We have another murder of an intellectual in Bangladesh by suspected Islamic extremists. The Latest and seventh victim was English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, was hacked from behind with machetes as he walked to the bus station from his home in the country’s northwestern city of Rajshahi. These cowards often use machetes and jump writers on public streets to murder them in the name of religion.
Siddique’s head was almost entirely cut off by the murderers according to reports. Yet, he was not viewed as an anti-Islamic writer or even that political. Yet, police say the attack follows the pattern of other Islamic extremist attacks. Siddique was involved in cultural programmes, including music, and set up a music school. He worked in Bagmara, a former bastion of a banned Islamist group, Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh, and may have earned the ire of Islamic extremists for his teaching of art and music. Recently reports say that a university student has been detained but the reports are conflicted on the reason.
Last year, eight members of banned Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team, including a top cleric, were convicted late last year for the murder of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013. Nevertheless, clerics continue to teach young Muslims that they can please Allah by murdering those who have different values or seek secular government.
Hundreds of students of Rajshahi University marched to denounce the killers and to call for the protection of their professors.
Siddique was the fourth professor from Rajshahi University to have been murdered. For those of us who enjoy academic positions in this country, it is easy to forget the daily dangers and sacrifice of our counterparts in places like Bangladesh. Indeed, as so many university and college administrators rollback on free speech in the name of pluralism, it is important to see the importance of maintaining a bright line protecting the right of free speech as the bastion against extremism and orthodoxy around the world.
Siddique is survived by his wife Hosne Ara Sheera and his son Riyasat Imtiaz Sourav and daughter Rezwana Hasin Shatobi. I cannot imagine the pain that this family is experiencing but, as shown by hundreds of marching students, he lived a life that inspired others in a place that is descending into the darkness of religious extremism.