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Blogged and flogged: Lethal tussle between fundamentalism and free expression in Bangladesh

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By Ridham Gambhir

Free speech is strangled when fanaticism provokes men to kill other men for their creed and outlook. Here is a look at the brutality suffered by four secular bloggers of Dhaka.

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Niloy Chakrabarty

Niloy Chakrabarty, a secular blogger in Bangladesh was hacked to death with machetes after a gang of men forced themselves into his apartment and killed him while shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). This murder is the fourth of its kind.

Known by the pen name Niloy Neel, the latter wrote posts condemning the killings of the 3 bloggers in Bangladesh. He also wrote against communalism and advocated for rights of the minority community and women.

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Avijit Roy and his wife

A prominent advocate of free expression, Avijit Roy, was murdered by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 26 February 2015. He and his wife were returning from a fair when they were attacked by unidentified assailants. Roy founded Mukto-Mona, an Internet community for freethinkers, skeptics, nationalists and humanists. Roy described his writing as “taboo” in Bangladesh. He had received death threats from fundamentalist bloggers for his political articles. Rokomari.com, a Bangladeshi e-commerce site, stopped selling Roy’s books after its owner received death threats from Islamists. In an interview with BBC Newshour, Roy’s wife said that police stood nearby when they were attacked on the spot but did not act.

Roy on the founding mission of Mukto-Mona-

“Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science”.

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Ananta Bijoy Das

Bangladeshi blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in an attack by four men wielding machetes in May 2015 in Sylhet. Das wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona, a website once moderated by Avijit Roy. The former was killed in broad daylight, when he was leaving his place to head for work.

Das was also a member of Gonojagoron Moncho, a political movement calling for the execution of war criminals and opposing Islamist political parties. His work focused on science and evolution, but he also criticized some aspects of Islam and Hinduism. After his death, local Gonojagoron activists organised a protest rally, demanding immediate arrest of the killers.

Blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was ambushed by three men, out of which two were students. In their confession, the latter told police that they didn’t know what a blog was or what Rahamn wrote. They were following somebody else’s order and Rahamn’s murder was a “religious duty”.

On social media, Rahman reposted a cartoon depicting Prophet Mohammed from the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. He wished a happy birthday to author Taslima Nasreen, who was forced to flee Bangladesh due to death threats from fundamentalists. And he “liked” a picture of sausages wrapped in crescent rolls that someone had captioned, “Pigs in burqas”. Shortly after this, the blogger received threats and was later slaughtered like an animal.

What crime had these four men committed? Their crime was that they wrote with audacity and blew the clarion of their critical perspective on fundamentalism. These four bloggers wrote and got machetes at their neck that too in a country that has a long tradition of official secularism — the principle was enshrined in the 1971 Bangladesh Constitution.

Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh, an Al- Qaeda-affiliated group, has claimed responsibility for the killing and threatens to follow its ‘hit list‘ which include other secularists.

It is ironical how these four men were writing against religious extremism and communalism and their assailants proved the same by practicing it in broad daylight. Brad Thor, an award-winning writer believed that the freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people. These four people evinced their secularity and skepticism even in their deaths.

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Bangladeshi social activists shout slogans during a protest against the killing of US blogger Avijit Roy.

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Warning Signs of Radicalization : Understanding What Makes a Terrorist

The internet is an irrefutable aspect of modern life. But do you know what your child is doing online?

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Radicalization
What motivates children to join terrorist outfits and participate in extremist activities? Pixabay
  • Radicalization is the process by which young individuals are introduced to a blatantly ideological message that accompanies extreme views
  • Over 50 per cent of the radicalization operations carried out by terrorist organizations are conducted over the internet
  • Parents must observe any change in their child’s behavior to gauge potential radicalization

New Delhi, September 4, 2017 : Imagine looking at a video of adolescents in camouflage, wearing ISIS bandanas in a barren dessert, learning hand-to-hand combat. Imagine ISIS fighters wielding long daggers standing behind them, wearing black scarves that mask their faces.

