Publisher of Secularist Books Murdered in Bangladesh: Center for Inquiry Demands Action

A statement from the Center for Inquiry:

For the fifth time this year, individuals promoting secularist thought in Bangladesh have been violently attacked by extremists bent on eliminating or terrorizing critics of religious fundamentalism and champions of reason, science, and humanist values. Earlier today, Faisal Arefin Deepan, a publisher of secularist books — including those of this year’s first victim, Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy — was murdered in his office. The Center for Inquiry expressed its outrage at the killing, and at the Bangladeshi government’s unwillingness to confront the crisis and protect its people.

Faisal Arefin Deepan was killed by machete-wielding assailants at the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house. The same day, three others were shot and stabbed at the Shudhdhoswar publishing house; thankfully, all of them survived. The attacks are widely believed to be part of the larger campaign of murder and terror waged by Ansarullah Bangla Team, which claimed responsibility for the previous secularist blogger killings, and which may be linked to Al Qaeda. Separately, the Islamic State, or ISIS, is suspected of carrying out deadly attacks on foreigners in the country.

The Center for Inquiry has been intimately involved in addressing this crisis, establishing the Freethought Emergency Fund as a way to assist secularist writers and activists in fear for their lives to relocate. CFI’s Office of Public Policy also worked closely with the late Avijit Roy to work on freedom of expression causes in Bangladesh, and continues to work with his friends and former colleagues to advance basic human rights in the country and the region.

“Why does the government of Bangladesh continue to allow its own people to live in constant terror of being hacked to death my roving marauders?” asked Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations, who worked closely with Avijit Roy to organize worldwide protests in 2013. “How many more of the country’s bravest and brightest lights must be stamped out before the government takes definitive action to protect freedom of expression and the lives of brilliant writers, scholars, and activists?”

Added De Dora, “Not only has the Bangladeshi government not done enough to address this emergency and keep its commitments to international treaties, but worse, the prime minister himself has emboldened the killers by placing blame on the victims for offending religious feelings. Religions are ideas; they don’t need to be protected. Ideas don’t need rights — people do.”

“The government should immediately strengthen its efforts against terror groups suspected to be carrying out these attacks, and provide assistance and protection to threatened individuals, including the survivors of today’s attacks.”

Click here for a timeline on the crisis in Bangladesh , and visit CFI’s Campaign for Free Expression for more on the effort to protect dissent around the world.