"What does the Arundhati Roy imbroglio say about our democratic freedoms?"
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce, on the third anniversary of the assassination of Avijit Roy, the creation of an annual award in his name. Roy, the Bangladesh-American writer and atheist, died at the hands of militant Islamists on the streets of Dhaka.
This year's Hedenius Prize is awarded to Shamima Aktar for her work for women's rights and integration, as well as as representative of secular bloggers and activists forced to fly to Sweden from Bangladesh.
The notion of freedom changes with time and space. At this moment, our species is standing at a crossroad of history, where individual liberty, freedom of expression, conscience, and belief have become a very important part of our existence. We are demanding equal rights regardless of sex, gender, class, race - you name it. We, the secular community, are demanding freedom for all, which is the greatest demand of our time.
If anyone wonders, despite recent drastic actions against Islamic militancy, why Bangladesh has been ineffective in curbing Islamic extremism- the removal, or because of it's symbolic significance some may rightfully argue destruction, of Justicia's sculpture from the High Court will certainly provide an objective answer.
Mukto-Mona is saddened to learn that Mashal Khan, a twenty-three years old student was shot and brutally beaten to death by a mob that included fellow students on April 13, 2017. He was accused of blasphemy. Mashal, who called himself "The Humanist" on Facebook, was a student at Abdul Wali Khan University in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
In the west, the discourse on Islam has been greatly shaped by contentious debates on the role of the state. The germination of radical ideas among the European-Muslim millennials and recent terrorist attacks across Europe has bolstered the edifice of the populist right-wing ideas, and there is a rising trend in the popularity of the far-right political parties who promulgate such ideas. The current scenario in the Western world is pretty much an evocative picture of the pre-Second World War political turmoil. The shadow of a disintegrated European Union looms on the horizon. Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump rose to power hurling disparaging remarks towards Muslims while promising a Muslim ban and extreme vetting of the Muslim immigrants. In these altercations, the culturalists and the reformists, the two different schools of thought gained prominence offering very different connotations of the Islamic pedigrees and culture in their attempt to dispense with the problem of "Radical Islam."
A software engineer by profession and a writer by passion Avijit Roy(1972-2015) was a leading Bangladeshi-American human rights activist, author and a pioneer in Bengali free-thought movement. In 2001, Avijit launched a virtual discussion group of freethinkers of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent. This small discussion group would eventually lead to the inception of the first secular humanist website in the Bengali language, called 'Mukto-mona.' The literal English translation of 'Mukto-Mona' is 'Free-thinker.' As an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists & humanists Mukto-Mona gave a platform for the secular ethos of Bangladeshi culture to be reinvigorated. In an interview with a daily newspaper, Avijit described his organization's aspirations by the following lines,