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Is The Criticism Of A Religion Cause Enough To Be Hacked To Death?

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By Susmita Abani:

So much blood, everywhere. It’s like the vivid red at the centre of our flag has seeped through to its four green corners representing what once was our lush land and liberated country.

News of Avijit Roy’s death has left me thoroughly dismayed. A Bangladeshi-born engineer, writer, secularist and expatriate – Roy’s identities resonate with so much of myself, that I feel a small part of my resolve to defend freedom of expression has died with him. My mind is forever imprinted with images of his injured wife, Rafida Ahmed, standing defenceless in blood soaked clothes as her husband’s mutilated body lies next to her. His crime? Being beautifully articulate, incredibly brave, a champion of reason and devoid of religiosity.

avijit roy

The UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18, states “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief.” But this seemingly self-explanatory declaration is often a subject of intense controversy. Some believe that freedom of expression should be boundless, while others assume that any offensive expression should be strictly moderated, and even brutally punished.

The reason religion is often criticised is because it claims infallibility, and full control over our actions. We have all been gifted with the faculty of reasoning – and it seems only logical to utilise that ability to objectively analyse any ideology before accepting its premises. Roy’s work didn’t resort to the baseless smearing of Islam – but drew upon research and references, facts and figures to support his views. What extremists, and even some moderate Muslims, believed was an affront to their religion, should actually have encouraged them to study their faith. By simply dismissing any criticism of Islam as bigoted or Islamophobic, is irresponsible and uninformed.

What one finds personally “offensive” shouldn’t take precedence over a factual discourse. As a practitioner of Islam, the least one can do is read and understand the contents of its scriptures; acknowledge that its verses are tinged with a historical context not fully compatible with modern, egalitarian values and address this important issue!

Ali A. Rizvi, in his Huffington Post article, stated that rather than “cherry-picking” the better aspects of religion and ignoring the more questionable elements, a more constructive approach for all Muslims to take would involve “[being] honest about the parts [they] don’t like… [and] protect [their] people first instead of jumping to protect [their] beliefs, books or religion every time someone driven by them commits mass murder”. By exempting religion from discussion, we undermine the strength of intellectual dissent – which has allowed humanity to make significant strides against many discriminatory practices. Islam was founded in an era when empires were propagated by conquest, and it’s inexcusable to suggest that this reality never affected its teachings on war, infidels, prisoners, martyrdom, apostates, women, orphans and the treatment of minorities.

It’s within everyone’s right to evaluate whether a system of beliefs is working for the society, or if it can be easily misconstrued by extremists who inflict harm on others. And that is the beauty of freedom of expression. It allows for an equal and opposing dialogue: a cartoon for a cartoon, an essay for an essay, an article for an article. If you’re offended, you’re free to argue, but preventing another from doing so is a violation of a basic human right.

Bangladesh serves as a microcosm of the current divided world, where in order to preserve liberal and secularist values, the reigning political players are stifling the natural course of democracy, and ultimately embodying the authoritarian way of government they were trying to avoid. These approaches by the West, and by Awami League in Bangladesh, have been reactive rather than preventative. They use the cruelty of Islamists to demonstrate the superiority of their own values, while ignoring any faults of their own. In such politically charged environments, only innocents such as Avijit Roy pay the price.

There is no offense great enough to justify his heinous murder. The need to speak out has never been higher, or else we risk losing the peaceful existence we’re constantly striving for. If nobody questioned and debated their surroundings, there would be no religion in the first place – freedom of expression has been humankind’s way of progress since the birth of our species, and to undermine this right does a huge disservice to our continuous evolution.

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  1. Ducard

    Another western bootlicker who reeks of the brown slave mentality. Where were you when the U.S. slaughtered Muslims in Somalia, Sudan, Panama, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and a host of other countries. Where are people like you when the U.S. kills Muslims, sheds their blood, rapes their women, takes their land, mocks their religion, destroys their livelihood, and slaughters their children.

    1. Susmita Abani

      I don’t disagree with any of these things you’ve posted. I’ve also written about the audacity of Western imperialism and military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about Israel in another article. I no doubt deny that innocent Muslims have been persecuted in unforgivable ways for no reason in many countries like you said. Even in this article I’ve mentioned that Bangladesh, like the West, have suppressed opposing groups unfairly. And ironically, Muslims have suffered in the hands of Islamists more than any other group.

      None of the things you’ve mentioned nullify my points. You’ve just blamed other extremist religious groups, which proves my own point. Just because people from other religions have done bad things, that doesn’t offset what Islamists have done. And once again, you’ve ignored what’s actually written in scriptures completely.

