I was fortunate to attend ‘Darkness in Dhaka’ event organized by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). Coming from Bangladesh myself, I was intrigued seeing this event on Eventbrite. I thought it would give me some insights regarding the case of exercising rights to express freely.
Raihan Abir’s story is quite remarkable. He was subject to death threats because of his contribution on a blog dedicated to freethinking and science. He was able to seek refuge in Canada to ensure safety for himself and his entire family through assistance from CJFE’s distress fund. Several of his close associates were either hacked to death or imprisoned because of such actions.
The event was basically setup like a discussion forum where Raihan, the Bangladeshi blogger, was one of the panel members. The panelists went over several things e.g. power of internet/social media and how it democratized political criticism when it comes to blogging. Raihan began his remarks by appreciating the hospitality of the Canadian society to allow him asylum to establish security for him and his family. He then brought up several topics: 2 topics I feel are worth mentioning:
a) He mentioned that the government of Bangladesh doesn’t care about safety of the society from the extremist groups. In other words, secular Islamic is under threat from the Islamic extremists. People are often hacked to death for promoting free expressions like science and reasoning as well as challenging religious beliefs.
b) Folks promoting LGBT didn’t get a chance to live longer. Bottom line: it is problematic to express views against religious beliefs on government’s actions – end road is either death or imprisonment. Killing has been very popular to silence these people – not a very effective solution for the general morale of the society.
I consider myself to be one of the most opinionated. I know, without a doubt, I’ll get in trouble if I were to exercise the same freedom in Bangladesh like I do here in Canada. That’s why I decided to immigrate to Canada and, now, I am a citizen. So, my advice to ‘so-called’ bloggers (or pros for the matter) and activists is to respect the laws of the place you’re residing. If there is zero tolerance for religious or political defamation, stay away from it! If you have to be vocal about it, leave that fucking land and go somewhere else! There are many countries in the world that welcome such thoughts and expressions.