Kia ora: This year, we have been horrified at the barbaric hacking to death of the Bangladeshi bloggers. Their crime – they write against fundamentalism and advocate a secular society. Four Bangladeshi bloggers have been killed this year – Niloy Neel, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rachman, and Avijit Roy. In recent days a hit list of secular bloggers writers and activists around the world has been produced by a militant Islamist group in Bangladesh. This list raises fears that Islamic militant violence could take on an international dimension. Prithu Sanyal, another Bangladeshi blogger, has had his life threatened and he has fled the country. Prithu has sent a letter of appeal for help, to Humanist groups around the world. Local Humanists are now endeavouring to support Prithu, but at this time he only has a Visa to stay for one month. We would like to help Prithu, though we are far away, by starting an appeal for funds to help Prithu with the unexpected costs that have come with having to leave his employment and flee his homeland. Donations can be made to the HSNZ bank account BNZ 02-0392-0094973-000 with PRITHU in the reference bar. Please email payment details to[email protected].  Donations will receive a receipt for tax rebate purposes. You can read excerpts from Prithu’s letter and three of his blogs later in this newsletter. Prithu is a friend of the assassinated blogger Niloy Neel.


 

Monthly meeting: Monday 5 October 6pm

Islam & Exiting Islam

In this month’s discussion Safwan Mason will give us an introduction to Islam with particular regard to the practical aspects of being a Muslim within a Western nation. Safwan will also discuss the relatively recent growth in Apostasy from Islam and the situation of ex-Muslims around the world.

@ Blondini’s Jazz Lounge & Café,

On the first floor of the Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Tce, Wellington

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.


 

2015 AGM & Debate 18 October 2015

  • AGM: 3pm, Alan MacDiarmid Building room 102
  • Debate: 4pm -5:30pm, Alan MacDiarmid Building room 102

‘This house supports restrictions on free speech that restrict the criticism of religion.’

This debate is being held in partnership with the Victoria University Debating Society. A social gathering will follow.


 

2015 Happiness Photography competition

Please have your photos in by October 15: for details see our July/August Newsletter.


 

Can we help the Society of Humanism Nepal (SOCH Nepal)?

We are still hoping that we can help SOCH Nepal with funds to help build several single level prefabricated classrooms on their school site. Please make your donation to a dedicated Nepal Account BNZ 02-0392-0094973-001 and email payment details to [email protected] Donations will receive a receipt for tax rebate purposes.


 

Excerpt from Letter of Appeal from Prithu Sanyal

“I am … . I am a persecuted Bangladeshi blogger and online activist. My pen name is “Prithu Sanyal”. I published various blogs on religious fanaticism and orthodoxy, Islamic militancy, freethinking, personal freedom, freedom of speech, atheism, gender discrimination, woman empowerment, sexual freedom and education in ishtishon blog and mmuktochintablog. I have been writing in Facebook since 2009. I think, these blogs have had influence in terms of increasing social awareness. But, these blogs has become a very offending to some of the Islamic militants. This is why they are angry at me and would like to kill me at any cost. Few days ago, some unknown people, introduced them as member of “Allah’s Army”, stopped me on the way of returning home from office, threatened to kill me with my wife and children. They told me that now it is my turn to be killed. They also threatened to kill my wife for being an accomplice of me and my children for being brought up without a religious view. They said “As your children are being raised without the belief in “Allah”, they will have the same fate as yours. So they have no right to live in Allah’s world. “They will not leave the last trace of my family. Being scared of above conditions, I talked to some of my on line activist friends … . They suggested me to escape country as soon as possible. With a little help, I travelled to another country. There I got Visa only for 30 days from arrival. It is unthinkable, what will I do after the expiree of my Visa.”

Now is the time we can actively help and not just be helplessly horrified.

Gaylene Middleton

Three Posts from the “Prithu Sanyal in Istishon” Blog

1. Why atheists are anti-Islam in Bangladesh

There is a common idea amongst Bangladeshi Muslims that Atheists are only anti-Islam. They think atheists criticize and make comments only against Islam, rather than any other religions. This is why Muslims claim that Atheists are anti-Islamic. Most Muslims think the meaning of atheism is to speak anti-Islam.