Imagine watching these masked men address the government; they claim that the government is no longer fighting an insurgency but an entire army of young adolescent recruits- kids who should have stayed in school.

ISIS has made shocking progress in expanding its operations in recent times due to the upsurge in enthusiasm that would-be jihadist from all parts of the globe demonstrate to join their fight in Iraq and Syria.

However, one of the most frequently asked questions about terrorism traces the very root of the matter.

Why do children join terrorist outfits and participate in extremist activities?

The ISIS runs an elaborate operation that targets, manipulates and eventually recruits young people to believe and uphold their twisted ideologies- a process understood as radicalization.

 

What is radicalization?

According to a report published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 2009, radicalization is understood as the process by which young individuals are introduced to a blatantly ideological message that accompanies extreme views.

While radicalization is not always negative, it becomes problematic when it culminates into acts of violence, a phenomenon common to organizations like ISIS, IRA and Al Qaeda.

Over 50 per cent of their radicalization operations are conducted over the internet- a space flocked and dominated by young, impressionist minds.

 

Online risk of radicalization

According to John Horgan, a psychologist at UMass- Lowell who specializes in terrorism, terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, and ISIS can be viewed as amateur psychologists, who are also adept marketers. They provide youngsters, usually very young people, with a ‘one time offer’ and encourage them to act fast.

These extremist organizations make use of internet and the social media to communicate and spread their messages, and recruit people to join their forces.

In an attempt to brainwash and lure young individuals to join forces, their messages usually present extremist vision as an exciting alternate to the ‘mainstream’.

ALSO READ Pakistani Militant Group Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) Now Targeting Women as New Jihad Recruits through their Magazine

Who are most vulnerable to radicalization?

Personal attributes or local factors can make an individual more susceptible to extremist influence. An absence of a positive, supportive force can additionally accelerate the process of radicalization.

  • Children struggling with independent identity

Some children can have a hard time accepting the culture they practice, which can make them question their place in the society. Young children tend to struggle establishing a sense of independent identity which often makes them vulnerable to extremist influence.

  • Personal circumstances

Instances in a child’s personal life such as fights within the family, or undergoing any trauma can increase their vulnerability to radicalization. Extremists prey on children with low-self esteem, who harbor feelings of injustice, such as those who believe they have been subjected to racial discrimination.

Additionally, kids who feel detested by their peers or abandoned by their family members are also at a greater risk of harboring feelings of vengeance that can motivate them to indulge in extremist behavior.

  • Emotional response

Kids who seek adventure and excitement tend to indulge in activities just for the adrenaline rush, without thinking about the consequences. Additionally, kids who yearn to dominate or control others and those who are comfortable with violence can also be an easy target for radicalization.

  • External factors

A child can also be influenced by what he experiences in the local community, country or when exposed to people who have joined any extremist group.

  • Criminal background

Individuals with a previous criminal background or those who find it difficult to integrate with the mainstream society after serving sentence in a jail, or a reprimand home may also be at a greater risk.

  • Exposure and indulgence with technology

Additionally, kids who spend increasing amount of time online, or have no supervision on their online interaction are at a greater risk.

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FILE – Indonesian youths browse their social media accounts at an Internet cafe in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA

Signs of Radicalization

There is no single route to radicalization- it can either occur quickly, or over a long period. Sometimes, there can be clear warning signs that can intimidate you when a child acts out of character. But, sometimes, these changes may not be very obvious,

  • Change in appearance and personal relationships

Young individuals may distance themselves from people, bring a significant change in their appearance and dressing style and refrain from activities that were previously a part of routine.

  • Change in political orientation

The children may exhibit sudden indulgence in a particular behavior or growing interest in politics especially relating to trouble areas. They may additionally become intolerant to those who do not share the same beliefs as them (other religions, races and ethnicity) and may begin to look down upon them.

