For Immediate Release: April 25, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
email@example.com - (207) 358-9785
Responding to a new wave of deadly attacks, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) is leading a coalition effort to urge the State Department to strengthen its engagement with the Bangladesh government to ensure that fundamental rights to belief and expression are fully protected. Secularists, religious minorities, and other activists have been viciously murdered in the streets of Bangladesh by Islamic extremists, with many more targeted for death, and the government has done little to address the crisis, other than to blame the victims.
Since 2015, six writers and publishers of secularist material have been savagely slaughtered, with many more injured, in attacks for which groups such as Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Daesh have claimed responsibility. Attacks have worsened over the past several days: on Saturday, suspected Islamic militants murdered an English professor for, as Daesh put it, “calling to atheism,” and today the senior editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine was killed, along with his friend, also an LGBT activist.
In a letter to the US State Department (available at bit.ly/CFIDOSBangla), CFI and its coalition partners ask Secretary of State John Kerry and International Religious Freedom Ambassador David Saperstein to make concerted and persistent efforts “to pressure the Bangladesh government to speak publicly in defense of the rights to exercise freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and to work with law enforcement officials on the ground to ensure threatened individuals and groups are protected.”
Sadly, the response from the Bangladesh government to ongoing attacks has been, in part, to reprimand secularist writers for what Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls “filthy words.” Prime Minister Hasina promised that if any writer was attacked for criticizing religion — which is a fundamental human right — that the government would take no responsibility.
“It is absolutely appalling that the very officials charged with protecting the lives and the rights of the people of Bangladesh are not condemning bloodshed or defending the right to free expression, but conveying sympathy for the religious sentiments of murderers,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations.
“A recent victim, Nazimuddin Samad, was a bright and promising law student, struck down for social media posts critical of radical Islam,” said De Dora. “As his blood still stained the street, Bangladesh’s home minister said that it was Samad’s blogging that needed to be investigated, clearly suggesting that Samad brought his death on himself. This is madness, and it must change.”
CFI was joined by a diverse group of human rights, religious, and secularist organizations including Freedom House, PEN America, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Hindu American Foundation, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.