Yet another humanist activist has been killed in Bangladesh, the latest in a string of assaults by Islamists on humanist writers and campaigners. Nazimuddin Samad, a 28-year-old postgraduate student was killed in Dhaka last night while walking home after class. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has condemned the attacks and has once again urged authorities to act swiftly to prevent further casualties.
According to local news reports, three men on a motorbike intercepted Nazimuddin and his companion who were walking home on a busy road near Dhaka’s Jagannath University. The assailants attacked him with machetes before shooting him, while chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest). The attackers then fled. The whereabouts of Nazimuddin’s companion remain unknown. Nazimuddin was declared dead by doctors at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital at 21:00 local time. He had been living in Dhaka for only two months before his murder.
Nazimuddin regularly posted criticisms of Islam and hardline Islamist ideology on his personal Facebook page, often from an emphatically humanist or feminist perspective. He was known amongst friends for his passionate belief in secularism. In the past he has criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s support for madrassas has responded to a cleric’s violent speech against women in which referenced the Qur’an. He also spoke out against sharia law, proposing in a satirical move that the country adopt it for five years to prove that no Muslim in Bangladesh would call for the introduction of sharia law if they in fact had to live under its harsh requirements. Among his other campaigning interests, he made several calls for justice for women who have been raped with impunity in Bangladesh. Like many humanists, he was a strong believer in the values of science and rationality, stating ‘Evolution is scientific truth. Religion and race are invention of the savage and uncivil people’.
The BHA has been consistent in its support for humanist activists in Bangladesh, who have been the subject of long-running of targeted killings by Islamist extremists. In 2015, four humanist writers were brutally murdered by Islamists for their advocacy of a more humane and secular Bangladesh, as well as one publisher associated with 2015’s first casualty, the author Avijit Roy. as well as one publisher of secular books, were hacked to death by machetes. The BHA has met with UK Government officials to discuss the matter; lobbied the Bangladesh High Commission in London; and has spoken out at the UN Human Rights Council. In July of last year, Bonya Ahmed, a humanist blogger who was attacked in Dhaka along with her husband Avijit, delivered the BHA’s Voltaire Lecture on the subject of grave threats to free speech that Bangladesh is facing.
Responding to the latest attacks, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is clear from Nazimuddin’s Facebook posts and protest activity that he was a politically and socially engaged young man. He criticised the worst of radical Islam and radical religion and called, with passion, for a brighter future for Bangladesh and the world. And for this they killed him. We can only extend our deepest sympathies to Nazimuddin’s friends and loved ones.
‘Every time a thoughtful and honest person like Nazimuddin is hacked or gunned down, apparently for doing nothing more than speaking their minds from a humanist point of view, 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 ever would have 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 further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Pavan Dhaliwal at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.