American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

Mar 2, 2015

Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

By Agence France-Presse

A prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin has been hacked to death with machetes by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, after he allegedly received threats from Islamists.

The body of Avijit Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site – which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation – was found covered in blood after an attack that also left his wife critically wounded.

“He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger,” local police chief Sirajul Islam said.

The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them on to the pavement before striking them with machetes, local media reported, citing witnesses.

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59 comments on “American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

  • Jeez that is one place I never hope to go to. I assume the motive wasn’t over a parking space, or a robbery ? Not that that would make it any better. Meanwhile in Britain the search goes on for a missing schoolgirl, suspected murdered. A young man was murdered in Caledonian Road north London because he wouldn’t surrender his bike to robbers.

    God sits bum on hands.

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  • This is an horrific occurrence, but I think, though well intentioned, it is in poor taste to wish they find heaven “though they not believe in it”. Quite a few of us are appalled by such a concept and prospect. Minds are more various than you imagine. Transience brings intensity.

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  • 5
    Miserablegit says:

    Islam once again proves itself to be the religion of peace and understanding, do anything we disagree with and you will die horribly.

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  • With no intent to defend Islam in this, I cannot see much difference between it and Christianity, or Judaism, for that matter.

    All they differ in is when, not what. Christianity gave up its barbaric burning at the stake, the Spanish Inquisition, the massacre of the Hugenots, the genocide of native peoples etc etc, in rough terms over a 500 year period tapering off not really all that long ago.

    This happened under a slowly increasing secular society evolving around it. It is obviously good that this has happened, although there are absurd zealots, particularly in the US of A who would love to see a return to the good old days when they could burn witches with impunity.

    Some teachers at several elite schools in Australia have recently been hauled in front of a Royal Commission over a culture of sexual abuse in the schools. A po-faced “senior church minister” denies records were tampered with. If this causes a fuss, what would happen if they dragged in an old man who cut off the end of a little boys dick prior to sucking it? They would go ballistic, yet the Jewish church claims this is not abuse, and sexual abuse at that.

    The real problem is bloody Yahweh, all three branches of his devotees have turned out just how he would like, murderous, abusive, down right bloody and nasty death cults, differing only in the historical periods of their excesses.

    If you must worship a mythical deity, how about Bacchus? Drunk driving could increase, I suppose, but hardly the mayhem that Yahweh has caused, is causing, and will continue to cause, until rational thinking finally gets rid of Him and His supreme nastiness.

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  • The notion of freedom of religion and separation of church and state is supposed to stop craziness like this. The key thing here is the crime was committed by a mob, not just a small number of crazies. Whatever belief system the mob belongs to cannot be considered a religion. They are refusing to play by the freedom of religion tolerance rules.

    I think that justifies exterminating their “religion” by quite drastic means, such as taking their children away.

    Even if there were video of the mob, I doubt a Bangladeshi jury would convict of murder. Even in Canada about a third of Muslims polled say murder is ok to “defend” religion. Unfortunately, the hypothetical attack was not defined.

    Bangladesh might tie with Uganda for backward and violent beliefs. Given how much misery beliefs can cause, it might be time to modify the notion of freedom of religion to include only beliefs that tolerate others confining their attacks to non-violent ones. The rest are toxic and deserve eradication, just like poverty or pestilence.

    Right wing Americans often claim the best approach is to kill anyone who is not Christian. There is no need to kill anyone, just stop them from killing by talking them out of their murderous beliefs.

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  • I sent the story to the moderator last week. I think are are just a little swamped with other matters. Sometimes there are no new stories for a whole day. I also sent it to the CBC. They still have not published it. I think they want to avoid anti-Muslim sentiment which is percolating over a number of issues. All the big British papers covered it.

    I also sent some science stories to the moderator that I thought would be sure to be used. No sign of them.

    I also noticed RDF is hiring someone. Perhaps they are short-staffed.

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  • 10
    RandyPing says:

    They should execute them quickly before ISIS or some other radical group of ass-hats decides to start kidnapping journalists or aid workers and demanding they be released.

