Irreligion in Bangladesh

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According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, citizens of the country have freedom of religion, including the right to establish and maintain their own religious institutions. The constitution also declares all kinds of religious discrimination illegal, although religious minorities and atheists are conspicuously under-represented by the government and society of the country. A number of Bangladeshi atheist bloggers have been attacked and killed by fundamentalist religious groups in recent years.[1][2][3][4] In a 2009 Gallup survey, more than 99% of respondents from Bangladesh replied that religion is an important part of their daily life.,[5] while another Gallup survey from 2014 found that 5% of Bangladeshi identify as non-religious.[6]


Shahbag protests[edit]

In February 2013, protests occurred in Shahbag demanding capital punishment for the Islamist leader and war criminal Abdul Quader Molla as well as the removal of Jamaat-e-Islami from politics.[7] Islamist groups including Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh responded by organising protests calling for the execution of "atheist bloggers" accused of insulting Islam, and the introduction of a blasphemy law.[8][9] Many secularist bloggers who supported the Shahbag protests came under attack following the protests.[10] Amnesty International noted with concern the rise in communal violence against religious minorities, including attacks on Hindus.[11][12]

Government suppression of criticism of religion[edit]

In early April 2013, the police began arresting bloggers for hurting religious sentiments. Four bloggers, Subrata Adhikary Shuvo, Russell Parvez, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Asif Mohiuddin (who was still recovering from his wounds), were arrested within days of one another. The blog, Amar Blog, was also taken down.[13] A religious group called Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh called for the hanging of the bloggers.[14] Asif Mohiuddin's blog was shut down by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, and he was jailed for posting "offensive comments about Islam and Mohammed."[15][16] The secular government arrested several other bloggers and blocked about a dozen websites and blogs, as well as giving police protection to some bloggers.[17]

International organisations, including Human Rights Watch,[18] Amnesty International,[19] Reporters without Borders[20] and the Committee to Protect Journalists[21] condemned the imprisonment of bloggers and the climate of fear for journalists. Worldwide protest and demonstrations were held on in 2013 to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to free the arrested bloggers. Several humanist groups (including the IHEU, the Center for Inquiry, the British Humanist Association, American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America) called for their release, along with intellectuals including[22] Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Hemant Mehta, Maryam Namazie, PZ Myers, Avijit Roy, Abu Ahammad, Ajoy Roy, Qayyum Chowdhury, Ramendu Majumdar and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal.[23]

Threats, attacks and exiles[edit]

Taslima Nasrin, an author and self-described atheist, used to criticise rising religious fundamentalism and government inaction in her newspaper columns and books. In early 1992, mobs began attacking bookstores stocking her work. The same year she was assaulted at a book fair and her passport was confiscated. In July 1993, her novel Lajja was banned by the government on the claims that it created misunderstanding among the communities. On 23 September 1993, a fatwa was issued for her death. After international pressure, her passport returned in April 1994. She travelled to France and returned via India. On 4 July 1994, an arrest warrant was issued for hurting religious feelings and Nasrin went underground. On 3 August, she was granted bail, but she fled to Sweden and remained in exile. In 1998, she visited her critically ill mother in Bangladesh. In 2005, she moved to India and applied for citizenship.[24]

In 2003, Bangladeshi author Humayun Azad wrote a book about an Islamic fundamentalist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh collaborating with the Pakistani army during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Azad received numerous death threats from fundamentalists until his assassination the next year.[25] In May 2015, Humayun Azad's son, blogger Ananya Azad, was repeatedly threatened with death after publishing critiques of Islamist fundamentalism.[26] He was subsequently forced into exile in Europe.[27]

On 15 January 2013, Asif Mohiuddin, a self-styled atheist blogger (rational, gentle and Anti-Islamist), was stabbed near his office in Dhaka. He survived the attack.[28] On 15 February 2013, Ahmed Rajib Haider, a prominent anti-Islamist blogger, was found murdered by a machete outside his Dhaka home.[29] Mohiuddin, a winner of the BOBs award for online activism, was on an Islamist hit list that also included the murdered sociology professor Shafiul Islam.[30]

On the night of 7 March 2013, an atheist blogger Sunnyur Rahaman was attacked by two men who swooped on him and hacked him with machetes while shouting "Allahu Akbar". He came under attack around 9:00 pm near Purabi Cinema Hall in Mirpur. By the support of local police he was rushed to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital with wounds in his head, neck, right leg and left hand.[31]

