This week three people were brutally killed in Bangladesh. Over these last few years, terror attacks have become commonplace in this South Asian country, yet UK media have rarely given prominent attention to them.
The first victim of the attacks was university professor Rezaul Karim Siddique who was hacked to death as he walked home from work in the evening. It has been confirmed that Islamic State has claimed responsibility for his death, giving emphasis to the fact that he was an atheist. However, his daughter came forward, insisting that her father strongly believed in God.
The next two victims were Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s first gay rights magazine, and Tanay Majumder, Dhaka police officer. They were both killed by attackers who broke into Mannan’s home, armed with knives and machetes. The assailants, who are suspected members of Islamic State, opened fire on a police officer as they escaped afterwards. Homosexuality is currently a crime in Bangladesh and Mannan was one of very few people willing to speak openly about it, making him a target for Islamic State.
In recent years Bangladesh has seen multiple deaths, including four well-known secular bloggers and two foreigners. Bangladesh has a 90% Muslim population and there have also been multiple attacks on religious minorities, including different Islamic sects. In a country that is already so vulnerable to the effects of climate change, religious extremists can do considerable damage.
These recent killings come after last month’s discussions about whether Bangladesh should abandon Islam as the official State religion. The decision of the court has been made and it has ruled against revoking the constitutional provision.
In Bangladesh, Islamic State seem to be particularly targeting those who dare to be outspoken and challenge the status quo. Amnesty International has criticised these attacks and Bangladeshi authorities. Champa Patel, Amnesty’s South Asia Director, said:
The brutal killing today of an editor of an LGBTI publication and his friend, days after a university professor was hacked to death, underscores the appalling lack of protection being afforded to a range of peaceful activists in the country.
If we can learn anything from these killings, it is to not give Islamic State what they want. We must continue to be united, not turning against one another. We must strive to prioritise freedom of speech, whilst valuing different opinions to our own.