Pressure Mounts on Bangladesh to Confront Killings of Secularists

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Lawrence Krauss, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rev. Gretta Vosper Join Broad Coalition Demanding Justice

Prominent public figures in science, literature, academia, and political activism have added their names to a distinguished coalition led by the Center for Inquiry aimed at confronting the Bangladesh government for its muddled and often callous response to a human rights emergency: the ongoing murders of secularists, progressive activists, and religious minorities, as part of a campaign of terror to silence critics of radical Islam.

New members of this coalition include physicist Lawrence Krauss, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, documentarian Deeyah Khan, Rev. Gretta Vosper of the United Church of Canada, and author Taslima Nasrin. Organizations such as the Christian nonprofit Open Doors and the UK’s Cartoonists’ Club have also joined the effort. The coalition already included luminaries such as Reza Aslan, Salman Rushdie, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Maryam Namazie, Sam Harris, Imran Sarker, and groups such as Freedom House and the PEN American Center. Over 1400 people have also added their names to a petition attached to the coalition’s joint statement.

This development comes as the New York Times’ editorial board has admonished Bangladesh’s leaders for “fueling extremism” by having “cracked down on freedom of expression and the press.” Nonetheless, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal recently reiterated the position that it is the victims of these acts of terror who bear responsibility for “hurting religious sentiments.” 

“May 12 marks the first anniversary of the murder of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das,” noted Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations and coordinator of the coalition. “His death was senseless and entirely preventable, had the Bangladesh authorities taken this crisis seriously from the start, and focused on strongly defending freedom of belief and expression and pursuing justice rather than condemning the victims for exercising their rights.” Das was the third person to be hacked to death in the street last year, and since then six more secularists and progressives have been slaughtered, as well as three members of religious minorities: Christian, Hindu, and Sufi.  

The joint statement initiated by CFI 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. It urges the government to bring the killers and their ringleaders to justice, and to protect the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression for all of its people, including atheists, secularists, and religious minorities.

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

Aase Gjerdrum
Editor and Translator

Ahmad Tabshir Choudhury
National Vice President
External Affairs & Public Relations
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Bangladesh

Alan Levinovitz, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy and Religion
James Madison University

Alf R. Jacobsen

Ali Riaz, PhD
University Professor and Chair
Department of Politics and Government
Illinois State University

Amanda Sebestyen
Director of Asylum Education and Legal Fund Member
National Union of Journalists

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

Amritjit Singh, PhD
Langston Hughes Professor of English
Ohio University

Ananya Azad
Blogger and Writer

Ania Loomba, PhD
Catherine Bryson Professor of English
University of Pennsylvania

Anindya Kanti Biswas

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

Anne B. Reinertsen, PhD
Professor in Education
Queen Maud University College

Anu Muhammad, PhD
ProfessorDepartment of Economics
Jahangirnagar University

Arifur Rahman
Cartoonist and Member of PEN Norway

Arnt Birkedal

Aruni Kashyap
Writer and Translator
Assistant Professor of English

Ashoka University, India
Asbjørn Øverås

Åse Brandvold
Journalist and Author

Atle Naess

Audity Falguni
Writer, Poet, and Activist

Austin Dacey, PhD
Author and Philosopher

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
AHA Foundation

Bernt Bølviken
Aschehoug Publishing House

Boris van der Ham
Dutch Humanist Association

Brynjar Bjerkem
Programme Manager
Transnational Arts Production

Brit Bildøen

Choity Ahmed
Editorial Board Member
Anupranan Literary Magazine

Christopher Grøndahl
Novelist and Screenwriter

Dr. Colin Gonsalves
Senior Advocate
Supreme Court of India
Human Rights Law Network

Deeyah Khan
Emmy-Award Winning Film Director, Music Producer, Composer, and Activist

Dipen Bhattacharya, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Moreno Valley College

Doranne Jacobson
Research Associate
Columbia University

Elham Manea, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Zurich

Elin Ørjasæter
Member, PEN Norway

Faizun Zackariya
Citizens’ Voice for Justice and Peace

Fariborz Pooya
Host, Bread and Roses TV

Geraldine Forbes, PhD
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita
Department of History
State University of New York at Oswego

Grace Westcott
Executive Director
PEN Canada

Rev. Gretta Vosper
Minister, United Church of Canada

Gro Kjernli
Member, PEN Norway

Gudmund Vindland

Gunn Hild Lem
Writer and Editor

Gyrid Axe Øvsteng

Hana Shams Ahmed
Activist and MA Candidate
University of Western Ontario

Hanne Herrman
Independent Artist

Hans Tarjei Skaare
Nansen Academy

Hege Newth Nouri
Secretary General
PEN Norway

Hilde Ghosh Maisey
General Manager
Transnational Arts Production

Ibn Warraq

Ida Lou Larsen
Norway Inger Sverreson Holmes
Norwegian Non-Fiction Authors’ and Translators’ Organisation