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  • Ok Ok, you win. I hope he lies in the ground without consciousness and, fortunately, without knowing his existence had absolutely no meaning, until decomposers completely obliterate his corporal form. There’s the platinum rule for you.

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  • Miserablegit Mar 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Islam once again proves itself to be the religion of peace and understanding, do anything we disagree with and you will die horribly.

    Meanwhile the Wahhabist oily friends of corporate multinationals, back in Saudi are working to stamp out western “evils”!

    Apparently not only were they dancing, but they had cake and candles!!!!!

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  • It was not a mob that killed him. “Hundreds of protesters rallied in Dhaka to denounce the murder, chanting slogans including “we want justice” and “raise your voice against militants”.

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  • ” If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people.” or
    ” You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into ”

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  • He’s not appalled by your well wishes. A great deal of us unbelievers are appalled at the concept of heaven — The victim may or may not have felt this way.

    Wishing the victim to find something which is related to why he was murdered (and for which he likely stood against) was in poor taste.

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  • I can see your point Denis, though poor taste seems to be one of the rules on this site.

    I remember when Christopher Hichens died, and this site paid tribute to him. I can’t tell you how many members wished for him to rest in peace. Now why would they say that when, according to your thinking, he ceased to exist and was incapable of resting the moment he died? Are they not, in the midst of their emotional greif, wishing him some sort of heaven?

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  • 19
    Lorenzo says:

    One of the aggressor has been caught, apparently.
    If he is brainwashed enough to commit murder with atrocity in the name of religion, he’ll confess rather quickly I suppose.

    Religion might not be the cause of all evil, but as sure as Neptune it’s the root of a great deal of evil -and usually, it motivates the most meaningless atrocities. The world will be a better place without religions.

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  • I think what living relatives would want most is that their loved one’s work would achieve some of its aims, that the religious should not impose themselves on others by proselytising, indoctrinating and bringing its unwarranted “morality” to oppress the desires and rights of undeserving others.

    You could wish that for them… Maybe a few prayers to ensure this slender little existence, as crammed with purpose as he could make it, might shine on a little longer after its untimely snuffing out.

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  • Not sure which address you used, Roedy, but we haven’t received any emails from you. In any case, the moderators have nothing to do with the selection of articles for the site – we’re just here to keep comments within the Terms of Use. However, our understanding is that there are now systems in place for populating the site, and user submissions are no longer being accepted. Thank you for the thought, though!

    The mods

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  • rest in peace

    I don’t remember atheists wishing that…

    They talked of what he meant to them. His achievements. Their sorrow. Maybe a few ex-religious finding the words too engrained they couldn’t escape them.

    though poor taste seems to be one of the rules on this site.

    As you were addressing me, am I to take this personally?

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  • Hey Phil, There is no reply button on your bottom two comments (perhaps the editing time as not run out?). As a believer scrolling through the comments on this site the day Hitchens died, I was actually stunned by the number R.I.P.s’ I saw.

    And no, please do not take my last comment personally. I was being general and referring to no specific person. Your responses are always thought provoking and eloquent, which I appreciate, but you are not rude or disrespectful.

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  • Hi Nordic, rest in peace is just a short saying that I don’t think most people put a lot of thought into the actual meaning of. I may have even said it but I wasn’t thinking about any kind of afterlife.

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  • I actually tried googling the thread but no luck. Hopefully, my memory is not the faulty one, and I look the fool. I remember wanting to write a comment about it, but thought that would be rude and disrespectful to the site’s members and their grief.

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  • 27
    Muktadir R says:

    He neither wished for nor believed in so-called “eternal bliss”.
    He was one of the few people who wrote popular science books in Bangla(mother tongue of Bangladeshi people), and the pioneer of free-thinking in Bangladesh. People will know him and be inspired through the books he wrote, and remember his contribution for the days to come. HE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. And yes his body will not “decompose to completely obliterate his corporal form”. As per his wish, his family members donated his body for scientific research. He was a great soul.

