The public reaction in Bangladesh to last week’s murder in Dhaka of noted secularist blogger Avijit Roy by suspected Islamists is taking on shades of Charlie Hebdo.
Bangladeshis are expressing their grief and anger in words similar to those uttered by the people of France after Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people on Jan. 7 during an attack on the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine.
“We are all Mukto-Mona,” proclaimed an opinion piece published Sunday (March 1) in the Daily Star, one of Bangladesh’s most widely read English-language newspapers, referring to Roy’s secularist website, whose name means “free thinker” in English.
And much like what happened after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, on Tuesday, visitors to the website founded by Roy were greeted by a black home page, which flashed a defiant message in Bengali and English.
“We are united in our grief and we remain undefeated,” proclaimed the entry page to the still living Mukto-Mona, which other moderators are operating.
“I am Avijit,” read a message posted elsewhere on the site by a blogger.
Another commenter called Roy the best science writer in the Bengali language.
“It is widely believed that he is the best science writer in Bangla. His unexpected death is a grievous loss to science and freethought,” commenter Salman Rahman wrote.
“Avijit da [brother], we are still writing,” his post said.
Returning to America
Roy, an outspoken critic of Muslim fundamentalists, was killed in a machete attack Feb. 26 as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, were leaving a book fair in Dhaka.
Banna, who was injured in the attack, was due to be flown home to the United States for further medical treatment, local media reported Tuesday.
“The U.S. government has arranged her return because she is a citizen. She might leave the country on Tuesday night,” publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, a close friend of the couple, told bdnews24.com.
Banna sustained cuts and lost one of her fingers when she tried to stop her husband’s killers from hacking him to death on the campus of Dhaka University, a Bangladeshi bastion of free speech, local media reported.
An Islamist group, Ansar Bangla 7, claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Monday, Bangladeshi authorities announced the arrest of a suspect in Roy’s slaying,
Farabi Shafiur Rahman. Police said he incited attacks on secularist bloggers after the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013.
Editor Speaks Out
The opinion piece in the Star that evoked Charlie Hebdo was penned by the newspaper’s editor, Mahfuz Anam.
“Today we want to declare that we Bangladeshis are all, by our nature, culture and religion, Mukto-Mona,” he wrote, calling on the government to protect free speech in Bangladesh and bring Roy’s killers to justice.
The editor also took aim at Muslim extremists.
“Avijit's murder proves, if proof was at all necessary, that these people are averse to any discussion on religion even if conducted purely at an intellectual level,” Anam wrote.
“The peace and tolerance that is the core value of Islam is being completely distorted by the extremists that the true believers of Islam must do everything to expose and fight. Resistance to this trend must also come from our religious leaders, just as it must come from everyone of us.”