But, is this actually correct? Does atheism mean only the criticism of Islam? In answer to this question, any atheist will comment laughingly that atheism is not a criticism of Islam, not a criticism of religion; it is only the statement of the rejection of the existence of god. Yes, it is true that atheists criticize any religion as well as Islam.

For a religious person, one’s own belief is the only correct belief, and a religious person will claim that their belief is the one true and only religion. Other religious beliefs are not only wrong to them, but also ludicrous, to be laughed at. One religious person cannot believe more than one religious belief simultaneously. One religious person must deny all of the religions of the world except their own religion. In this way, is denying not more painful rather than informed criticism a religion? On the other hand, the difference between a religious person and an atheist is that an atheist is not bonded by any religious belief. A religious person will deny all of the religions of the world except his own. An atheist will deny just one more religion. So, if atheism is the crime of denying all religions, then belief is also the crime of denying most religions.

Nowadays, to criticize a religion is a very common all over the world. No religion is free of criticism. In the West, as well as in other countries of the world, mocking, criticising, and drawing cartoons of Jesus, Mary, and the ecclesiastical, is a very common scenario. Thousands of cartoons are available over the internet which mock Christianity. And also, commercial advertisements are presented merry in laughingly. It is of interest that none make any complaint against them, rather they enjoy them. Hinduism was established in our neighbouring country India where criticism of Gods and Divas, mocking them, is also a common scenario. But, we do not get this type of news because, there is no more bragging of militant Hindus over there.

But, mocking is very far, if any one criticises Islam at any part of the world, the whole Muslim world become brandished. If anyone criticises Islam in Denmark, Bangladeshis vandalize cars in Bangladesh without knowing the actual happening. A few days ago, a movie (which was very poor in quality), based on Muhammad’s life events, made a racket in the world and some people also died in the resulting demonstrations. Bangladesh also became stimulated for this. It is very interesting that, most of the Bangladeshis did not watch that movie. They came out from home only on the basis of rumour. On the other hand, without vandalizing cars, it would be the best way, if one could challenge the story of that movie, but, laughingly, nobody did.

When an atheist criticises a religion or criticises a religious scripture in a logical way, or tries to prove the torpor of scripture to a believer, then occurs a debate is very common matter. In this believers try to prove their belief and atheists try to prove the torpor of that belief. Because of the large number of Muslims in Bangladesh, Atheists have to speak with the Muslims about Islam. For the minority of other religions in Bangladesh, the sound of criticism of others does not make any noise. This scenario makes the atheists of Bangladesh seem anti-Islamic. This is why it seems that all of the conflict of atheists are against Islam. Actually it is not conflict; debate is a more correct description.

The Truth is that, atheists do not criticize only Islam, but all religions. In Bangladesh it just sounds anti-Islam for the Islamic majority.


 

2. Science in Bangladesh

Our society, i.e. Bangladesh, is currently in an abyss of anti-science darkness. However that does not necessarily mean that they are not taking advantage of science in their daily life. These people take modern medicine, yet they use amulets, go to the shrine and pray before themselves. The mass of people ironically communicate with video calls and yet observe Saydees’s (A war criminal of Bangladesh) face on the moon. They do not hesitate to destroy everything on hearing a rumour. With religious zeal they think it is a holy duty to kill people like beasts. This cannot be humane. At present the number of such religious fanatics in Bangladesh is beyond our count. These people neither understand their holy book nor do they understand mythology. To them, the words of “HUZUR” or priest is the ultimate revelation of God.

Our education system is seemingly the reason behind this absurd phenomenon. Our education system is like the Jack of all trades? It is very effective in theory but useless in practice. People educate themselves to become engineers and doctors not for the sake of becoming scientists.