Imran H. Sarker
Blogger and Secular Activist

Iva Gavanski
Advisor, WiPC
PEN Norway

Jay Rajiva, PhD
Assistant Professor
Global Anglophone Literature
Department of English
Georgia State University

Jyotirmoy Barua
Barrister at Law
Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Karen Leonard, PhD
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Irvine

Khushi Kabir
Feminist and Human Rights Activist

Knut Nærum

Kristin Skare Orgeret, PhD
Department of Journalism and Media Studies
Oslo and Akershus University College

Kristina Quintano
Publisher and Translator

Kumar Rana
Project Director
Pratichi India trust

Lawrence M. Krauss, PhD
Foundation Professor
School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department
Director, Origins Project
Arizona State University

Line Alice Ytrehus, PhD
Professor, Intercultural Studies
NLA University College
Member, PEN Norway

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

Mara Matta, PhD
Professor of Modern Literatures
of the Indian Subcontinent
Sapienza University of Rome

Marieme Helie Lucas
Former Faculty (Social Sciences)
Algiers University
Founder, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Marius Kolbenstvedt

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All
Producer, Bread and Roses TV

Maskwaith Ahsan
Author, Journalist, and Educator

Massimo Pigliucci
K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy
City College of New York

Max Farrar, PhD
Emeritus Professor Department of Sociology
University of Leeds

Mehnaaz Momen, PhD
Associate Professor
Texas A & M International University

Mehran Amirahmadi
Author and Member of PEN Norway

Mette C. Newth
Writer and Translator

Michael Bauer
Author and CEO
Bavarian Humanist Association

Michael De Dora
Director of Public Policy; UN Representative
Center for Inquiry

Michael Kazimierz O’Dwyer
Physics and Math Teacher

Mitul Baruah, PhD Candidate
Geography Department
Syracuse University

Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of International Relations
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Morten Harry Olsen
Author and Member of PEN Norway

Muktasree Chakma Sathi
Researcher and Human Rights Activist

Nakul Singh Sawhney

Dr. Natalia Paszkiewicz
Independent Researcher

Nigel C. Hughes, PhD
Department of Earth Sciences
University of California, Irvine

Nils Nordberg
Writer and Professor
Lucy Bland Anglia Ruskin University

Ole Robert Sunde
Author and Member of PEN Norway

Pål Moddi Knutsen
Musician and Member of PEN Norway

Papori Bora, PhD
Assistant Professor
Centre for Women’s Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University

P.B. Cliteur, PhD
Professor of Jurisprudence
University of Leiden

Per Kværne, PhD
Professor Emeritus
University of Oslo

Raihan Sharif
Fulbright Scholar
Washington State University

Ranabir Samaddar, PhD
Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies
Calcutta Research Group

Ragnar Aalbu
Illustrator and Author
Member, PEN Norway

Ratnadipa De Ghosh
Poet and Author

Raza Rumi
Scholar in Residence
Ithaca College, NY

Reza Aslan, PhD
Author and Religious Scholar

Richard Dawkins
Emeritus Professor
University of Oxford

Ricky Varghese, PhD, RSW

Rumana Hashem, PhD
Post-Doc Researcher
Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging
University of East London

Russell Blackford, PhD
School of Humanities and Social Science
University of Newcastle, NSW

Salman Rushdie

Sam Harris, PhD        
Author and Neuroscientist

Samina Luthfa, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
University of Dhaka

Sean Dowdy, PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
University of Chicago

Shahidul Alam PhD
Photographer, Writer and Curator

Shelley Feldman, PhD
Department of Development Sociology
Cornell University

Stein Versto

Steven Pinker, PhD
Johnstone Professor of Psychology
Harvard University

Supriti Dhar

Susan Wadley, PhD
Director, South Asia Center
Syracuse University

Suzanne Hanchett, PhD
Partner, Planning Alternatives for Change LLC

Taslima Nasreen

Terje Torkildsen
Author and Comedian

Tor Edvin Dahl

Truls Lie

Varuni Bhatia, PhD
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

    Atheist Foundation of Australia

    Bangladesh Group – The Netherlands (Bangladesh Groep Nederland)

    Blogger & Online Activist Network-Bangladesh

    British Humanist Association

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

    Canadian Secular Alliance

    Cartoonist’s Club

    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

    Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations

    Freedom House

    The Hague Peace Projects

    Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted

    Humanist Society Scotland

    Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association

    International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (Germany)

    International Humanist and Ethical Union

    Insan Foundation Trust

    Liberty South Asia


    One Law for All

    Open Doors

    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

    Swedish Humanist Association

    University for Humanistic Studies (Universiteit voor Humanistiek)

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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