentalists must gain justice instead of being left to their own devices. It is time to recognise importance of those secularists who are at the forefront and who seek to reform society with their courage, critical thinking, political clarity and their great abilities. It is time to stop referring to Allah, Quran and Islam when humans are being killed in the name of religious sensibility. It is time to stop any killing in the name of religion.

We insist prevention, and NOT protest and outrage only. We do not pay tribute or express condemnation only but also stand in solidarity with Avijit’s family who demand justice for Avijit. We join all who fight religious fundamentalism and Islamic extremists in Bangladesh and other states across world. As reports show, clearly it is a Bangladeshi Islamist group who is responsible for Aviji’ts killing, and they can be tracked down if government of Bangladesh would be willing to do so. The group calling itself Ansar Bangla-7, is a fundamentalist group who claimed responsibility for the attack in a series of Twitter postings by saying that Roy “was a target for more than 3/4 years” for his writings that it characterized as being critical of Islam. Although the group’s Twitter account was later disabled, we believe that it is possible to trace the group if government and mainstream media in Bangladesh are willing to help us to ensure justice for Avijit Roy.

We stand in solidarity with the protesters and peace activists who are working to prevent all of those fanatic occurrences around the world from happening. Our struggle is against religious fundamentalism and racism and for universal human rights. State must take the responsibility to safeguard freethinking and humanity. Bangladesh government must ensure justice for Avijit and all other freethinkers who were killed in the name of religion and Islam. Avijit Roy will leave as long as we protest and seek justice for #AvijitRoy .

Protesters paid tribute to murdered #Avijit  at  Trafalgar Squire,  London. Sunday, March 2, 2015. Photo: Paul Dudman

Protesters paid tribute to murdered #Avijit at Trafalgar Squire, London. Sunday, March 2, 2015. Photo: Paul Dudman

Letter from Avijit Roy’s daughter Trisha Ahmed: ‘…everyone could share his story…Use your influence to help bring some sort of justice to the atrocious acts’

Avijit Will live as we speak Poster by Freethinkers

Avijit Will live as we speak Poster by Freethinkers

Avijit Roy’s daughter, Trisha Ahmed, called upon everyone to spread the words of her father who was never submissive and never to be forgotten. In a form of paying a tribute and expressing solidarity with Trisha and her mother, we have reproduced the letter of Trisha Ahmed below, which she has posted on Facebook, which she wanted us all to share as widely as possible. Readers are requested to please read, share and spread the story of Avijit Roy, as written by Trisha, to honour Dr. Roy and to remember an ever-powerful humanist voice.

My dad was a prominent Bengali writer, most famous for his books about science and atheism. He and my mom went to Bangladesh last week to publicize his books at Bangladesh’s national book fair. 15 hours ago, Islamic fundamentalists stabbed my dad to death. My mom was severely wounded from the attack and is still in the hospital. His death is headline news in Bangladesh.

The reason I’m sharing this is less for me and more for my dad. He was a firm believer in voicing your opinion to better the world.

He and my mom started dating when I was six years old. In the twelve years that followed, he became my friend, my hero, my most trusted confidante, my dance partner (even though we’re both terrible dancers), and my father. Not once did he tell me to simmer down or be more polite; he taught me to be informed, bold, and unafraid.

To say that I’m furious or heartbroken would be an understatement. But as fucked up as the world is, there’s never a reason to stop fighting to make it better. I’ll carry the lessons he taught me and the love he gave me forever. I love you so much, Dad. Thank you for every single thing

What would help me the most right now is if everyone (even people I’ve never met) could share his story. His story should be heard in the US because Bangladesh is powerless; it’s corrupt, there is no law and order, and I highly doubt that any justice will come to the murderers. I want his story to be on US headline news, not only Bangladesh’s. If you could just do all you can to spread word of what’s happened, I would appreciate it so so much. Inform your schools, your communities, write all that you can. Please don’t allow my dad to die in vain.

Please use your influence to help bring some sort of justice to the atrocious acts that have been committed against my parents.

‪#‎WordsCannotBeKilled

Read also:

‘I am Avijit’ Vigil in London https://www.facebook.com/events/645691532226458

‘Avijit was an intellectually-fulfilled-atheist who dedicated life to promote science and secularism’- Listen to Rafida Ahmed about Avijit https://m.soundcloud.com/bbc-world-service/rafida-bonya-ahmed-murdered-blogger-avijit-roys-wife-i-will-not-be-quiet

Prominent writer killed by Jihadists in Dhaka http://www.ajc.com/news/news/alpharetta-blogger-hacked-to-death-in-bangladesh/nkKmy/

Blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh capital: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/blogger-hacked-death-bangladesh-capital-150227045121388.html

Blogger killed in Bangladesh machete attack: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/27/us-bangladesh-blogger-idUSKBN0LV11G20150227

Bangladeshi-origin U.S. Blogger Critical of Fanatic Muslim and Extremist Stabbed http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-bangladesh-blogger-slain-20150227-story.html

Avvaz petition to Bangladesh Government https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Bangladeshi_Government_Prosecute_Islamists_who_Killed_Avijit_Roy_and_Protect_Freethinkers/?sMXAXib