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Stop Bangladeshís retrogressive journey ushered in by obscurantists

 

By A.H. Jaffor Ullah

It may surprise many readers to know that Humayun Azadís attackers wanted to slit his throat on February 27, 2004 a la jihadi fashion. A Murtaad or apostate is a fare game. Once a person is labeled Murtaad, beheading that person is considered no crime. You see, the Islamists in Bangladesh declared Dr. Azad a Murtaad. For some thoughts on Dr. Azadís plight in the hands of his assailants, please peruse the rest of my article.

On February 27, 2004, about half a dozen would be assassin of Prof. Humayun Azad struck up a conversation with him inside the Bangla Academy compound where the annual Book Fair, Boi Mela, was going on. This was reported in many vernacular newspapers on February 28, 2004. At about 9:30 p.m. this group of assassins came out from Bangla Academy compound with Prof. Azad. They crossed the main road. The professor was talking to them for few minutes. Three of the young men from the group entered the dimly lighted park while two followed Prof. Azad. All of a sudden, these two men started to strike Dr. Azad in the neck region. The place where this incident happened was not desolated. There was a Chatpati vendor there. Three eyewitnesses came forward that gave a detail account of the attack on Prof. Azad. The color photo of Dr. Azad taken at the hospital also revealed that most of the wounds due to hacking were localized in Prof. Azadís head and neck. Therefore, it follows that the attackers perhaps wanted to slit the throat of Prof. Azad or behead him. Now, does that ring a warning bell? To me it does.

In December 2001, some Islamists abducted the WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi. They took him to a suburban house and kept him there for few more days. At the end, some Arab men came and slit the throat of Mr. Pearl a la jihadi style. Now, why should one label the slitting of throat a jihadi style? Killing someone by slitting throat was the "proper way," according to some dictums. If the Islamists wanted to silence Daniel Pearl, they could have easily done it by pumping bullet in his body. That would have been too clean. However, Pearlís abductor had other motives. They wanted a messy killing, instead. The WSJ reporter admitted to his captors that he was a Jew. Therefore, Pearlís abductors wanted to kill him as per Arab style. According to news report, some Arab men came to the house where Daniel Pearl was kept hostage. They not only slit his throat cowardly but they recorded the ghastly act using a video camera. How disgusting!

Now let us analyze how the Bangladeshi freethinker and writer, Prof. Humayun Azad was attacked by his assailants. As per the description provided by roadside food vendors, one of the two attackers was a bearded person. The two attackers were aiming Dr. Azadís neck and head. They kept on striking his neck by sharp object, which the local papers reported as "chapati." I was not familiar with the term. Bangla standard dictionary did not contain that word. Therefore, it must a slang term. The correct Bangla word is "Dao" or "Da." This sharp object is used in the village for slitting bamboos and coconut. Mind you, the attackers of Dr. Azad wanted to kill him by slitting his throat. They chose wrong place to fulfill their wish because the killing ground was crowded with Book Fair-goers. Or else, they would have completed their job. And Bangladesh would have lost a freethinker, teacher, and writer.

It is noteworthy here that only few weeks ago the Islamists held a meeting outside the national mosque, Bait-ul-Mukarram, a popular hangout of Mullahs and jihadis, where speakers have openly given death threats to Prof. Humayun Azad. One of the Islamists, Maulana Delwar Hossain Saidee, had brazenly asked the Khaleda Zia Administration to ban Dr. Azadís latest novel, "Pak Sar Zamin Sad Baad," which poked fun at the Mullahs for siding with marauding Pakistani soldiers during our Liberation War. The Jamaati politicians were incensed hearing that Dr. Azadís book pointed fingers at them for their involvement in intellectual killings in the fag end of 1971 war. The Mullahs in Bangladesh has acquired this bad habit of labeling anyone a Murtaad or apostate who practices freethinking. Therefore, Prof. Azad has already become a Murtaad in the eyes of hard-core Islamists. The punishment reserved for being a Murtaad is death by slitting throat or beheading. Dr. Azadís family told the reporters on February 29, 2004 that the family had received numerous death threats lately by phone. To add insult to the injury, a unanimous caller left a message at Dr. Azadís phone on February 29 that next time the professor would not be so lucky. The chilling call points out the malevolence some people have for freethinkers in Bangladesh.

Out of curiosity, I started to read vernacular and English newspapers published a day after Dr. Azad was attacked outside the Bangla Academy. All the newspapers that I read with the exception of one by the name Inquilab had denounced the vicious attack on Prof. Azad. Even though Inquilab has published the account of Dr. Azadís maltreatment in the hands of the goons, the editorial staff had decided to remain reticent about the crime.

On the Net, I have seen some apologists of Maulana Saidee and Islamists who wrote that Dr. Azadís incendiary writings should be blamed for this attack. These apologists of Jamaat and other fanatics in Bangladesh fail to see that free speech and freethinking is at stake in Bangladesh. The dark forces of 1971 want to silence the voices of freethinkers and pro-1971 activists. Dr. Humayun Azad, a noted Bangla linguist, has this unusual combination of a free thinker who often writes on 1971 freedom struggle. Naturally, the Mullahs ire was on him; therefore, he paid very dearly for his strong views. The assailants were aiming for his neck but due to the presence of fair-goers at the Boi Mela, his life was spared this time.

On February 29, 2004, a day after the attack on Prof. Azadís life, many protest meetings were staged. One of them was at the Dhaka University campus. Many politicians and retired teachers of the university took part in the meeting. Many speakers have reiterated that there is no harm being a freethinker. No one should be singled out for being a freethinker. Most speakers have opined that what Bangladesh now needs urgently is the culture of freethinking. The traditional way of thinking, they opined, has led the country to a rut. Islamism is rife in Bangladesh; it has paved the way for intolerance. Under this backdrop, many Islamists want to silence the voice of freethinkers. The vicious attack on Prof. Azad in which his assailants were going after his head is a grim reminder that the attackers were hell bent on decapitating Dr. Azad.

A wave of protests in Bangladesh against this mindless brutality is a healthy sign. Perhaps one could wish that attack on Dr. Azad could trigger something big in Bangladesh. Democracy-loving free spirits of this nation of 140 million will now rise up to rid the nation of all obscurantists who were helping Bangladesh to take a retrogressive journey to the abysses of darkness and despairs.

 

 

 

 

 

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