If you’re an atheist, then you’re lucky you aren’t in Bangladesh this week. Last Sunday, violence exploded in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, leaving at least 30 people dead. The violence was organized by a coalition of Islamic groups calling themselves “Hefazat-e Islam,” which means in Arabic “Protectors of Islam.” Islamists took the streets chanting “Hang Atheists,” aiming to abolish the secular regime, and start hunting atheists. This wasn’t the first time that this kind of violence has errupted in Bangladesh. Last September, a Muslim mob destroyed twelve pagodas and more than fifty Buddhists houses in Ramu because of a Facebook photo denigrating the Koran.
Indonesia is also facing the phenomenon of Islamic violence. Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) turned bloody last year, as the Islamist Defenders Front (FPI) attacked Ahmadeyya congregations, preventing them from celebrating their Feast. In February 2012, Islamists committed merciless tortures and killings of Ahmadiyya, while shouting Allah Akbar “God is great.” In April 2012, an attack on a Shiite community killed two people in Sampang, Indonesia. At least 270 Shias were left homeless after the attack.The perpetrators were sentenced to only 3-6 months and the court blamed the Ahmadiyya for inciting the attack. In Sampang, Sunni Muslims attacked Shiite houses last October, leaving nearly 200 Shia without homes and displaced unless they were willing to convert to Sunni Islam.
In Malaysia as well you can see the same phenomenon. Christians have reported that some former Muslims who converted to Christianity have been tortured, and forced to return to Islam. A Muslim doctor was arrested for seeking childcare from a church, and could face a three year sentence. A tuition center was shut down by the Education Ministry this past August following claims that the teachers were trying to convert several Malay Muslim children studying there. A church was raided after a complaint was received that it had attempted to convert the twelve Muslims that attended the dinner.
Back to Africa where Nigeria’s Islamic extremists “Boko Haram,” which, in the Hausa language means “Education is Sinful,” celebrated Christmas in 2011 by planting bombs and shootings at churches in Madalla, Jos, Gadaka, and Damaturu, leaving 41 people dead. Boko Haram is known for targeting churches, universities, police stations, and even the moderate Muslim Cleric, Liman Bana. The organization is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and remains active, using terrorism against non-Muslims and Muslims, pushing Nigeria back into the Medieval Ages.
In Egypt, the army exploited the opportunity of the revolution to invade St. Bishop monastery in Feb 2011 and shot monks with RPJs. The same army attacked the nonviolent Christian demonstration in Maspero in October 2011, and left behind at least 28 people dead, and over 200 injured. To this day, not a single person has been prosecuted for the Christians massacre in El-Kosheh in 2000, in which 21 Christians were killed. Islamic extremist groups are known to burn churches every couple of months, and are protected by the state, not forgetting the habit of bombing churches at Christian feasts, as happened in Alexandria 2011, and Nagahamadi 2010. In March 2011, a Salafi group burned a Christian house in Qena, and cut off its owner’s ear because a girl living in that house was considered to have inappropriate attitude. Several months later, a court ruled the perpetrators innocent.
The crimes of Islamic extremist groups are widespread in Muslim countries: Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) in Somalia, the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, The Revolutionary Guards in Iran, and the Salafis in Egypt and Tunisia. Not to mention the Islamic government in Sudan, which wanted to impose Sharia religious law over the Christian south, leading to two civil wars and resulting in hundreds of thousands of killings, and millions of refugees. The south is happily separated now, but Islamic militias are still killing and raping Sudanese women in Darfur with the government’s blessing. The International Criminal Court has yet to arrest Sudanese President Hasan Elbashir for his war crimes.
Both of us, Maikel Nabil Sanad and Hosea Handoyo, now live in Europe, where being a believer or not is entirely a personal freedom. But we understand that people in other parts of the world don’t enjoy the same freedoms. That’s why we call on the free world to pressure these countries to uphold international standards of human rights.
This post was co-written with Hosea Handoyo, a Chinese-Indonesian scientist, policy analyst and social activist now based in Germany.