In civilised parts of the world, atheists, bloggers and freethinkers not only find pride of place but are valued and adored. Of these, the more recognised faces attract reverential throngs of admirers scrambling for autographs.
This is not the case for the same class of people in uncivilised parts. Of course, the meaning of atheists, bloggers and freethinkers eludes the uncivilised. For them, any individual who is freethinking and progressive is an atheist. In fact, the uncivilised and uneducated do not stop there but diligently believe that the atheist deserves nothing but death.
So then, what would be the way to educate the barbaric? Thirty years ago, I had taken up the pen with hopes of integrating and enlightening them. Today, I see the uneducated are all the more so. My pen alone cannot possibly educate an entire nation. If more writers were to write, more politicians were to speak up and the government were to take a proactive part to civilise the uncivilised, then the liberated intelligentsia’s synchronised efforts could have helped the country evolve.
It has been years since Bangladesh gained independence. What brought the country towards freedom? Where does it now stand?
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and her son Sajeeb Joy, who is also her information and communications technology adviser, have announced that atheists will not get their support publicly. But atheists are citizens of the country as well. Here the question arises: Who will get the state’s support then? The answer comes easy: The God-fearing.
This got me thinking. When exactly did the word ‘atheist’ start warranting such hatred? Suddenly everyone wants to keep a safe distance from ‘atheists’. So much so that the government which is responsible for equal treatment to all — irrespective of religion, caste, gender, language, region or faith — is also falling prey to biases.
The government will not stand by the oppressed minority of rationalists. Even though they are senselessly killed, the government will neither proclaim it a crime nor will it try to bring the murderers to justice. Ironically, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been quite vociferous about the other killings taking place in the country. How can she be so selective in condemning crimes? It is clear that she does not want to be associated with atheists in the public eye lest she lose the votes of the religious masses.
Bangladesh is not a true democracy. An ideal democracy has no religion but Bangladesh does. As long as state religion is not abolished from the Constitution, as long as the word ‘atheist’ or nonbeliever is not as acceptable as ‘theist’ or believer, till then Bangladesh cannot attain true democracy.
‘Atheist’ is used as an abusive word in Bangladesh. So is ‘freethinker’. To the great misfortune of the country, the rationalisations put forward by an atheist become an object of hatred for its populace.
The conflict between religion and science is eternal. Yet the triumph of science is inevitable. Why? Because science is truth. Truth cannot be buried under the ashes of falsehood. Assassinations of talented young humanists are roadblocks on the path of building a healthy nation free from religious fanaticism and barbarism. For this purpose, the presence of humanists becomes imperative. There can be no alternative to this.
People still put their faith in Awami League as the sole secular political party and as the antidote to the other pro-Islamic political parties in the country. However, the ground realities paint a different picture. It is rumoured that Awami League party leaders regularly visit Chittagong to seek blessings from Hefazat-e- Islam’s Amir Shafi. Even the new mayor has been there for blessings. So, there may not be much difference between the Awami League, the pro-Islamist BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and Jamaat-e-Islami, the party of Islamists.
Nowadays I feel a kind of hopelessness when I think of my country. The political parties will shackle the nation with Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism while the people watch as silent spectators. Certainly, not everyone thinks of this as a setback. The rate at which religious prejudice is increasing, it seems that the country’s milieu will change to ‘Dar-ul-Islam’ (Land of Islam).
A well-crafted ploy has been put in place to silence the pro-science, secular and humanist intelligentsia who dare to raise their voices against the anarchy rampant in the country. These barbaric murderers will never face punitive action, for they stand as kin to the religion-mongering politicians. The same politicians who are dreaming of filling the nation with insane, intolerant, spineless, stupid murderers and rapists.
Bangladesh was once known to the world as the land of annual floods. Now, it has a new identity as the land where a free thinker is murdered every month. The former was still a natural catastrophe, the latter man-made. This new identity is much more terrible than the last one. If the desperation to win votes by pandering to religious sentiments is not stopped forthwith, then the heads of more promising youths are going to bloody our streets.
There was a time when Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s clarion call moved the nation to save itself from slaughter at the hands of the Pakistani army. Today, with the blessings of the same Mujibur’s daughter Hasina, militants fatten themselves on the flesh of the intelligentsia. While the father had stemmed the tide of blood, his daughter, far from stopping them, is siding with the slaughterers. Sajeeb Joy is the latest pillar of support to these murderers. This state of affairs no longer induces shame, but fear.