Raza Rumi in Fair Observer:
The brutal, cowardly murder of freethinker Avijit Roy on the streets of Dhaka is a reflection of embedded intolerance in many Muslim societies. Bangladesh, despite its secular credentials, is no exception. On February 26, Roy was hacked to death by extremists with machetes, while his hapless wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, was also injured. What’s even more shocking was the fact that a good number of people witnessed the crime but did not intervene. Many were taping the violence on cellphones. Worse, according to media reports, the attack took place near a police check-post, erected for traffic control. This incident left me deeply disturbed. As someone who was also subjected to (missed) bullets in 2014, Roy’s murder brought back memories of my close brush with death, subsequent exile and the fear of returning to my own country, Pakistan. Like Roy and many others, Islamist extremists found my views unacceptable to the extent that physical elimination was the only answer. I miraculously escaped the assassination attempt, but my driver was killed and another companion was injured. While a few gunmen were arrested, the trial lingers on. But from my experience as an analyst, Pakistani courts seldom punish attackers, and the masterminds are never apprehended or brought to book.
I had never met Roy, but I was aware of his powerful work. It is not easy to profess atheism when you belong to a Muslim country. Roy lived in the United States and ran a blog called Mukto Mona, (free mind), and he was vocal in opposing religious bigotry and intolerance. While he remained in the relatively safer climes of the US, he was still part of the discourse in Bangladesh, and this is why he was a threat to Islamist extremists. He received regular threats on social media — an irony of the ostensibly postmodern 21st century. The online store that sold Roy’s books was also harassed, and later it stopped displaying them altogether. In 2014, an Islamist said that Roy would be killed when he returned to his native country. So the doomed blogger had gone back to Bangladesh for his book promotion when extremists found the right opportunity to attack and kill him. His latest book, Bishwasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), says it all.