Feb. 27, 2015 by Darius
Yesterday, a blogger in Bangladesh was hacked to death on his way home from a book fair. Avijit Roy, a US citizen born in Bangladesh, is thought to have been killed by Islamist extremists for his writing, which promotes secular and humanist values and condemns religious extremism.
Roy was an atheist and had received death threats in the past. Yesterday, those threats became reality.
As readers of this blog know, I have a long-standing interest in the Islamic world. I have respect for the writings of Mohammed and Jesus and Moses, among others. I have an anthropologist’s interest in religion and people of faith. But I am an atheist. Not an in-your-face atheist, but religion and faith in a deity are pretty much orthogonal to my life.
Thanks to dumb luck, I was born in the United States, where atheists are not marked for death by religious extremists of any flavor. But it didn’t need to turn out that way. In a different world, I could have been in Roy’s position instead of writing about it from afar.
Roy was hardly the only atheist in the Muslim world. The uncle of my host family in Jordan was an atheist, for example. But Muslim fundamentalists seem increasingly threatened by any deviation from their script. Saudi Arabia made headlines in January by flogging a blogger who was arrested in 2012 for encouraging online debate of religious extremism. (Because it’s better *not* to debate religious extremism??)
Yesterday, Avijit Roy inadvertently gave his life for what he believed in: science, rationality, and humanism. His martyrdom (because that’s really what it was) won’t get the attention of the Paris attacks, but the world, including the Muslim world, will be poorer for his loss. #JeSuisRoy.