Another horrific machete incident took place on the streets of Dhaka on Monday, after another Bangladeshi blogger was murdered for comments on Islam that he allegedly made online. Three knife-wielding assailants targeted Washiqur Rahman, hacking the 27-year-old to death near his home on Monday morning.
Police detained two suspects — madrasa students in Dhaka and Chittagong respectively — and retrieved three knives at the scene of the crime. A third suspect escaped. Deputy commissioner Wahidul Islam told AFP that Rahman was "brutally hacked to death."
According to The New York Times, the two suspects told investigators that an acquaintance had ordered them to kill Rahman because of "some comments against Islam” that he made on social media. However, they reportedly did not read the comments themselves. AFP reported that police said Rahman's blog did not appear to center on religion, though fellow writers said he opposed religious fundamentalism. His friend Tamanna Setu told The Guardian that Rahman's atheism advocacy was connected to his murder.
He used to write a satirical column on Facebook about against believers. He was an atheist. His killing has to be connected to his writing.
The incident is the second of its kind in just as many months, raising fears that religious extremists are singling out writers who criticize the religion and promote secular values in the developing Muslim-majority country. In late February, a prominent American-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy was similarly hacked to death outside a book fair after he had received death threats from extremists. Roy's wife was also attacked, but survived, and has since returned to the U.S. where the couple lived.
Earlier this month, a suspect, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, was arrested for Roy's murder. Rahman had allegedly issued death threats to the blogger on Facebook last year, writing: "Avijit Roy lives in America. So it's not possible to kill him now. But when he returns home, he will be killed then." The Times reported that the two had engaged in a debate over religion over the Internet and the police said he should have asked for protection when he entered Bangladesh.
Roy's murder sparked furious protests in Dhaka and abroad, with secular activists criticizing the government for not doing enough to protect them against religious extremists. Writing on Mukto Mona (Free Thinkers, in English), a website on freedom of expression that Roy also contributed to, blogger Farhana Ahmed offered a theory as to why atheists were targeted by religious extremists:
[B]oth the Islamist hardliner and practicing Muslims are skeptical about atheists. Religion is very powerful, sometimes more than the state such as when the state has to accept the help of religion. If any of those establishments are in trouble, they take refuge in religion. ...
Religion accomplishes this job by deploying instruments like blind faith, taking things for granted, and keeping people in fear. When patriarchal oppression is protested by women, religion keeps them in check. Workers cannot revolt against autocratic employers as religion reminds them that for those who have less in this world, there is an afterlife waiting for them. To remain in power, the simplest of weapons is religion.
In 2013, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who wrote frequently about religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh, was also brutally murdered outside his home.
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