ALSO READ How a young Astronomer from Turkey turned into an Islamic State Fighter

  • Change in online identity

A change in the online identity of the individual such as changing their username on various social media accounts or the profile picture. Alternately, the individual may make two parallel profiles- one being the ‘normal’ one and the other used for extremist purposes, more often than not with a pseudonym.

Spending long hours on the internet, being secretive and showing reluctance to divulge personal details and information about their whereabouts also comprise suspicious behavior.

  • Additional signs can also include a growing fondness, sympathy or justification for extremist ideologies, increasing interest in accessing more extremist material online, being in contact with extremist recruiters or jihadis, etc.

Exhibition of one of these signs does not necessarily mean that a child is being radicalized. They can also point out to other issues that a child might be facing, such as depression.

At the heart of it all is – COMMUNICATION.

Talking to children regularly and honestly is the best way to keep them safe. Making sure that the individual is safe online is also of equal importance.

An individual undergoes several changes during adolescence that can either make children react in different ways. As a parent, you should try and recognize these changes and trace their roots. Also, we would suggest addressing all issues, rather than simply ridiculing or ignoring them.

 


 

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Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption

Here is the list of other courageous people who paid a heavy price for their honesty

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Not just Ram Chandra, 9 more activists bore the brunt of speaking truth and fighting corruption in India
Many people have been murdered for speaking truth and protesting corruption. Pixabay

Aug 30, 2017: We live in a strange world, here, you get butchered for speaking truth and protesting corruption, and you are exalted for committing monstrous sins.

The conclusion of the rapist, Baba Ram Rahim case, was the first tribute to the family of the brave journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati who was murdered for exposing Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

Ram Chander isn’t the only one who sacrificed his life for the nation.

Here is the list of other anti-corruption activists people who paid a heavy price for their honesty:

Narendra Kumar

Narendra Kumar, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was killed by a sand mining mafia, who was carrying illegally mined stones on the tractor in Madhya Pradesh. The murder of the officer in 2002 also raised a debate on corruption, and many activists including Anna Hazare protested against the episode. A tractor was run over the officer after he tried to stop it. 

Pravin Mohare

Pravin Mohare was the film agent in Mumbai, who used to procure film certificates from the Censor Board of India. He dared to expose the former CEO of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for accepting bribe worth Rs 50,000 to provide a film certificate. In 2014, Mohare was praised for the brave act, but sooner his ID was blocked by the CFBC. He was forced to sell vegetables in Mumbai after spending months jobless.

Lalit Mehta 

Lalit, an RTI activist, was murdered in 2008 for exposing racket in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). He was attacked while riding on his way to Chatarpur. Lalit’s face was crushed to an increasing amount that it was unidentifiable.

Also Read: Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram: Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen?

Manjunath Shanmugam 

Manjunath, an IIM graduate, worked as a Sales officer for the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). He was murdered for sealing two corrupt petrol stations in Lakhimpur, UP, which used to sell adulterated petrol. He also led a surprise raid after the petrol station reopened. In 2005, Manjunath was found dead with injuries from six bullets in the backseat of his car.

Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy

Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy was human rights activist and a blogger. He used to write about women issues, minority groups and opposed religious extremism. His blog, Mukto Mona, was a community of free thinkers, skeptics, atheists, and rationalists, which was formed by Avijit Roy. Avijit was killed by an Islamic group, which claimed responsibility for the murder. Niladari was the voice for Avijit’s death and met the same fate for supporting him. A group of four Muslim youths butchered Niladari with sharp weapons at his apartment where he was found dead.

Satish Shetty

Satish Shetty was an Indian social activist who had exposed numerous real-estate scams in Maharashtra using Right to Information (RTI). Satish’s engagement with truth earned him many enemies. In 2010, anonymous attackers killed him in Talegaon.

Satyendra Dubey

Satyendra Dubey, a proficient IES officer, was the Project Director of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at Koderma. Coming from a low-income family, he was not fond of corruption and found many discrepancies in the projects of the NHAI at Koderma. He also asked the contractor to reconstruct 6 km of poorly built roads. In 2003, Satyendra was shot dead by the mafia of road construction. His body was discovered aside the road in Gaya, Bihar.

Shehla Masood

Shehla Masood was the environmentalist, businessman, wildlife, and RTI activist. In 2011, she was shot dead at point blank range by an unidentified assailant in Bhopal. The most probable reason for her death was attached to her protest against illegal mining of diamond and strife to save animals who were slaughtered for their skins.

Tej Bahadur Yadav

Tej Bahadur Yadav, a BSF jawan, uploaded several videos on Facebook concerning the inferior quality of food given to the jawans, which the BSF denied. BSF dismissed him, and Tejpal had to go through a three-month long proceeding at a court for tarnishing the reputation of the BSF. Yadav was also withdrawn from post retirement benefits.


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Indian Fashion Industry Must Embrace Safety, Says Suki Dusanj-Lenz at Lakme Fashion Week

 India must first stop using chemicals that are banned in the rest of the world

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Sabyasachi Mukherjee's show at Lakme Fashion Week 2011 on day 1. Wikimedia
  • The country’s coordinator for Fashion Revolution India stressed upon the global movement that desires greater transparency, sustainability, and ethics in the fashion industry
  • The movement followed the death of 1,138 workers in Dhaka while making garments in the Rana Plaza factory
  • The aim of Fashion Revolution was to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution so that what the world embraces what’s safe, clean and fair 

Mumbai, August 20, 2017: The Indian fashion industry needs to embrace the highest safety standards, says Suki Dusanj-Lenz, country coordinator for Fashion Revolution India.

For this, India must first stop using chemicals that are banned in the rest of the world, she said, talking about a global movement that desires greater transparency, sustainability, and ethics in the fashion industry.

The movement followed the death of 1,138 workers in Dhaka while making garments in the Rana Plaza factory, which collapsed after a structural failure in the building on April 24, 2013. The workers were making garments for the international market.

“The sad thing is the staff was complaining about the building but nobody listened,” she said.

Dusanj-Lenz is an advocate for gender equality, sustainability and champions the need for a fair and transparent fashion industry. She spoke to IANS on the sidelines of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Winter/Festive 2017.

“Carry Somers and Orsola De Castro came together and founded the Fashion Revolution, which has spread to 100 countries. We are working towards a safer, fairer, cleaner fashion industry.”

Dusanj-Lenz is also Executive Director at the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director at MARD, a people powered initiative campaigning against discrimination.

Also Read: Eco-friendly Fashion: Should India Contribute on this Booming Global Market?

The aim of Fashion Revolution was to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way clothes were sourced, produced and purchased so that what the world wears was made in a safe, clean and fair way.

“We want to empower every spectrum of the supply chain to transform the industry into a more sustainable one.”

Would she like to share about the sustainability issues of the Indian fashion industry?

“There are layers of complexities in the fashion industry but one thing for sure is that India must look to international standards for the safety of the staff?

“There are chemicals that are banned in other parts of the world, yet India still uses them.

“Are our lives any less than those of another country? In Kanpur, the leather making industry is astonishingly hazardous to the staff. Have you watched that movie ‘Erin Brockovich’? Remember that chemical that was banned in the US that is the subject of that movie. Well, the Indian industry still uses it and our staff is exposed to the dangers of such chemicals,” she added.

“Let’s not have the people that make our garments or shoes pay the price for our fashion,” she added.

Talking about sustainable fashion in Indian fashion industry, Dusanj-Lenz said: “On the upside, India also has some incredibly sustainable brands and a massive recyclability culture which we must celebrate and encourage. Sustainable Fashion Day at the LFW brought many of them together.”

She said around 80 per cent of the garment makers in India were women.

“It’s important that we hear their voice and work to campaign for them and not against them. Fashion Revolution wants to educate the consumer about the damage throw away fashion has on our environment.

“We want to inform people about the dark side of polyester and viscose both in a landfill and the chemical process… There is always a price to pay for cheap fashion. Someone somewhere is paying for it,” she added. (IANS)