Bangladesh under Blasphemy Law: Witnessing Horror in Father’s Dream Land

By: Rumana Hashem

Waking up at four o’ clock in the morning to the horrific news of appalling murders of freethinkers and culture-minded citizens in the hands of fanatics at home is not a new phenomenon for many Diaspora Bangladeshis for the last few years.  The grim events that began in early 2013 turned out to be a systematic terror attack on all secularists in Bangladesh. Regardless of atheist, non-atheist, activist, blogger, academic, devotee, left and liberal writers, students, University teacher, publisher, harmonious LGBT rights activists, of Muslim and Hindu background, every free thinker and believer of secularism has been living under blasphemy and death threats in a so called independent nation-state, namely Bangladesh. The year 2015 was a nightmare while the year 2016 takes us to even more disturbing episodes of double-murders of harmonious rights activists in residence in a supposedly secular state.

On Saturday the 23rd April, my mobile beeped at four a.m. GMT to wake me up with a shocking message that assailants were able to cut the throat of a peace-loving Professor at broad day light in the publicly accessible street in Rajshahi, a town was previously known as relatively secular and progressive, in north Bangladesh.  Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique was killed one day after Friday when a Hindu-devotee was murdered at Tungipara.  Additionally we have heard about three more brutal murders, including the double-murders of two harmonious LGBT rights activists and a retired prison guard who were killed in similar violent fashion by organised fanatics within two days in the capital city. As if this was not enough, a report in the daily Kaler Kontho revealed that there were nearly 1500 murders in the last four months that went uncovered by national and international media.

Continue reading

The ‘normal’ negotiating of religious texts towards domestic violence

Garden of Eden

Picture: “The Garden of Eden” by Lucas Cranach der Ältere

   Women and men are equally made in the image of God; however in theological teachings of religious texts throughout the world, the two beings sit separately from each other. Dr Elizabeth Koepping, a Priest and theological lecturer who has taught at the University of Edinburgh, conducted extensive research on the subject of church responses to domestic violence. This article will share her findings as a necessary dimension in tackling the phenomenal scale of global gender inequality.

 “It would be better to be dead than for me to leave. Even if I die, I stayed with my husband, and I will go to heaven as a reward because I endured”. [Research participant]

Dr Elizabeth Koepping from the English Church in Heidelberg, Germany has conducted research in Tonga, Burma, Korea, Ghana, Germany, India, Trinidad and Scotland on the subject of domestic violence in Christian contexts, and the perfectly normal cultural negotiating of religious texts. Her findings from qualitative interviews and observations underpin the unjust and widespread manipulation of readings by Church members in response to experienced violence. This is leaving women to bear continued or new dangers in countless areas of the world. Can this not be viewed as disobeying the faith while diminishing the value of equality set out by God himself?

Continue reading