Our doctors are fully intent on earning money. They do not want to take comprehensive idea about patients let alone contributing something in the field of medical science. Doctors get rid of their responsibilities by prescribing some usual medicine. They advise their patient to take the medicine and keep their faith in God at the same time. Such absurd contradiction can only be found in Bangladesh and those who are engineers only rely on what their past memories taught them to build. To them preventing the climatic catastrophe is a nuisance. Or it might as well be that they do not have any knowledge of such topic.

Let’s leave the Engineers and doctors alone for a moment and focus on the condition of those who we consider to be the light bearers of our society. The teachers are far away from enlightening the society as they themselves are submerged in the dark ocean of ignorance. It has been reported that some college teachers too have witnessed the face of Saydees’s (A war criminal of Bangladesh) face on the moon. If such situation is rampant in our society then is it worth telling what their psychological condition should be? Teachers teach philosophy, yet instruct people to pray! They urge the society to be religious rather than humane. Instead of accepting their own opinion they teach students to adapt themselves to the guise of society.

The benchmark of acceptability in our society is how devout one is. Let it be taking bribe, being corrupt, stealing or whatever their conduct is, if they attend the mosque all their sins are forgiven. For this reason the teachers and the society do not really care how astray their students are indulged in order to have that acceptability. Such teacher is teaching science. He teaches that the cause of rain is natural water cycle meanwhile he does not deny that angel “Mikail” is also behind rain. They describe the cause of a lightning strike as the aftermath of ionized vapour on cloud but they do not deny the God of lightning called “Indra”. They show the way to save yourself from lightning strikes and at the same time advice people to pray. From the distant past to the modern age they acknowledge the history of mankind, history and consider the tales of: “Monu” and Adam to be truth alongside. Teaching philosophy they blatantly ignore logic.

As such, the subject of science in our country has turned into a topic of suspicion, when science is really the only subject of absolute and emphatically truth. Where people should be questioning the revelations of god and the wild fantasies, they question the very fact of landing on the moon and expedition to mars! In such a suffocating environment religious fanaticism is nothing surprising. So, we need to rethink from scratch. Schools and colleges should have the facility to practice the learning and theory of science.


 

3. Legitimisation of Atheists killing

Religious people are, who kept some soft features of the world, even they can bet their own life for some religious person. Not only that, they believe it is their holy duty to devote their own life for some believer. At the same time, they legitimise the killing of non-believers and those of other religions except their own. One religious man legitimises these type of assassination as an example, whether the killing is more brutal. You will even get some people who suffer from regret if they cannot join in the assassination. If a religious minority of a place become oppressed in any part of world, you will very soon get another news that some religious people who are the majority started the oppression.

Religious people will behave very well if you agree with their belief without any question. However, if any believer cannot answer properly about his religion, he becomes angry very fast. And if someone concludes that the belief of a believer is not correct then killing that non-believer becomes a duty for the believer. Such conclusion is a blasphemy to a believer.

An irreligious person’s death, whether it is more brutal, any religious person will legitimise it. However, whether the irreligious person may very well have done many more great works in their lifetime is not a matter needing consideration. Only the nonbelief of that person is used to legitimise his death to believers. And some believers think that killing is an obligatory duty.

On the other hand, you will get another type of believer who will legitimise atheism by saying, whether one is atheist or not is not a matter of concern. But they also draw a boundary for the question. Their opinion is that one should not ask about religion. As, in their opinion, asking about religion is also one kind of blasphemy. I won’t be correct if I say you won’t get these type people in non-believers. Nonetheless, they are not agreeing to understand that atheism is one kind of blasphemy. Where a religion cannot be thought without a god or deity, then atheism is to deny the existence of god. How atheism won’t be blasphemy?

Some also say, Atheism is not a subject to be spread. They forget that atheism is a one’s personal decision based on philosophy. It is a branch of philosophy. So, if philosophy cannot be spread, what is its necessity?

Whatever, believer or non-believer has only one identity, which is human, and humans are different from the thousands of other animals of the planet. Man has changed his fortune as well as the earth by his knowledge. An assassination cannot be legitimised only for one’s knowledge or ism.

Note: these are edited versions of the posts.