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Pressure Mounts on Bangladesh to Confront Killings of Secularists

Thursday 12 May 2016, by siawi3


For Immediate Release

Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
E-mail: press
Pressure Mounts on Bangladesh to Confront Killings of Secularists
May 12, 2016

Lawrence Krauss, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rev. Gretta Vosper Join Broad Coalition Demanding Justice

Prominent public figures in science, literature, academia, and political activism have added their names to a distinguished coalition led by the Center for Inquiry aimed at confronting the Bangladesh government for its muddled and often callous response to a human rights emergency: the ongoing murders of secularists, progressive activists, and religious minorities, as part of a campaign of terror to silence critics of radical Islam.

New members of this coalition include physicist Lawrence Krauss, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, documentarian Deeyah Khan, Rev. Gretta Vosper of the United Church of Canada, and author Taslima Nasrin. Organizations such as the Christian nonprofit Open Doors and the UK’s Cartoonists’ Club have also joined the effort. The coalition already included luminaries such as Reza Aslan, Salman Rushdie, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Maryam Namazie, Sam Harris, Imran Sarker, and groups such as Freedom House and the PEN American Center. Over 1400 people have also added their names to a petition attached to the coalition’s joint statement.

This development comes as the New York Times’ editorial board has admonished Bangladesh’s leaders for “fueling extremism” by having “cracked down on freedom of expression and the press.” Nonetheless, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal recently reiterated the position that it is the victims of these acts of terror who bear responsibility for “hurting religious sentiments.”

“May 12 marks the first anniversary of the murder of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das,” noted Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations and coordinator of the coalition. “His death was senseless and entirely preventable, had the Bangladesh authorities taken this crisis seriously from the start, and focused on strongly defending freedom of belief and expression and pursuing justice rather than condemning the victims for exercising their rights.” Das was the third person to be hacked to death in the street last year, and since then six more secularists and progressives have been slaughtered, as well as three members of religious minorities: Christian, Hindu, and Sufi.

The joint statement initiated by CFI calls upon Bangladesh to “stop citing religion as a justification to refuse the rights of certain Bangladeshis in public statements,” and to categorically condemn violent attacks against all those who exercise their right to free expression. It urges the government to bring the killers and their ringleaders to justice, and to protect the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression for all of its people, including atheists, secularists, and religious minorities.

CFI has been deeply involved in this crisis since its beginning, and in response has established the Freethought Emergency Fund, by which writers and activists in countries like Bangladesh who know themselves to be targeted or believe themselves to be in danger can receive assistance to relocate out of harm’s way.

The full text of the statement is available at

Others may sign their names to the statement by way of the petition at

The updated list of 1500 signatories can be accessed here: