Human Rights Coalition Tells Bangladesh: Stop Blaming the Victims of Extremist Attacks

For Immediate Release: May 3, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Reza Aslan, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, and More Join Center for Inquiry’s Call for Justice 

The Center for Inquiry is leading a diverse, international coalition of distinguished scholars, activists, and human rights organizations to condemn Bangladesh government officials for callously blaming the victims of Islamic extremists’ attacks for their own deaths, and urging them to focus on protecting human rights and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Signatories to a joint statement include Reza Aslan, Salman Rushdie, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Maryam Namazie, Maajid Nawaz, Sam Harris, Imran Sarker, Freedom House, the PEN American Center, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, and many others.

Nine people associated with secularism or secular activism have been killed since February 2015, when Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American scholar and secular activist, was hacked to death by militant Islamists at a book fair in Dhaka. Last month, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina castigated the victims for writing “filthy words.” Absolving the government of any obligation to confront the attacks, she said, “It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions. Why would the government take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents?”

In the past month alone, four people have been killed in a similar fashion, as well as two additional victims who were Christian and Hindu, respectively. Immediately after the murder of law student Nazimuddin Samad, slain last month for campaigning for secularism on Facebook, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan suggested that it was Samad, newly killed, who would be investigated, “to see whether he has written anything objectionable in his blogs.”

“The world is watching in horror as innocent people are slaughtered in the streets of Bangladesh, and all eyes are now look to see how its leaders will respond,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations and primary author of the joint statement. “So far, that response has been appalling in its indifference to the lives and the fundamental rights of the people of Bangladesh. To even suggest that these victims brought their deaths upon themselves is to abdicate the most basic responsibilities of a government to its people, and to forsake any pretense to fostering a free, modern society.”

The joint statement, initiated by the Center for Inquiry and endorsed by a diverse group of individuals and organizations, calls upon Bangladesh to “stop citing religion as a justification to refuse the rights of certain Bangladeshis in public statements,” and to categorically condemn violent attacks against all those who exercise their right to free expression. Bangladesh is urged to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to protect the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression for all of its people, including atheists, secularists, and religious minorities.

Public hit lists have been released by militant Islamist groups, singling out particular activists and writers for death, and those not yet killed are scrambling to save themselves, as their government shows no interest in doing so. When targeted individuals have asked for help from their government, they have been told to be quiet, or else go into exile, which many have.

CFI has been deeply involved in this crisis since its beginning, and in response has established the Freethought Emergency Fund, by which writers and activists in countries like Bangladesh who know themselves to be targeted or believe themselves to be in danger can receive assistance to relocate out of harm’s way.

The full text of the statement is available at Others may sign their names to the statement by way of the petition at

Complete list of signatories to the Joint Statement:


  • Alan Levinovitz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, James Madison University
  • Amit R. Baishya, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Oklahoma
  • Amrapali Basumatary, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
  • Ania Loomba, PhD, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
  • Anirban Baishya, PhD candidate, School of Cinematic Arts, University of South California
  • Ann Grodzins Gold, PhD, Chair, Department of Religion, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Professor of Anthropology, Syracuse University
  • Aruni Kashyap, Writer and Translator, Assistant Professor of English, Ashoka University, India
  • Austin Dacey, PhD, Author and Philosopher
  • Boris van der Ham, Chairman, Dutch Humanist Association
  • Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker and Activist
  • Doranne Jacobson, Research Associate, Columbia University
  • Elham Manea, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Zurich
  • Fariborz Pooya, Host, Bread and Roses TV
  • Geraldine Forbes, PhD, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita, Department of History, State University of New York at Oswego
  • Imran H. Sarker, Blogger and Secular Activist, Bangladesh
  • Karen Leonard, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
  • Khushi Kabir, Feminist and Human Rights Activist
  • Maajid Nawaz, Author and Activist, Founding Chairman, Quilliam
  • Madhurima Chakraborty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Columbia College Chicago
  • Makiko Kimura, PhD, Associate Professor, Tsuda College Shimin Gaikou Centre
  • Marieme Helie Lucas, Former Faculty (Social Sciences), Algiers University, Founder, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
  • Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All, Producer, Bread and Roses TV
  • Massimo Pigliucci, K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy, City College of New York
  • Michael De Dora, Director of Public Policy; UN Representative, Center for Inquiry
  • Mitul Baruah, PhD Candidate, Geography Department, Syracuse University
  • Nigel C. Hughes, PhD, Professor,Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Irvine
  • P.B. Cliteur, PhD, Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Leiden
  • Ranabir Samaddar, PhD, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group
  • Reza Aslan, PhD, Author and Religious Scholar
  • Richard Dawkins, Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford
  • Russell Blackford, PhD, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, NSW
  • Salman Rushdie, Novelist
  • Sam Harris, PhD, Author and Neuroscientist
  • Sean Dowdy, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
  • Shelley Feldman, PhD, Professor, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University
  • Steven Pinker, PhD, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Susan Wadley, PhD, Director, South Asia Center, Syracuse University
  • Suzanne Hanchett, PhD, Partner, Planning Alternatives for Change LLC
  • Varuni Bhatia, Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures Department, University of Michigan


  • 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
  • American Atheists
  • American Humanist Association
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-Asia)
  • Atheist Alliance International
  • Bangladesh Group – The Netherlands (Bangladesh Groep Nederland)
  • Blogger & Online Activist Network-Bangladesh
  • British Humanist Association
  • Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
  • Canadian Secular Alliance
  • Center for Inquiry
  • Centre for Inquiry – Canada
  • Centre for Secular Space UK
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide – UK
  • Council of Australian Humanist Societies
  • Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
  • Dutch Humanist Association (Humanistisch Verbond)
  • European Humanist Federation
  • Freedom House
  • The Hague Peace Projects
  • Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted
  • International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (Germany)
  • International Humanist and Ethical Union
  • Insan Foundation Trust
  • Liberty South Asia
  • Mukto-Mona
  • One Law for All
  • Organizing Committee, Chittagong Hill Tracts Campaign
  • PEN American Center
  • Progressive Atheists, Inc. (Australia)
  • Muslims for Progressive Values
  • Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom
  • Rationalist Society of Australia
  • Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science
  • Secular Coalition for America
  • Secular Coalition of Australia
  • Secular Party of Australia
  • Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

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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