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  • On the RIP question someone posted the link to memorial thread for Hitch. Thanks. I counted 12 RIPs in the first 100 comments. Not sure if that is more or less than one would expect or how many of those were atheists. I suspect most people don’t know it refers to a soul resting in peace in heaven. That would include me until I just looked it up on wikipedia! Sort of like how “passed” has become a euphemism for “died”.

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  • Bonnie posted the link, so thanks to her and you, Michael, for the stats.

    I scanned it and took the view that the RIP-ers were less the regulars of the time and less likely to have thought about these things. The US is hugely euphemistic and coy and “passing” is a verbal habit, sadly trivialising a tragedy. It makes death seem as significant as a kidney stone or a bowel movement.

    There was one “Rest in Piece” I noted. Surely an atheist?

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  • There are what promise to be a fascinating series of programmes about Saudi Arabia on BBC Radio Four, Alan, which take the long view back to the time when it was an impoverished desert wilderness – in the nineteen sixties – before black gold was discovered and we were all held to ransom.

    That’s just my POV of course; I wouldn’t want to be thought of as, well, you know, “biased” in any way.

    Although not permitted to drive, women do apparently serve on the boards of huge Saudi companies; so the Theocrats aren’t completely daft, only almost entirely.

    Sorry mods, I wandered a tad off piste again I’m afraid.

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  • Who or what is really to blame if some poor sap, who was brain washed as a child, ends up committing an appalling crime like this?

    But soft; I hear the cry, how do you know he was brain washed?

    Well, I’m just guessing really; but there is such a thing as a good guess.

    And even Feynman hazarded a few guesses in his time.

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  • 35
    Ayyappadas says:

    I’m writing this comment on behalf of the Freethinker’s group inside the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, called QUEST.

    Here is an English translation of one of his articles:

    This poignant piece, which happens to be note about his father, was published in the Bengali online magazine ‘Sachalayatan’. We are republishing its English translation in our blog as a tribute to the memory of this great humanist and reformer who was brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists. This is done with the sole intention of spreading the ideas for which he stood, and to give a glimpse of the personality that he was. No copyright violation is intended.

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  • I concur. I have also contacted my MP – who has forwarded (to the home secretary), my insistence that any modern secular democracy needs to ban circumcision in all instances unless required for clinical reasons! I also stated that parents/guardians of girls who are cut when sent abroad should be jailed for their serious neglect! (a minimum ten-year tariff should be sufficient for the pious to see the error of their ways!)

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  • 37
    bonnie says:

    @ Phil 4:39 a.m.

    US […] passing

    Offhand, can’t think of its origin, but can offer a personal example.

    A family member died when I was young, living in conservative Tulsa, Ok (think Oral Roberts University). An older sibling advised “people will ask about it, just say “he passed away”. Not, He’s dead, Jim ; )

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  • Thank you for posting that Ayyappadas. I am not sure what I wish for the people who did this but I do know I want it to stop.

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  • I’m not sure if i’m posting this in the right place….anyway…

    The term RIP (rest in peace) doesn’t necessarily give reference to an afterlife. It’s simply a thing we often say when someone passes from life. It’s similar to saying “goodbye” when taking leave of a person. The word goodbye derives from “God be with ye”. Most people have no thought of God when using the word has simply become part of the English vernacular over time.

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  • Throughout most of its history, the term ‘Turk” was a derogatory one. Cant find the exact quote at the moment but, it is of chinese origin, it is thought, from something like (spelling?) ‘tor’qui’ which meant, in short, ‘thieving nomad bastards’. Although it is thought the Ottomans were Turks, from my understanding they were not but were from ‘Turkic tribes’. As the Ottoman empire began to wane and free thinkers emerged, a group decided to take the term and make it their own as in ‘The Young Turks’. A little later, after the fall of the empire and the formation of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal further claimed the term and called the republic Turkey and its inhabitants Turks. There is a famous speech, at the formation of Turkey, which is sometimes used against him by his enemies as an arrogant speech, in which he claims the term Turk for its people regardless of what they were before. “How happy is the one who says I am a Turk” was to help unify the people who lived within its newly recognised borders.

