Muzzling the voice of freethinking bloggers - An alarming development in Bangladesh!

Published on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I suspected it in recent days that Bangladesh government would try to muzzle the freethinkers who pen and post their views in various forums, blogosphere, social media etc. The reason is quite simple. The ruling Awami League would like to rule Bangladesh for another term and the party knows it that without the support of voters, who are Islamic minded folks, they cannot win this election.

Now that Awami League has achieved their short term goal and thanks to bloggers who made the 'Gana Jagoron Moncho' (Peoples Awakening Platform) a triumphant success, the party leaders are thinking ahead about the upcoming parliamentary election. The party has to portray the image that they are not soft on bloggers who are critically assessing the blind belief system that came from the Arabian Peninsula some fourteen hundred years ago.

When the bloggers-led movement just got underway in the first week of February 2013, the Prime Minister and her lieutenants were heaving a great sigh of relief knowing that this movement which demanded that death sentence is given to the Islamists who committed crime against humanity during Bangladesh's freedom fight during 1971, had unified the pro-liberation faction of the Bangladesh society. This movement captured the imagination of many Bangladeshis all over the world and we saw the photos emanating from Shahbag area, the epicenter of this bloggers-led movement, which inspired us all.

Awami League's archenemy – the opposition party (Bangladesh Nationalist Party and her alliance) started a whisper campaign in the media to spread the message that most of the bloggers are atheists of some sorts and sworn enemy of Islam. The mullahs call them 'Murtaads.' This vile campaign worked in Bangladesh. Consequently, Sheikh Hasina and her lieutenants were alarmed. They knew that during the upcoming election campaign, the opposition will claim that Awami League is soft on Murtaads (read ex-Muslims bloggers) and as such should not be allowed to form the next government. This is a worrisome development for Awami League. And they have decided to get tough on the bloggers who posted their commentaries, write-ups, etc. in which they critiqued Islam. Ironically, the Mullahs and governments do not care about bloggers who posted articles critical of Hinduism or for that matter, the dominant religion of the West (read Christianity).

The home minister of Bangladesh has already given the clarion call of his Jihad against anti-Islamic bloggers. The government will hunt the "virulent" atheist bloggers of Bangladesh origin who wrote anything against Islam and its holy prophet. With this in mind, the government has compiled a list of 80-100 bloggers who the government is thinking to prosecute in the court. Some Bangladeshi media have found the list and published the names of the bloggers in the Internet. While I was writing the article, I came to know, Bangladesh police had already arrested three bloggers for defaming religion and the prophet amid demands from religious fundamentalists for an Internet crackdown.


The bigger question is – what sort of crime these bloggers have done in Bangladesh? Have they violated any law? Come to think of it, unlike Pakistan, Bangladesh has no blasphemy law that I know of. Also, would not it be a breach of freedom of speech? We all know that Bangladesh's constitution offers a liberal dose of freedom of speech and thinking to her citizens. If this is correct, then what law was breached when bloggers have questioned the validity of a blind belief system, which is antiquated and anachronistic to say the least?

All religions have their deep roots that are anchored to blind belief system. In Islam, it is called the 'Iman.' One cannot question the authenticity of Iman. One simply has to acquiesce in it. All hell broke loose when a freethinker questions the validity of Iman. The foundation of Iman is so weak that Mullahs in Bangladesh are worried that when tens and thousands of freethinkers or rational minds will question the supremacy of Iman, some folks may have theirs eureka moment pronto.

The rational mind understand the scientific validity of the Big Bang Theory as opposed to the Genesis as written in all Abrahamic religions, the ascent of men from blue green algae (call it the Darwin's Theory of evolution) as opposed to the creation of universe along with humankind in six days as mentioned in the book of genesis. Never mind the theory of Atom as the unit of matter, which was never mentioned in the scriptures.

The Mullahs in Bangladesh do not want the impressionable children to hear the above mentioned scientific truth. They think ignorance is bliss. It is a whole lot better that way. Most folks in this modern world have trust in the freedom of speech and expression. This should be the way in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh is trying to curtail or ration our freedom of speech. This is an alarming development. We all should protest against this misadventure of the government. Sheikh Hasina's government thinks that it is politically expedient now to go after the atheist bloggers because this will give them a boost in electoral counts in the upcoming parliamentary election.

Let us not delude ourselves that this is the cumulative work of all the deshi bloggers who made it possible to have the Shahbag Movement. What Awami Leaguers could not achieve in the last dozen years was only possible by college kids who vilified the politicians belonging to Jamaat that took part in crime against humanity.

In this day of the Internet, it will be an exercise in futility on the part of government to muzzle the voice of the bloggers. There are several ways that a blogger could post his or her commentary in the Net. Barely a decade ago, it was not possible to post any articles for wider dissemination in the cyberspace, but now it is just a mouse-click away. The government's ill-conceived plan to bar bloggers from posting and to incarcerate them on trumped-up charges of maligning Islam will give them a black eye. Bangladesh will become a laughingstock to the rest of the world barring Taliban and Saudi Kingdom.

The government should think twice before undertaking this misadventure to harass the free-spirited bloggers. They have achieved something in one-month time, which no political party in Bangladesh had achieved in their lifetime.

Dr. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and scientist pens from New Orleans, USA

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