      If you value humanity so much like you claim to, learn to acknowledge all crimes against humanity as being equal, and not use them to keep score between Islam and other religions. This isn’t a competition to see who’s done better or worse in the terrorism department.


    2. Fedup

      Pretty sure now that you are paid for trolling.

      Another thing I am sure is that there is not one redeeming quality when it comes to you/your comments. All you have ever done on this site is to be irrelevant and spew hatred. Interestingly on every topic.

      What are you man!?. I am happy that I have never met you and have the good fortune of never meeting you in future too. I hope you do not marry/breed and influence.

  2. Ducard

    Article by John Pilger:

    For centuries now, Christian nations have been busy beating up one Muslim nation or another. In the Middle Ages they came as crusaders. Then they colonized many Muslim countries and tried to destroy their cultures and religion. During their struggle for independence some Muslims had to suffer terrible violence. The French killed about a million Muslims in Algeria because they wanted independence. In Lebanon, when Christians were in the majority there was war, but when Muslims became the majority there was peace except in the South of the country where Christians helped a foreign enemy against their own countrymen.

    What will the Christian be if the tables were turned and their lands were first colonized by Muslims and then bombed or maligned or ethnically cleansed? If the past is any guide, the answer is clear: There will be a vicious reaction and given the chance an attempt at almost total destruction of the Muslims. For in Spain Muslims lived for about 850 years as rulers. They lived with Jews and Christians for the most part in a spirit of tolerance and cooperation in promoting science and culture to the point that their work prepared for the modern scientific revolution with all its benefits for mankind. But the moment Muslims became weaker, the hate in the Christian heart came out with a vengeance. Muslims were either killed, converted, or forced to leave Spain and their heritage was as fully destroyed as was humanly possible. Before Palestine and Kosovo, there was Spain.

    Above, I have mentioned only what the Christian nations have been doing or are doing to the Muslims. But when we look at what they have done to each other or to other people any validity in their claim of being people of love and peace vanishes. The horrible treatment of the heretics and witches in the Middle Ages probably inspired the tyrants of later centuries. The native peoples of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand bear a tragic witness to what Christian nations can do to other nations and with the blessings and assistance of Christian churches. In this century alone the Western nations have fought two world wars with tens of millions dead and untold misery for the living. For each victory in these two wars the church bells rang in the victorious countries.

  3. Ducard

    Hidden genocide of Burmese Muslims by Buddhist terrorists

  4. Ducard

    At Guantanamo Bay, innocent victims are tortured, abused, sodomized, forced to listen to blaring music on headphones while they are handcuffed for hours on end, given food to eat you would not feed animals, bitten by dogs, urinated upon, deprived of sleep for hours, kept in complete isolation, whipped, beaten with rods and cables, and some techniques too horrible to even describe. All the torture techniques are sanctioned by the U.S. government.

  5. Ducard

    Obama droned Pakistan to kill thousands of innocent civilians and terrorize hundreds of thousands in North Warizistan to maim and murder, and send them in a frenzy of anxiety. Imagine living when drones are flying over your head twenty-four hours, not knowing when one would end your life. It remains a fact that 98% of victims in drone attacks were innocent civilians, as the sole intent behind the deadly act was to terrorize, maim, and murder.

    1. ItsJustMe

      Why do these people shelter known Jihadis? It is always about when USA bombed and how many children died. They know first hand that there are Jihadis in their locality. Instead of turning them in they welcome these people like heroes. That very moment they put their children in danger. It is not on USA, but on these religious fanatics who believe theirs is the only god and fight to bring the whole world under their religion and kill the non believers. What about millions jihadis are killing around the world. It is normal for us now. Only nations bombing terrorists and countries which help them is abnormal and evil. Terrorist kill thats what they do. 98% of all terrorists in the world follow the faith Islam, 98%!!!!!!. Does that mean USA is responsible for the terrorist attacks? At least USA is doing what most countries have no balls to do. If they have started a little early world would have been a better place by now. Because it really will be better without these animals who kill in the name of their evil god who no one other than themselves understand. How come known terrorists like Bin Laden, Hafiz Sayed and all roamed freely in Pakistan which is supposedly USAs ally in war against terror. Because the local people like these terrorists and hail them as heroes and are ready to die for them.So let them die. Their kids go to madrasas and learn the same satanic verses that created terrorists for so long. It is better for the world that they die young with their evil parents than dying by blowing themselves up and killing innocents 15 years from then

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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