Fighting machetes with pens: Bonya Ahmed to give 2015 Voltaire Lecture

On 26 February 2015, bloggers Avijit Roy and Bonya Ahmed were viciously attacked by unknown assailants close to the Dhaka University campus in Bangladesh. Roy died soon afterwards whilst Ahmed was severely injured.

Last month, following the brutal murders of two more of our Bangladeshi colleagues, English PEN called on writers around the world to show their solidarity with the families of those who had lost their lives and with the many other writers currently in grave danger in Bangladesh. More than 150 writers including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Yann Martel, Salman Rushdie and Colm Tóibín joined PEN to write to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, condemning the deaths and urging her to do all in her power to ensure that the events are not repeated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. A further 150 writers have since added their support to PEN’s appeal. We have yet to receive a response.

The full text of the letter is available here, and you can still add your support here.

Bonya Ahmed will be visiting the United Kingdom next week to deliver the 2015 Voltaire Lecture, hosted by the British Humanist Association. On 2 July, Ahmed, who has sworn to continue the struggle against censorship and violence, will speak out about her continuing battle for free expression.

We hope that many of you will attend the event and help to once again show our solidarity with Bonya Ahmed and the many Bangladeshi writers currently at risk.

For full details and to book your ticket, please visit the British Humanist Association website.

Photo credit: The Bobs Award Ceremony. Rafida Bonya Ahmed, Bangladesh, representing Bonya’s Blog, winner of The Bobs Social Change Award © DW/M. Magunia

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One Comment on “Fighting machetes with pens: Bonya Ahmed to give 2015 Voltaire Lecture”

  1. There is an example in Islamic hadith in which the ‘prophet’ orders the murder of a mother of two, Asma D. Marwan. Her crime? She wrote a poem condemning him and his new religion. She was angry at the fact he had previously murdered several members of her family. She had a right to be angry, wouldn’t you say? What was Muhammad’s response? He asked, “Who will rid me of this woman?”. A man volunteered. He proceeded to enter her tent one night and stab her to death. The next day he goes to Muhammad and asks “Will I be punished for this?” (suggesting he knows what he did was wrong) and Muhammad – the ‘man of peace’ and eternal benevolence – replies: “No, her death was as meaningless as two goats butting heads in a field”.

    A moral man? A paragon of virtue? “A teacher of all Mankind?”. Really? Sounds more like the behaviour of a despot, a tyrant…like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Genghis Kahn. When you juxtapose this historical example with what Muslim ‘fanatics’ do today to their critics and anyone who attacks Islam (remember Charlie Hebdo?), you reach one inescapable conclusion: They are only following Muhammad’s example. Thus, their behaviour is rooted in Islam, and has no other cause. When ISIS destroy ‘false’ idols, they follow Muhammad. When they take women as sex slaves, they follow Muhammad. When they marry 9 yr old ‘jihadi brides’, they follow Muhammad. When they enforce the payment of jizya, they follow Muhammad. ISIS and all their ilk are merely showing the Muslim world the true face of their hideous religion. When the West, and Muslims in general admit this, we will finally be making progress. But to suggest that these ‘fanatics’ have no place in Islam is at best unhelpful, and at worst a bare-faced lie.

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