    To cut a long story down to size, can’t we just claim these phrases instead of having such an adverse reaction to them? Cant We accept that in the new republic of atheism the words ‘passing away’ means to a dead state rather than cartoon land?

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  • It’s like saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes. It means nothing in particular.

    (Though when someone says that when I sneeze, I always ask them if they are “authorized”.)



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  • There is a new robustness to talking about death now and talk of a “Good Death” of taking control of one’s own end of life and not having it fall into the hands of well meaning but possibly insensitive others. Open acceptance of our own ultimate end, keeping it in mind and in the minds of our loved ones is tough, though, and not well served by others’ euphemisms. We have a word, a good word, honest and sobering.

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  • But not poetic? For a man of your eloquence I would have thought that quite suffocating?

    I understand the want for clarity but at the expense of language dose not seem a good response.

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  • No. “Death” has the deepest poetry imaginable. It even starts hard and dies away in the mouth.

    Find me one great poet who would use “passed away” or “on” or “over”. I’m no poet but I don’t do Hallmark cards…

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  • I get the poetry in the one word but poetry demands variety. ‘Passed away” olde and then new and then the possibility. “Passed on’ becomes ‘Passed away’ with meaning left for the reader never needing the suffocating explanation that defines it once and for all. The perception of ‘That Dress’ is the poetry the pixels the facts. IMHO.

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  • Ah, like “capturing one’s last breath in a bottle”.

    What the hell is it doing in a museum? Should be in an art gallery!! 😉

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  • Come to think of it!!! My daughter was confused about how my body is to be ‘got rid of’, knowing my outspoken atheism, and asked what I wanted. I said that it was to be no markers of any kind, no gravestone, no specific place. “Sprinkle my ashes in the sea and only say a few words for your own comfort if that is what you need at the time”, was my answer. Then as a joke I said, “I will be with you wherever you are in the world and that grain of sand that washes onto your skin could possibly be me”, to which all my children gave a ‘ewe’ too. Now I think I will instruct my wife, who I know will outlive me, to instantly play the parrot sketch on my last breath. Thanks.

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  • I guess it’s just the company I hang with. To us, rest in peace means to retire from the struggles and sufferings of this life and truly find peace in the hereafter. I guess when it was used on the Hitchens thread, writers were thinking of something else. Just goes to show you how much we don’t know about each other. I’ve been on this site now 5 years (I think), and I would have never guessed there was a different intention of meaning to RIP.

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  • 53
    Ayyappadas says:

    @Olgun : Thanks for the comment. There is nothing we too wish for other than spreading ideas.

    Avijit is not the first person from Indian subcontinent to have met this tragedy. Narendra Dabolkar and Govind Pansare, from India too belong to the same category. This ia apart from Humayun Azad and Rajib Haider from Bangladesh.

    PS: I did not follow the full discussion, so apologies if I were repeating some facts.

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  • My daughter was confused about how my body is to be ‘got rid of’, knowing my outspoken atheism, and asked what I wanted.

    May I suggest post hole digger, straight down, hessian bag, fill in the top and bung a tree on top to help extract my many constituent atoms and recycle them back into the ecosystem. I also plan on setting up a solar powered raspberry pi (a small computer suitable for this sort of thing), to tweet witty comments out to my loved ones on a regular basis (or whatever the equivalent is then).

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  • Like the idea Reckless but too much responsibility for future relatives to deal with. Wouldn’t want great grandchildren sitting on the branches of the tree protesting its destruction and stopping the progress of a new motor way. 😉

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  • I’m trying to figure out how to donate my body to science and how I’ll feel when the polite rejection comes. Being eco concerned I don’t want to waste 150kJ of energy at the crem and get turned into CO2. I certainly don’t want to rot into much worse CH4. Becoming a subject for plastic surgery students seems useful (this is the most common use of cadavers and a lot of plastic surgery is not simply for vanity). But the remains still…er…remain. Earlier I had suggested that the scraps become dog food. (I would like little old ladies to have their comforting pets without worsening their carbon footprint.) There would, though, be a problem of labelling. Man in a Can? Cesar Soylent Cuts? Pedigree People? Please don’t say I’m in poor taste…

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