Yes, I am Avijit, too

Hasan Ferdous
Thursday, March 5th, 2015


Avijit Roy’s cowardly murder may have shocked our conscience, but it should come as no surprise.

 

That he was a target was a well-known fact.  The intention to kill him was proclaimed with no ambiguity on the Facebook and other social media platforms.  Even his wife and daughter were included in the murder list.  Our government, so adept at eavesdropping, obviously knew of these threats.  If it claims ignorance, that would be a clear proof of inefficiency.  And to say that it knew but deemed not necessary to take action would be not only an act of inefficiency, but an unpardonable failure.

 

No matter how we see it, this was a glaring failure of our government.  Sworn to protect its citizens, our government, in case of Avijit and his wife, failed miserably.  Nobody has apologized, no head has rolled.  Taking responsibility is not in our genes, neither of those in power, nor of those outside.

 

It is also a case of our collective failure.  The killers wasted no time to claim responsibility, as if this was a victory lap.  These killers, who live amidst us, are either our friends, neighbours or students.  And indeed, they are also are children. Either we have helped cultivate and nurture the values that give birth to these unabashed killers, or watched mutely as they multiplied.

 

Avijit’s only fault, if we have to find one, was his views on religion – not just Islam, but all religions.  His inquisitive mind sought to re-examine age-old beliefs and conventions.  This he did in the spirit of a dialogue with those who shared his views and those who did not, in an open, discursive manner.

 

Instead of joining him in the dialogue, the killers took the course they know well – ruthless murder.  They struck him from behind and then scurried away cowardly.

 

The murder has drawn widespread condemnation, both at home and abroad.  Some on the social media have lamented, going so far as to disown their own country.  “No, this is not the Bangladesh I know or want,” some of them wrote.

 

Sorry, folks, I have bad news for you.  This is the only Bangladesh we have, and it is going to be the only Bangladesh we will have unless we change it.  It is also one we helped create.  Intolerance is part of our political culture, and it permeates all walks of our life.  Whether it is politics, history or religion, our views are uncompromising, leaving no room for doubt or accommodation with other views.  We feel comfortable confining g ourselves to the only “truth” we know or have been handed down, and living a frog’s life inside a dark, sheltered well.  This is true of our politicians, of our public intellectuals and of our parents.

 

How can we be so uncompromising on all issues, but expect different results on religion?

 

One is not born intolerant, one becomes one.  One can also unlearn intolerance, but it requires a conscious collective effort. A starting point could be breaking our silence over Avijit’ murder. Our silence would not only embolden the killers, but also give them comfort in their self-righteousness. The best homage we can pay to Avijit is by declaring our firm rejection of violence – all forms of violence – including one perpetuated in the name of religion.

 

Let’s say, without prevarication: We are all Avjit today!

 

1 March 2015, New York

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