We condemn murder of Bangladeshi atheist student

April 7, 2016

A 28-year-old master’s student in Bangladesh has been killed by suspected Islamist militants.

Nazimuddin Samad was attacked in the Old Dhaka area last night. Samad, a law student, was known as a secularist activist who used his Facebook page to express concerns over the country’s laws.

In one Facebook post, he proposed a satirical strategy to overcome the aggressive push toward Islamism in the country, writing: “Please let’s have Sharia Law for just five years in Bangladesh. Rule the country with Medina Law. I guarantee you, after this 5 years, no Muslim of Bangladesh will ask for Islamic law! The loss and damage we will have after five years, it will take 1400 years to restore us to a modern country.”

Nazimuddin Samad, taken from his Facebook page
Nazimuddin Samad, taken from his Facebook page

Nazimuddin Samad was a politically engaged and active young man, and seems to have been aware of the potential risk he was in, as this interaction on his Facebook page shows:

Azharul islam: “Worried about you Nazim. Be careful, please. You already know what’s happening! Be careful.”
Nazimuddin Samad: “I am also scared, Sir, scared of getting killed. But what else can I do? It’s better to die rather than living by keeping my head down.”

In 2015, four bloggers variously identifying as Humanist, atheist and freethinkers, as well as one publisher of secular books, were killed by groups of men in machete attacks.

Reacting to the news HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae said:

“This is a dark day for people around the world who share our passion for fundamental human rights.

“The ability to challenge authority, even to mock and ridicule it, is fundamental to democracy. Those of us who share an internationalist perspective know that fundamental human rights and democracy are for everyone, and we can see that Nazimuddin Samad also shared this view.

“Nazimuddin Samad was a politically engaged young man who saw injustice around him. In the face of threats and intimidation from fundamentalist bullies, he continued to make the argument for an open, plural society.

“Sadly Nazimuddin Samad is not the first to be murdered for daring to challenge religious authority, and its unlikely he will be the last.

“We will honour his bravery in the only way that we can, by redoubling our efforts to support atheists, Humanists and secularists around the world who are campaigning tirelessly each day for the right to think for themselves.”

Prithu Sanyal, a Bangladeshi-based blogger, commented:

“In spite of the recent pause in the assassination of online activists, this attack demonstrates that this new killing is clearly part of a growing trend which undermines the freedom of expression in Bangladesh. All free thinkers, bloggers and online activists of Bangladesh are in a grave danger.

“Most of them are keeping themselves hidden from public places. Some have left the country. The Government is always silent on such killing issue let alone taking proper steps.”

A spokesperson for the International Humanist and Ethical Union said:

“Every time a thoughtful and honest person like Nazimuddin is hacked or gunned down, apparently for doing nothing more than speaking their minds on secularist, political and religious topics, we and others will make a point of finding out what he said, what he did, what he wrote about, and sharing it.

“It will be seen by more people than would have ever seen it before. And we will remember his name and the growing list of names of those who were singled out and killed, by small-minded, hateful extremists who appear to think that words can be killed. They cannot.”


For more information or comment contact Gary McLelland on gary@humanism.scot or 07813060713.

The killing has been confirmed locally by the Dhaka Tribune: http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/apr/07/jnu-student-killed-suspected-militant-attack

Also confirmed by Mukto Mona, a Bangladeshi-based human rights organisation which was set up in the wake of attacks against atheists: http://enblog.mukto-mona.com/2016/04/07/another-victim-of-state-religion-free-thinker-hacked-to-death-by-machete/

Tributes have been paid on Nazimuddin’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001090271428

Other information:
In August 2015 HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae joined a global coalition of human rights campaigners to sign an open letter calling on immediate action from the Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh: http://iheu.org/joint-open-letter-to-prime-minister-and-president-of-bangladesh/

In December 2015 HSS drew attention to a new report highlighting a rise in organised violent attacks on atheists and Humanists around the world: https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/news/persecution-against-the-non-religious-is-on-the-rise-freedom-of-thought-report-2015/

On 16 March 2016 HSS hosted a discussion panel on freedom of thought and expression, aimed in particular at exploring challenges to free speech in Bangladesh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVp7wEvSGro
(Bangladesh-based Humanist blogger Prithu Sanyal was due to attend this event, but his visa was rejected by the UK Visa and Immigration Service a few days before the event).

About HSS:
Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.

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