The International Association of Freethought defends, on all continents, freedom of conscience and expression. It shows its profound solidarity with all victims of religious repression. It appeals to public opinion in all countries to mobilize for the defense of freedom of expression.
Pune, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Paris,
Riyadh, Kolhapur, Copenhagen, Dhaka…
In the 18 months since the assassination in Pune of 67 year old Narendra Dabholkar, the illustrious Indian rationalist leader, the world continues to see an unrelenting assault on freedom of thought and freedom of conscience of individuals. Humanism is under threat and the defenders of human freedom are in danger. Defamation and calumny against atheists continues and this threatens their safety even in ordinary circumstances. We call on all responsible authorities to urgently take appropriate remedial measures.
Unable to meet the challenge that the power of reason poses to their thinking, and unwilling to accept an egalitarian society devoid of privileges which a democratic and secular approach entails, the leaders of yesterday are fighting back with the brutality and primitiveness that is theirs alone. They resort to the ultimate form of censorship: assassination.
First they assassinate character – like the now deceased tyrant King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who passed a decree that atheists be considered terrorists and traitors. Like the Malaysian Prime Minister who declared that the evils of the world could be traced to secularism. Like the Hindu religious leader in India who called for atheists to be shot dead. Like the Central Minister for Water Resources who blamed atheists for the floods in the country.
Then the cowards go one step further and eliminate the brave through terrorist attacks while governments look on, mostly with indifference in the developing countries. Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Western world continue to patronize these governments shamelessly and without hesitation.
We ask, what crime can a magazine commit?
What damage does a thoughtful comment about human freedom cause?
How can mere thought or speech possibly merit retaliation by assault and murder?
Only a few weeks ago 82-year old Rationalist Govind Pansare was taking a morning walk with his wife in Kolhapur, India. He was gunned down by bullets fired by an odious gang of youths.
After they killed his colleague Narendra Dabholkar in Pune, they sent a letter warning that more would be killed if they continued to fight religious beliefs. Govind Pansare knew what they meant and lived up to the dictates of his conscience and died for them. He was an atheist and with this ultimate sacrifice once again established the high moral stature of his convictions and his understanding of his moral duties.
Now, the blood is still drying in the streets of Dakha where the dynamic and wise naturalized American Avijit Roy was on a visit to his native country Bangladesh to promote his books on science and to attend the Book Fair, accompanied by his wife. He was hacked to death.
Mukto Mona – the Free Mind – was the Internet presence Avijit Roy promoted to promote science, to defend reason, to combat religious obscurantism, especially in his native country where religious fundamentalism has overrun the once freethinking Bengal. Bengal was where the modern Indian renaissance was sparked during British Colonial rule.
Avijit Roy valiantly created a space for freethinkers of the region and for Bengali speakers. He made it possible to keep the light alive during the fundamentalist, murderous terror of darkness that is looming on the subcontinent.
Avijit Roy did what was more powerful than himself – he represented the high achievements of the modern world to those most in need of them. He presented the world to them just as he saw it and understood it.
If others did not like what these freethinkers were doing or saying they could have stopped them in the street and invited them to a discussion. They could have presented their arguments. They could have addressed the courts which give them recourse for perceived insults. But no, they considered these innocent, mostly elderly freedom fighters as a threat to their very existence. How much could the elderly Pansare have terrified the youngsters who killed him? How deeply their minds have been damaged by the virus of intolerance!
When the history of humanity’s progress is written, they will all be there – Avijit Roy, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar – all of them, proud, courageous and unwavering in their defence of a human-centred society in a god-intoxicated world.
And we are with them, with these defenders of civilization in Pune, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Paris, Riyadh, Kolhapur, Copenhagen, Dhaka… in thought, in mind, in human solidarity and in gratitude for showing the world what and how much their non violent principles meant to them.
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