After the murder of yet another rationalist blogger, exiled author Sanal Edamaruku calls on governments to defend the free speech of those who stand for science.
MASKED men with machetes killed Ananta Bijoy Das last week in Bangladesh. He was murdered for his honesty and integrity, for standing up for rational, sceptical thought and scientific reasoning in the face of religious bigotry.
The 30-year-old edited the journal Jukti (Reason), blogged vigorously and had written a book on Charles Darwin. He felt religion was opposed to human dignity.
He is not the first brilliant young rationalist in Bangladesh to die in a pool of blood. On 26 February, Avijit Roy, moderator of the internationally renowned rationalist portal Mukto-Mona (Free Mind), was murdered. And Washiqur Rahman, who criticised the attack, was killed on 30 March.
The deaths of my Bangladeshi colleagues are shocking. I was in regular contact with Avijit, who used to reproduce my articles in Mukto-Mona. And Ananta was to be my guest in Finland after he told me that he had been invited to Stockholm by free speech group Swedish PEN. He never made it; Swedish officials in Dhaka refused to grant him a visa.
Rationalist blood has also been shed in my former homeland, India. Narendra Dabholkar, who criticised oppressive Hindu superstitions, was murdered in 2013 in Pune. Govind Pansare, a rationalist who criticised Hindu radical groups, was killed in February this year.
My own life was threatened three years ago, after I identified the source of the “miracle” of a dripping Jesus statue in a Mumbai Catholic church as a blocked drain. Agitators were employed to attack me. I escaped. But then came blasphemy complaints, arrest threats and the cardinal’s demand for my apology. I refused, and extremist Catholic groups discussed my assassination. I left for Europe and have not returned.
The enemies of reason are afraid of word, pen and keyboard. They try to stop the flow of free thought with guns and cleavers. But rationalists are not so easily stopped. More and more writers and bloggers are emerging to join those challenging such bigotry.
“The enemies of reason try to stop the flow of free thought with guns and cleavers”
Governments must defend free speech for those who stand for science and progress. If a rational point of view can’t be expressed freely, much that we value about civilisation will be at stake.
This article appeared in print under the headline “Free speech’s front line”
Courtesy: New Scientist