How Richard Dawkins became the Scarlet Pimpernel for atheists fleeing religious persecution

By Russell Leadbetter

IN February 2015, Dr Avijit Roy, a prominent atheist blogger, and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, were brutally set upon by Islamic extremists wielding machetes in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka.

The couple were leaving a book fair at the city’s University when they were bodily dragged from a bicycle rickshaw and attacked. Dr Roy, an author and prominent secular activist, and founder of a blog site that promotes liberal secular writing, was hacked to death, while his wife suffered stab wounds to the head and one of her thumbs was sliced off.

There’s an appalling photograph of Ahmed standing, drenched in blood, close to her husband’s body, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.

This was one of many attacks on secular bloggers in Bangladesh. As Ahmed, a leading freethinker, wrote earlier this year, on the second anniversary of the attack: “Why did we deserve such violence? Because fundamentalists were threatened by our writings – on science, philosophy and criticism of religious dogma – and they identified us as enemies of Islam”.

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