The latest in Bangladesh is the government is not prepared to change the blasphemy law to include the death penalty, despite threats from Islamist groups to blockade the capital if this and other demands (including declaring a sect heretical and Islamic education in primary and secondary school) are not met. The deadline Hefajat-e-Islam have set for Sheikh Hasina’s government to cave in is the end of this month.
With violence, the forced closure of businesses and schools by strikes, not to mention the number of intimidating protestors calling for the death of the atheist bloggers it may be too much to hope the secular government may look to leniency. With a maximum sentence of ten years if found guilty of blasphemy through their blogs, it seems those that believe in freedom of religion, free speech and the humanist community have till the end of this month to show their support for universal human rights.
PZ Myers has blogged about what is happening and agreed with my suggestion we follow Hemant’s idea of having the Scarlet B flying on our atheist blogs. Gentlemen, may I humbly suggest that you include the Zapfino B permanently in your side bar? A small gesture in the face of a government determined to try, and an Islamist group to kill, the four bloggers thus far arrested.
In the face of that, what Myers says is what all of us are no doubt feeling:
I feel helpless in the face of this oppression, unable to do anything for people in a distant country who are being abused by their own government.
I mentioned earlier that Andrew Copson (Chief Executive British Humanist Association) was going to raise with International Humanist European Union (IHEU) about coordinating a mass solidarity event. IHEU have responded to me today on twitter when I was asking if @MrOzAtheist may know how to get a solidarity/protest event happening in Australia:
I appreciate efforts are happening behind the scenes and lobbying of governments. What I think would mean something also for the bloggers, family, friends and supporters in Bangladesh is a visible show of support from the international community. If world wide on the same day, liberty, religious (yes they too can suffer from blasphemy laws) and humanist groups could show solidarity outside the Bangladesh Embassy.
That would I am sure mean something. I am also thinking of direct letters of support to those incarcerated as well. In addition to letters to Bangladesh Ambassador protesting the arrests and asking for leniency. We can also ask the groups in Bangladesh what the international community can do to help. Maybe even writing to the Islamic groups themselves.
Will it change anything? Bottom line is we show our fellow freethinkers in Bangladesh that we did not throw our hands in the air but did our best to show solidarity with them and recognise what has happened. If successful, the balance of pros and cons the judiciary and government weigh up may take more account of international reaction to events.
How do you benefit? When people that thought, say and write the things you would were imprisoned you acted with empathy and spoke out. No one can be assured of their rights when no one protests or raises their voice to speak up for those denied. Solidarity is more than a thought, it is an action.
Otherwise you may as well get on your knees and pray, prepare to roll over, and be walked over, for all the good thoughts will do you in the face of oppression.
UPDATE: within minutes of posting blog IHEU tweeted me that members will receive email of campaign tomorrow.
UPDATE 9/4/2013 IHEU web page
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog