As postgraduate law student Nazimuddin Samad returned from a class at his university in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka on Wednesday, three to four men attacked him with machetes and then shot him, reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great.)
Samad died on the spot. His assailants had done their job. They had ruthlessly claimed the life of yet another secular writer who dared to criticize their religious beliefs.
For more than a year, Islamic extremists in Bangladesh have been targeting members of the liberal, secular and atheist community. Samad’s murder was the sixth of its kind in nearly 14 months.
He was one of the 84 atheist bloggers on a hit list that radical Islamists sent to the Bangladesh interior ministry in 2013.
And the situation only seems to be deteriorating, considering the woefully inadequate response from the government and law enforcement so far.
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The People's Republic of Bangladesh went from being a secular state in 1971 to instituting Islam as the state religion in 1988 under the military rule of Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Despite its state religion, Bangladesh still uses a secular penal code that originated during the British occupation in 1860.
However, the increase in religious extremism is apparent given the fact that advocates of secularism are being hunted down by the country’s authorities under orders from fundamentalist political parties.
"Talented youths are killed one after another, but there are no visible measures against these heinous acts," Kabir Chowdhury Tanmoy, president of secular Online Activist Forum, told Reuters.
Following Samad’s death, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Dhaka to demand arrest and prosecution of elements involved in his and other bloggers’ killings. But there have been similar demonstrations before, all of which ended in vain — and blood.
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It all comes down to the government, ultimately, to protect the atheist community in Bangladesh. Considering its past response though, it doesn’t look like justice will come to the victims and their families anytime soon.
“The government is creating impunity to all the offenses by not bringing the perpetrators to book,” Maruf Rosul, activist of secular Ganajagaran Mancha group, told the Guardian. “Instead of pointing blame at different outfits, the government should identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”