Remembering Avijit Roy
I cannot think of any other words to supplement this anniversary eulogy of Avijit Roy (see below). However, beforehand I would like to take this opportunity to add a few remarks about the struggle against international Islamic theocracy and the moral ambiguity that has come to enshroud any rational debate about it.
The tragic fate of Roy and the plight of atheists and secularists in Bangladesh- as I have written about before- is a real and nasty strain of phobia, i.e. atheistophobia, which is not receiving the fractional attention it deserves (with exception to some secular circles in the blogsphere). The hyperbolic “Islamophobia” meme can’t even pale in comparison to the bloodied trail of Islamic atheistophobia. Of course sanctimonious Islamopaths, from the likes of Mehdi Hassan and Linda Sarsour, coasting on the guilty white liberalism of western sympathies, could care less about the real global injustice taking place by the clutch of these outdated nomadic dogmas.
Instead, the sensitivity mongers are whining about “free speech fundamentalism” and a few isolated and statistically overblown cases of anti-Muslim backlash in the West. Certainly none of these incidents represent actual centrally organized activities directed against Muslims, they are just a few bad apples. In contrast, the brutal and savage killings being coordinated against secularists and freethinkers in Bangladesh are almost always traced back to militant Islamic factions, such as the Ansurallah Bangla Team which claimed responsibility for the murder of Roy. These radical groups have also produced “hitlists” of blasphemous heretics marked for elimination from the land of God. Couple this with the fact that just two days after another atheistophobic murder took place in Bangladesh, the Inspector General of Police responded by placing the blame on those who insensitively criticize the Islamic religion. Never mind the pledge of many other state authorities, at the same time, to double-down on those who dare to upset the sensitivities of the religious, while it is the religious who are slaying down the impious thought-criminals in their own homes and in front of their own families. Can you imagine the outrage after an anti-Muslim hate crime in America or Europe, if a government bureaucrat of the respective nation reacted by reminding the Muslim community that the best insurance policy of public safety would be for Muslims to practice less of their religion? What about apprehending them for failing to comply? Such an outcome is unimaginable because no civilized free nation would engage in such blatant illiberal incivility, at least not without facing a political media storm.
In fact, a Pew Research poll found that in 2014 the French public had the most favorable attitude toward Muslims (when compared to other European nations). However, even more remarkable, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015 Muslim favorability went up (from 72 to 76 percent). Evermore, when the distribution was broken down to the category of respondents who registered a “very favorable view” of Muslims, that number almost doubled (from 14 to 25 percent). On the other hand, according to the French government, 50 percent of European recruits who join the Islamic State come from France. In America, the post-9/11 figures increased in the favor of Muslims as well, according to the same Pew study, while in 2014 more than 50 percent of hate crimes were actually anti-Semitic and less than 20 percent were motivationally anti-Muslim. These numbers are sobering and boggling when compared to the polling data gathered by the Center for Security Policy, which found 1 in 4 Muslims expressing support for violent action against anyone who insults the prophet Muhammad (though the sample size was only 600 people).
Muslim culture warriors have made a career out of hijacking every Islam-related tragedy and turning it into a stage for their own pity party. This is not groundbreaking news per se. What is more irritating is having to swallow the apologia of their liberal lapdogs who, instead of weeping for the real victims of theocracy, would rather waste time and space to bandaid the hurt feelings of the religiously offended. I am sorry, but I could care less about the insensitivities of the “free speech fundamentalists” while psycho-theocratic sadists are poaching bloggers and writers as if it were a bloody hunting contest. If liberals and humanists want to stand up for justice, they should provide a platform and shelter to Islamic critics and freethinkers whose very lives actually depend upon such accommodations. A good example to follow would be the secular Center for Inquiry, which recently provided refuge for the Bengali writer and humanist, Taslima Nasrin. Instead of emulating such good deeds, commercial liberals have become cultural engineers and sensitivity counselors employed to feed the needy irrationalities of a certain religious minority of thinking.
Take Mehdi Hassan, already briefly alluded to above, who has become a poster child of the multicultural left, a photogenic face for Muslim interfaith relations, an advocate of free speech and equally a critic of Islamophobia. All sounds pretty reasonable so far, right? I also forgot to mention, he thinks slanderers of Muslims should be threatened and censored with punishing sanctions. It also turns out this ambassador of “moderate Islam” has spoken distastefully about non-Muslims, stating they are not intelligent enough to comprehend or appraise the truth value of Islam. This is the same man who wishes to lecture everyone about the impropriety of “demonising” minority communities in the free press.
So next time left-wing columnist Owen Jones wants to cry a river in the Independent about “standing with Mehdi Hassan and other Muslims facing Islamophobia”, he should first familiarize himself with Hassan’s poisonous rhetoric towards unbelievers- those “unintelligent cattle”, according to the resident victim of Islamophobia. Now, do we secularists demand censure of Hassan’s foul mouth, “demonizing” speech if I may say, as our fellow unbelievers are being mutilated in the streets of Bangladesh or imprisoned in Saudi Arabia? Have we been afforded the benefit of a protective term like “secularophobia” out of solidarity with the destroyed victims of international theocracy? Was Hassan outed for supplying maddened Islamic religious audiences with the hate speech they so anxiously hunger for and thrive on? No, this hypocrite can comfortably continue his double career of being both a preacher from the podium of hate and a victim at the receiving end, when it suits him. As to the claim Jones makes (in his 2012 article) about measuring French Islamophobia by the electoral success of the anti-immigration National Front, the latest 2014/2015 Pew numbers (mentioned above) thoroughly refute this claim. Jones reechoed his liberal concerns in a recent column for the Guardian. Following the Orlando shooting (which caused Jones, a homosexual, to emotionally erupt on public television), liberals now seriously need to recalibrate where their values and principles lie. As the law of contradiction would have it, one does not need to be a bigot or a hatemonger to call out the bigotry or hatred of a certain ideology. Whoever considers this a moral paradox has certainly confused the rules of logic.
In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (whose number one fan I am not) excitedly called upon the workers of the world to unite against the oppressive bourgeoise class. Well, in the same revolutionary spirit, I am pleading to the better sensibilities of sincere liberals and humanists worldwide to rise up against the impending threat of Islamic theocracy. As the radius of Islamic violence has reached an international scale of destruction and mayhem, scores of lives have been claimed (both Muslims and non-Muslims) across the board. We have been offered a frightening glimpse of the competing narrative for universal truth, a civilizational future secured by the terror of divine justice- an Orwellian plot with a theocratic adaptation. Many brave souls have endured great pain and struggle so humanity can persevere in spite of the horrific alternative. Let us not allow their noble sacrifices to go in vain. We must stand up against theocracy and authoritarianism.
Avijit Roy was a fighter. He was a fighter, relentless against the oppressive forces of superstition and dogma closing in around him, suffocating society, poisoning minds, mangling thoughts. He was a fighter against those maligning the most valuable of human virtues–reason, science, and compassion. He was a fighter against those peddling pseudoscience. He was a fighter against those suppressing skepticism and promoting the vice of blind faith. He was a fighter against those promulgating baseless myths and bronze-age ethical values.
(Read the rest of the eulogy on Roy here)
(For further information about Islamist killings taking place in Bangladesh, visit my personal blog)