On 26 February 2015, Avijit Roy, the founder of the Mukto-Mona blog, and his wife were attacked in Dhaka with machete-wielding assailants. Roy died on his way to the hospital. His wife was also seriously injured and lost a finger.[32][33]

On 30 March 2015, blogger Washiqur Rahman was killed in a similar attack in Dhaka. The police arrested two suspects near the scene and recovered meat cleavers from them. The suspects said they killed Rahman due to his anti-Islamic articles.[34]

On 12 March 2015, another blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was attacked and murdered by masked men wielding machetes. Ananta Bijoy Das was the editor of the science magazine Jukti.[35]

List of Non-religious Bengalis[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Avijit Roy Hacked to death in Bangladesh". NBC News. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Bangladesh blogger hacked to death". CNN. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Bangladesh blogger Ananta Bijoy Das hacked to death". BBC News. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Fourth secular Bangladesh blogger hacked to death". Al Jazeera News. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  5. ^ Steve Crabtree. "Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nations". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  6. ^ "End of Year Survey 2014: Regional & Country Results".
  7. ^ "Protesters demand death for Bangladesh war crimes Islamist". Reuters. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Hardline Muslims rally in Bangladesh amid shutdown". USA Today. Associated Press. 6 April 2013.
  9. ^ Farid Ahmed (8 April 2013). "Bangladesh Islamists rally for blasphemy law". CNN.
  10. ^ "Activist, blogger and DW Bobs nominee Avijit Roy killed in Dhaka". Deutsche Welle. 26 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Bangladesh: Wave of violent attacks against Hindu minority". Amnesty International. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Amnesty calls for protecting Hindus". 7 March 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  13. ^ Emran Hossain (4 April 2013). "Bangladesh Arrests 'Atheist Bloggers,' Cracking Down on Critics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  14. ^ Sabir Mustafa (6 May 2013). "Hefazat-e Islam: Islamist coalition". BBC News. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Bangladesh gags award-winning blogger". Deutsche Welle. 25 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Blogger granted bail on health grounds". Reporters without Borders. 7 August 2013.
  17. ^ "American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh". The Guardian. 27 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Bangladesh: Crackdown on Bloggers, Editors Escalates". Human Rights Watch. 15 April 2013. "the government is abandoning any serious claim that it is committed to free speech," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch."
  19. ^ "Bangladesh: Further information: Detained editor alleges torture". Amnesty International. 17 April 2013. Blogger Asif Mohiudeen, arrested on 3 April for allegedly posting blasphemous comments online, remains in detention and at risk of torture
  20. ^ "Call for detained blogger's immediate release". Reporters without Borders. 11 April 2013. Reporters Without Borders condemns the baseless judicial proceedings brought against the detained blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who could be tried and convicted on a charge of blasphemy and "hurting religious sentiments" at his next hearing
  21. ^ "Attacks on the Press – Bangladesh". Committee to Protect Journalists. February 2014.
  22. ^ Avijit Roy (8 May 2013). "The Struggle of Bangladeshi Bloggers". Skeptic. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  23. ^ "The Struggle of Bangladeshi Bloggers". Skeptic. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  24. ^ Margaret Bald (2006). Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds. Infobase Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-8160-7148-7.
  25. ^ "Proper probe into death of Humayun Azad demanded". Daily Star. 12 August 2009.
  26. ^ Hammadi, Saad (28 May 2015). "Bangladeshi blogger named on hitlist warned: 'You will be next'". Retrieved 3 December 2016 – via The Guardian.
  27. ^ Burke, Jason (23 September 2015). "Militant group publishes global hitlist of bloggers, activists and writers". Retrieved 3 December 2016 – via The Guardian.
  28. ^ "'Militant atheist' blogger stabbed in Bangladesh". Hindustan Times. Agence France-Presse. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  29. ^ "Anti-Islamist blogger killed in Bangladesh: police". Agence France-Presse. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  30. ^ "Bloggers on hit-list posted by supposed Islamist group in Bangladesh". 19 November 2014.
  31. ^ "Youth hacked injured at Mirpur". The Daily Star. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  32. ^ "American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh". The Guardian. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  33. ^ "Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh". The Telegraph. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  34. ^ "Knife attack kills Bangladesh blogger Washiqur Rahman". BBC News. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  35. ^ "Bangladesh blogger hacked to death by masked assailants". Irish Times. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.