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In the wake of Bangladeshi atheist blogger Avjit Roy being hacked to death by Islamist extremists, following up his piece on atheism from last week Ash Imani has more questions than answers.
On Thursday, 26 February 2015, blogger Avjit Roy was hacked to death on his way from a book fair in Dakha, Bangladesh. The prime suspects in this murder are members of a group of Islamist extremists called Ansarullah Bangla Team. The attack appears to have been in response to Roy’s atheist themed website; a rationalist and humanist blog strongly critical of extremist violence
When I consider this atrocity, I have more questions than answers.
Should I frame the murder of Avjit Roy as another example of the clash of civilisations between an intolerant Islam and a freedom-loving West?
What do I say to those friends of mine who have the same respect for humanity and freedom that I do and yet strongly identify as Muslims; friends who smile and roll their eyes at me when I go off on my atheistic ramblings, accepting me and loving me for who I am; friends for whom Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion?
Should I tell them they’re wrong? Should I point out the passages in the Qur’an and Hadith that encourage violence against apostates? If they tell me that these passages are intended to be read metaphorically or that they don’t care what the passages say, should I tell them they’re not real Muslims?
Does it even make sense for me as an atheist to purport to know the true essence of something I believe to be a man-made convolutedness comprising precisely what people choose to make of it? If I believe that the leap of faith at the core of religious belief is unreasonable and irrational, can I then insist that rationality be the standard to apply in determining the tenets of that faith?
As a matter of pure pragmatism, if my Muslim friends have developed values that align with my own, through their own personal Islamic narratives, shouldn’t I be encouraging that? Rather than framing Islam and “freedom” as opposing forces? Would it not be more fruitful to seek to preserve rather than destroy their identities; to bring us together rather than divide us?
At the risk of being overly PC or even “intellectually dishonest” I’m not going to concern myself with arguments about religious “essentialism” if there are more productive ways to eradicate the scourge of extremist violence.
I don’t need an abstract “truth” to hang my hat on if it encourages alienation and hatred.
I’ll take the White House’s advice on this one: I’ll call the “men” who killed Avjit Roy and every other one of these extremist fuckers a murderer.
You can call them whatever you want.