March 6, 2015
The world reeled in shock last week as Bangladeshi-American freethought writer Avijit Roy was murdered by Islamic extremist assailants as he walked with his wife in Dhaka. A bold and eloquent critic of religion, Dr. Roy had long been the target of death threats by militants.
Dr. Roy’s murder is keenly felt here at CFI, as he was a friend, colleague, and ally of ours. He worked directly with our policy director and UN representative Michael De Dora to organize global protests and activism on behalf of the atheist bloggers arrested in Bangladesh in 2013. He wrote for our Free Thinking blog and twice published essays in our magazine Free Inquiry—coauthoring one piece with his daughter Trisha Ahmed and one final essay that will run in the April/May issue, appearing on newsstands in the next few days. (See the below section for more on that issue.)
In his final piece, Dr. Roy named one Farabi Shafiur Rahman, a known Islamic extremist, as someone who had been threatening him and other critics of Islam, and who had encouraged his followers to murder Dr. Roy. On Monday, Rahman was arrested as a suspect in Dr. Roy’s death.
Michael De Dora has been appearing on a number of news programs since the tragedy to talk about his friend and to give broader context to the threat to free expression posed by this kind of violent extremism and by governments’ crackdown on dissent. He twice appeared on CNN, here in a full-length interview and here briefly in another . He was among the panelists on BBC radio’s World Have Your Say and interviewed on Buffalo-area television and Atlanta-area radio, among others. News outlets covering CFI’s connection to Dr. Roy have included the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, the Baltimore Sun, Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, BuzzFeed, and many more.
There will be much more to say and do in regard to Dr. Roy, the circumstances of his death, and in honoring his legacy. For now, we can say that he will be greatly missed, and that we offer our friendship and best wishes for a full recovery to his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna.