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South Asia Editorials on the April 2016 killing spree by muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh

28 April 2016

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[Posted below are select editorials on the April 2016 killing spree by muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh, from daily newspapers in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan ]

The Daily Star - April 27, 2016


Killing spree continues

Catch the masterminds

We are left speechless with horror at the coldblooded killing of Xulhaz Mannan, an official of USAID and rights activist and his friend Mahbub Tonoy, a university student. In what seems like a well organised, targeted assassination, the unidentified miscreants carried out their ’assignment’ with precision.

The behaviour and ruthlessness with which the murderers killed and then left the scene shouting religious chants make it clear that they belong to militant groups that are carrying out terror attacks in the name of religion.

Only two days before, a professor of Rajshahi University who had a passion for music, was killed in a similar fashion, indicating that the motives behind the heinous crime were the same.

What is most disturbing is that, except for the Rajib murder case, no other accused has been brought to trial. There has been little headway in the investigations of the murders of writers, bloggers, publishers, religious leaders and terror attacks on congregations of religious minorities.

The continuous killings of individuals that terrorists deem to not confirm to their particular ideology is a result of the law enforcement agencies’ failure to catch not only the assassins who carry out these deadly attacks but also the masterminds who give the orders. Unless those behind the terror are identified and brought to book, it will be difficult to stop these organised killings.

As citizens we are living in fear and it is the government’s duty to allay such apprehensions, especially of the targeted groups, by ensuring a vigorous, investigation and putting an end to the apparent impunity with which these terrorists operate. It is also time for us as a society, to retain our traditional values of tolerance and social harmony and resist bigotry that manifests in terrorism.

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New Age - 27 April 2016


Yet another fatal machete attack

by Mubashar Hasan

JUST three days after the brutal killing of Rajshahi University professor Rezaul Karim Siddiquee in a machete attack near his house in Rajshahi on Saturday, an editor of the country’s first LGBT magazine, along with his friend who was a theatre activist, was killed in a similar manner inside his flat in the capital Dhaka. As New Age reported on Tuesday quoting witnesses, a group of youths, all aged about 25, entered the flat by introducing themselves as courier service people hacked the victims to death on Monday afternoon. Similar machete-wielding groups earlier killed more than a dozen bloggers and writers and a publisher in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. What is more important to say is that all the victims were involved in creative activities while the government has failed to protect them. Moreover, the government has so far failed to even find out the perpetrators of most of the previous murders. It is true that a number of people have already been convicted by a Dhaka trial court of killing blogger Rajib Haider in the city in February 2013. But it is also true that the victim’s family still waits for justice as the case awaits hearing by higher courts. Besides, the convicted mastermind of the murder still remains at large.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the evident lackadaisical handling by the police of the earlier murder cases has emboldened the perpetrators of the double murders in question to proceed with the killing mission. As seen on all the previous occasions, meanwhile, the police have blamed some unnamed Islamist extremists for the killings at hand even before starting an investigation. One may tend to believe the police claim, particularly when different Islamist groups reportedly claimed the responsibilities of all the previous incidents. Also, the manner in which some of the victims reportedly became critical of religion, especially Islam, might have angered different Islamist groups. But it cannot be denied that, as indicated above, the police have failed to fully corroborate the accusations against the Islamist groups through credible and acceptable investigations till date. In any case, it is crystal clear from the efficiently calculated way the victims have been killed that the perpetrators of the killings were adequately trained before completing the killing missions. And it is hard to believe that despite their sincere efforts, the police are unable to find out the training camps/grounds or the trainers in question. Under the circumstances, perhaps, there are speculations in society as to whether any other well-trained force/s involved in the murders are passing the responsibility on to the alleged Islamist groups.

It is high time that the government took effective measures to prevent any recurrence of murder, not to mention end the apparent culture of impunity to the killers and thus, at the same time, put an end to the confusing speculations about these gruesome murders. For this to happen, of course, conscious sections of society need to mount pressure on the government in a sustained manner.

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Dhaka Tribune - 27 April 2016

These targeted killings are a crisis. Please treat them as such

Tribune Editorial

Will the government now start taking seriously its duty to protect citizens with the urgency it requires?

And will it forthrightly declare that there will be zero tolerance for hate crimes, and that those who are guilty of such wanton murder will be hunted down and brought to justice with the full force of the state?

Let us make no mistake: Monday’s brutal murders of Roopbaan editor Xulhaz Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar in Kalabagan were hate crimes, and they were targeted for their brave championing of LGBT rights.

Whether you support LGBT rights or you do not, the one thing that we must all agree on is that there can never be any justification for murder, and that those who are guilty of such savage slaughter are enemies of the state and of everything that is decent in humanity.

The government must understand that first and foremost this is a law and order issue, and that it cannot tolerate gangs of murderous fanatics killing with impunity.

The government’s first responsibility is to keep all of us safe and secure, and it is failing signally in this task.

This failure is only compounded by the government’s risible claims to have matters under control or that these kinds of targeted killings are isolated incidents.

Nor is it helpful to point the finger at its political enemies before any kind of investigation has taken place.

Worst of all, when the government feeds the mind-set that people need to watch what they say and write, by questioning what victims wrote or believed, it only emboldens and encourages the killers.

When the police refuse to take action on threats made against LGBT activists, and discriminate against, harass and threaten them themselves, and when they have been utterly unable to bring those who committed such crimes previously to justice, is it any wonder that killers feel safe to target the community with impunity?

The government must uphold the rule of law and safeguard the public.

These killings must stop, and the government cannot rest until they do. No effort can be spared to ensure that all of us are safe from slaughter in our own homes.

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The Indian Express - April 27, 2016


Law and disorder

Bangladesh government must see the murders of bloggers as a matter of national security, not politics.

Two days after Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor, was hacked to death in Bangladesh and within weeks of social activist Nazimuddin Samad being murdered, machete-wielding attackers have claimed two more lives: Xulhaz Mannan, a leading gay rights activist and editor of the country’s first LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, and his colleague Tanay Mojumdar. They join a lengthening list of so-called secular and atheist bloggers and activists killed brutally. The Bangladesh government insists that the Islamic State (IS) doesn’t exist in the country, even though the IS has claimed responsibility for some of the killings.

There was considerable public support for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government when it embarked on the war crimes trials to bring to justice collaborators responsible for genocide in the 1971 liberation war. That popular support was extended to the crackdown on the Islamist allies of the opposition, especially when the latter took violently to the streets. However, the same administration that has increasingly used the crackdown to shrink the democratic space, has adopted a softer, helpless tone now towards extremists after failing to fulfil the state’s most fundamental duty towards citizens — of providing security. Hasina’s home minister, and even the PM herself, have made remarks tantamount to blaming the bloggers for their own deaths, presumably fearing the extremist constituency in the electorate.

These murders take place against a backdrop of increasing Islamist attacks on minorities, whether Shia or Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus or Christians. It’s imperative for the government to confront the full extent of the militancy and not view the unfolding carnage through the prism of politics and the political identity of the perpetrators. It should begin by providing security to the remaining bloggers on the Islamists’ widely circulated “list of 84”, four prominent bloggers of which were killed last year alone.

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Daily News and Analysis - 27 April 2016

dnaEdit: A killing spree in Bangladesh

The bodies of two gay rights activists who were hacked to death are brought down from an apartment in Dhaka (Getty Images)

One by one, rights activists are being eliminated by shadowy groups while the Bangladesh government fumbles for a measured response

The spectre of terror that has haunted and hunted secular activists in Bangladesh has returned with a vengeance in April with the hacking to death of four people in separate incidents. The macabre similarity with the fatal stabbing attacks on bloggers, publishers and activists in 2015 will be lost on no one. Those killed this month include a popular university professor, a student activist and blogger who campaigned for secularism, and the editor of a gay rights magazine. The five men killed last year were secular bloggers, all of whom rose to prominence during the 2013 Shahbag protests demanding capital punishment for Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla and others convicted for war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal. Many of these murdered bloggers, who professed atheist or secular views, were also named in a “hit list” of 84 bloggers put out by Islamist radicals in 2013.

The April attacks have come at a time when the Bangladesh government has faced criticism for failing to convict anyone yet for the 2015 attacks. It has aggressively prosecuted Jamaat members who took part in the 1971 genocide and enforced the ban on political parties with religious links after the Shahbag protests. It is possible that these attacks on secular bloggers and activists are a retaliation over the execution of Jamaat leaders. The inability of the government to protect today’s liberals even as it goes about punishing those who assassinated nationalists and liberals 45 years ago reveals the paradox in the state’s actions. There is also much confusion in Bangladesh about the role of religion in the State. In 2010, the original Bangladesh constitution that included secularism in its major tenets,was restored, but Islam was allowed to continue as the state religion. Nevertheless, these constitutional changes allowed progressive voices a platform.

It is quite clear that the intimidation of secular bloggers is aimed at silencing them and forcing them out of social, cultural and political spaces. Their attempt to spark a debate on the primacy of the country’s Bengali identity over the Islamic identity has also been sought to be set at nought. With the government and the police displaying a lackadaisical attitude towards bringing the guilty to book, many activists have applied for asylum in foreign countries or chosen to shut down their blogs and social media accounts. The passivity of the government to the attacks reveals its unease with tackling religious extremism at a political level. Responding to the attacks, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has attempted to strike a balance between free speech and tolerance. She has criticised atheist bloggers for hurting religious sentiments but rejected calls for a blasphemy law.

However, her calls for tolerance are misplaced.

The attacks are clearly being perpetrated by an extremist fringe with no allegiance to political processes, rule of law or the Constitution. The weaknesses of Bangladeshi intelligence and police forces are evident in the repeated attacks that have taken place. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique. The Al Qaeda has staked credit for hacking gay rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and for two of the killings last year. However, the Bangladesh government has linked Jamaatul Mujahideen to most of the attacks. Amid these claims, there are also allegations that many officials in the state establishment harbour sympathies for extremist ideologies. It has not helped that the legitimacy of the ruling Awami League has been questioned over a rash of executions, flawed trials in the war crimes cases, and the boycott of elections by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The Shahbag protests marked the finest moment for the country’s civil society in several decades. The retribution faced by these civilians since then is a disconcerting throwback to the country’s tragic past.

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The Times of India - April 28, 2016

Murders, repression: Bangladesh government must tighten security and let civil society breathe

TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI

The horrific spate of murders of intellectuals, bloggers and activists by Islamists in Bangladesh continues apace. In the latest killings Rajshahi University professor Rezaul Karim, editor of an LGBT magazine Xulhaz Mannan, and theatre artiste Mahbub Tonoy were hacked to death in two separate incidents. While the Islamic State terror group has claimed Karim’s killing, a branch of al-Qaida has taken responsibility for the Mannan and Tonoy murders. However, the Bangladeshi government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continues to deny the presence of the transnational terror groups in the country and blames the violence on home-grown extremists.

That’s cold comfort when the government is unable to control the spate of killings. Even more bizarre is Hasina’s and her ministers’ repeated assertions that secular writers and bloggers should refrain from hurting religious sentiments. The victims cannot be blamed for bringing the attacks upon themselves. Taken together, an impression is growing in Bangladesh that the Hasina administration is in denial about ground realities and giving in to autocratic tendencies in dealing with criticism. The filing of sedition cases against Mahfuz Anam, respected editor of the Daily Star, for publishing stories critical of Hasina eight years ago exemplifies this point.

Add to this the fact that there’s no real opposition in the Bangladesh parliament today – the official parliamentary opposition Jatiya Party has three members in the Hasina cabinet. This has allowed criticism of Bangladesh’s ongoing 1971 war crimes trials as targeting leaders of only the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami – the actual opposition to the ruling Awami League. It’s in this situation that groups like IS are threatening to turn Bangladesh into their hub for launching attacks even inside India. To counter this Hasina must rein in her government’s autocratic tendencies, enforce law and order and permit pluralism. That’s what New Delhi ought to be telling her as well.

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The Statesman, 28 April 2016

Mortal fundamentalism


Bangladesh is under attack from religious fundamentalists. The recent killing of a leading gay rights activist is a brutal reminder of how frail constitutional freedoms are, particularly the freedom of expression. The United States has rightly condemned the killing as a “barbaric attack”. There have been a series of attacks on Bangladeshi bloggers and activists in recent months.

It is one thing to disagree with a person’s view, and quite another to kill a person for his beliefs and lifestyle. The tenor of Islamist fundamentalism in Bangladesh is clear; it will not tolerate any move towards civilisational or contrarian values. To many in the West and developing societies, mindless killing of a person seems to be astounding.

Apart from satiating fundamentalist blood lust, such killings do little to change either conditions of living or the point of view for which the murder was committed in the first place. Perhaps every democracy must decide where it will draw the line between barbarism and tradition. Killing innocent citizens in the name of religion is barbaric; it cannot be a part of any religious thought in the 21st century. Thus to equate the variant of Islamist fundamentalism shackling many parts of the globe with the peaceful Islam of more than a billion practitioners is to fall into the fundamentalist’s trap.

Bangladesh’s government has been weak-willed and irresponsible even after the spate of killings. Many of the bloggers, an innocuous internet species by any measurable democratic benchmark and therefore vulnerable, are under threat and keen to relocate to safer shores. The United States and most right-thinking people in developing societies are outraged by the activist’s murder.

The murder is stark and inhuman. While murder in any form is reprehensible, to hack a human being to death is brutal to the point of butchery. The Bangladesh government must ensure the safety of its citizens. Condoning a so-called religious crime is an invitation to fundamentalism.

A society that does not give space to its intellectuals is forced sooner rather than later to accept extremism. No great religion, including Islam, allows brutal attacks on innocents. Thus bereft of religiosity, these are just crimes and it devolves on the state and its law-enforcers to identify the criminals and subject them to the rigours of the law. Such attacks have become frequent because Bangladesh has failed to ensure the most basic of human freedoms — the right to live.

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Dawn - April 27, 2016

Bangladesh killings


EVENTS in Bangladesh do not augur well. The recent past has seen a number of horrifying killings in the country. The latest incident occurred on Monday when two people, one of them a leading gay rights campaigner, were hacked to death in an apartment in Dhaka, while a third was injured.

These murders came soon after the killing of a professor of English at the Rajshahi University, who was similarly set upon by men wielding machetes as he left home to go to work. And while affiliates of the militant Islamic State group claimed the killing which they said they carried out for the murdered man’s ‘call to atheism’, the professor’s colleagues say that he was neither an atheist, nor had he written anything controversial. That said, the role of religious extremism in this string of murders seems to have hardened into a pattern.

Over the last year, as many as four prominent bloggers who professed a secular ethos were hacked to death. Taken together, these attacks betray a deadly push against tolerance, plurality, and the freedoms of expression and religion in Bangladeshi society.

Unfortunately, matters are not helped by the political climate in the country, where the government is heading in the direction of intolerance and authoritarianism as it apprehends and executes political opponents after farcical trials.

Caught between the two sides — religiously motivated elements that have no qualms about killing for their beliefs and a government that is increasingly turning to repressive tactics in order to stifle dissent — is the public and its fast-vanishing hopes of tolerance and democracy.

The task before Sheikh Hasina’s government is clear: encourage freedom of thought and expression in the country while protecting the right to life of all its citizens, and refrain from contributing to the culture of intolerance by cracking down on political opponents.

Much like Pakistan — which has also experienced militancy and repressive tactics by rulers — Bangladesh stands at a crossroads. Only wise decisions by its political leadership can propel the country in the right direction.