Al Qaeda “Blasphemy” Killings: Oppressive Governments Must Share Responsibility, Says CFI

For Immediate Release: May 4, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the murder of several writers critical of Islam in Bangladesh and Pakistan, but while Al Qaeda and its supporters bear direct responsibility for these murders, the Center for Inquiry maintains that a contributing cause is the placation of Islamic extremists and the crackdown on freedom of expression by governments in the Muslim world.

It was reported yesterday that Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent had claimed responsibility for the murders of writers in Pakistan and Bangladesh in retaliation for what they called “blasphemy,” that is, writing critically about extremist Islamism. Their victims included Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger who was murdered by machete-wielding assailants while leaving a book fair in Dhaka. Dr. Roy had worked with the Center for Inquiry in the promotion of science and secularism, and the fight for the right to religious dissent and free expression. 

“If Al Qaeda is indeed responsible for the death of my friend Avjit and of these other brave writers, they were capable of such atrocities in part because of the hostile environment for free expression created and fostered by the governments of states such as Bangladesh and Pakistan,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s representative to the UN and director of public policy. “By forming policy and taking actions designed to placate Islamic extremists — for example, making ‘blasphemy’ a crime punishable by prison or death, and arresting critics of religion and tradition — they not only crush valuable dissent that could lessen extremism in the name of religion, but also perpetuate the lie that religious criticism is impermissible, thus emboldening violent extremists.”

“While whoever is ultimately responsible for these killings must face justice, so must governments make fundamental changes in their approach to Islamic extremism, and allow free expression to flourish.” said De Dora. 

Dr. Roy wrote twice for CFI’s magazine Free Inquiry (one article published posthumously) on the subject of Islamic extremism and the threat it poses to fundamental human rights. His wife, writer and activist Rafida Bonya Ahmed, was also attacked along with her husband, but thankfully survived. Her original statement after the attack, delivered through CFI is available at

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at