A third brilliant blogger has been hacked to death in Bangladesh since February. On May 9, Ananta Bijoy Das, a banker by profession, and a blogger, was murdered, apparently by Islamist extremists.
Das was murdered in broad daylight on a busy street in the country's fifth largest city, Sylhet. He had written for Mukto-Mona (Free Mind), a website with which the Bangladeshi-American blogger, Abhijit Roy, had worked before being hacked to death himself in February by machete-wielding assailants.
Five weeks after Roy's death, yet another blogger, Oyasiqur Rahman, was also brutally murdered by three men in Dhaka.
Their deaths echoed the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider on February 15, 2013, and the stabbing in Bangladesh of Asif Mahiuddin in January 2013.
Ansarullah Bangla Team, one of the Islamist groups operating in Bangladesh, claimed all three killings of recent months. The group, also known as Ansar Bangla 8, tweeted within hours of Das's murder: "Alhamdulillah [Arabic for 'praise God'], all the brothers of Operation team are safe." An hour later, the group said that Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for killing Das. Detectives suspect that the Ansarullah Bangla team maintains contact with Al-Qaeda.
Recently, the leader of AQIS, Asim Umar, also claimed responsibility for the murder of six people, who according to him, were blasphemers. One included Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American science writer.
In addition to Roy, AQIS heralded its Jihadists as responsible for killing:
- Ahmed Rajib Haider (Bangladeshi blogger)
- Shafiul Islam (a university professor killed in September 2014)
- Oyasiqur Rahman (Bangladeshi blogger)
- Muhammad Shakil Auj (Dean of Islamic studies at Karachi University in Pakistan)
- Aniqa Naz (Pakistani blogger)
"Praise be to Allah," Umar said. "These assassinations are part of a series of operations initiated by the different branches of Al Qaeda on the orders of our respected leader, Sheikh Ayman Al Zawahiri (may Allah protect him). It is equally part of our commitment to fulfill the oath Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] (may Allah have mercy on him)."
BBC reported that "[a]ll these killings were carried out in near identical fashion. ... This pattern has convinced observers that the killers, even if they are from different parts of the country, as being advised or trained by one group."
In an editorial after the latest murder, the Guardian wrote, "Like Raif Badawi, imprisoned and flogged in Saudi Arabia, the brave men who have been murdered are guilty of nothing more than honesty and integrity. Those are virtues that fundamentalists and fanatics cannot stand."
In January 2014, As-Sahab Media released a video message from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, entitled "Bangladesh: A Massacre Behind a Wall of Silence." Zawahiri said,
My Muslim brothers in Bangladesh, I invite you to confront this crusaders' onslaught against Islam, being orchestrated by the leading criminals in the Sub-continent and the West against Islam, the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic creed, so that they may turn you into slaves of a despotic and disbelieving system. ... I invite you to launch a massive public uprising in defense of Islam, against the enemies of Islam. I invite the leading scholars of Bangladesh to fulfill the role Islam has given them.
I invite you [Bangladeshi Islamic scholars] to firmly hold on to the principle of the supreme authority of the Shariah, and its primacy over man-made constitutions and laws, so that it governs the will of the masses, rather than being governed by their will, or by any other authority. I invite you to lead the masses to lead the masses in a vast and... popular uprising (intifada) whose tide does not recede, nor its dynamism subside, until the Shariah of Islam governs the land of Islam.
The reality of democracy is that it knows no religion, values or principles. Everything is right as long as it gets the majority of votes. It was a democratic Britain that occupied Muslim lands, killed millions, and robbed its resources for centuries. It was a democratic Britain that promised Palestine to the Jews. It was the democratic Britain that handed over Palestine to the Zionists before withdrawing from Palestine.
Zawahiri's call went viral among Muslims in Bangladesh, where they constitute approximately 90.4% of the population.
In 2014, when Asian and African Muslims were asked in a Pew survey whether suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilian targets could be justified to defend Islam from an enemy, 47% percent of Bangladeshi Muslims said yes. They represented the highest number, after Gaza (62%). The number of those who those justified suicide bombings and other violence is far higher than those in Malaysia (18%), Indonesia (9%) and Pakistan (3%).
Imran H. Sarker, spokesman for Gonojagorn Manch, a secular movement in Bangladesh, has accused the government of trying to cover up the murder of bloggers for its political gain.
It seems clear, therefore, why the dissidents, atheists and secularists in Bangladesh remain unassisted by the society and the government.