Stabbed, Censored, and Imprisoned for Radical Atheism

Bengali blogger Asif Mohiuddin has a penchant for anti-superstitious writing; not an easy task in a small, densely-populated country like Bangladesh. In 2011, Asif was arrested by the police for filming a protest, and immediately was pressured and told by the police to: "stop writing."

Asif was undeterred, however, and he continued writing about the problems afflicting his highly-religious nation. In January of 2013, Islamic radicals brutally stabbed and tried to murder Asif; apparently angered by what they perceived to be blasphemy on his part. Asif wrote in vivid detail about the attack, and was subsequently censored by the Bengali Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
On March 13, the BTRC took down his blog, and he was subsequently arrested on the 3rd of April under charges of libel against God, Islam, and Mo'diddy. Asif was released on bail on the 27th of June, with his trial scheduled for the Fall. If the world does not become aware of the grave and severe injustice directed towards Asif by the Bengali government and its radical Islamic fronts, then clearly the terrorists will have won. In keeping with a spirit of anti-censorship, I have decided to post here in full the blog-post that got Asif censored by the Islamic radicals in the BTRC. I have read evidence to suggest that members of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission have donated money to Al-Qaeda associated forces, and ultimately plan to conspire against the United States, possibly opening up a new front in the War on Terror. If you're not aware of your history, you should know that up until the 1970s Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. Pakistan is where Osama was living while he plotted against the United States.
The title of Asif's post refers to how the philosopher Socrates was instructed to die; by drinking a cup of hemlock -- a poisonous herb.

Speak, for the Cup of Hemlock is not yet on Your Lips
by: Asif Mohiuddin

I was traveling to work to start a long night shift. I was traveling by three-wheeler and from a distance I saw three men standing at the gate of my office-building; not a very unusual sight. Therefore -- not paying much attention to them -- I went to pay the fare of the three-wheeler. I was facing back to them. Then, suddenly,  I felt a hammer-blow to the back of my head. It was extremely painful and debilitating. Before I could pay much attention to that injury, I felt a stranglehold locking my head tight. Immediately afterwards, I felt a bunch of stabbing wounds in my back. Terrorists usually fail to hide their excitement during an attack; they usually swear and shout. But these terrorists were the exception, they did everything in complete silence without saying a word, not even the signature “Allahu Akbar!”

By that point, I had already suffered a hail of knife and machete blows to my back and neck. Every single of those stabs were pointed vertically downwards on my body with the apparent objective of plunging the entire knife inside. Later from my doctor I came to learn that two of the wounds in my neck were the most severe; one was 6 centimeters deep and the other 4 centimeters; both of which missed my spinal cord just by half an inch.
"My entire body and the spot where the attack took place were completely drenched in blood"

Meanwhile, the man holding me in a stranglehold was trying to slit my throat. I understood that if he successfully managed to sever my carotid artery, that I would have no chance. And this understanding probably made me fight back. I employed the entire strength of my body and got out of the stranglehold repulsing the attackers. One of the attackers came back and blew his machete to my abdomen, but luckily I was able to dodge it. Then realizing that I was also willing to fight back, the attackers fled and ran away into darkness. A very important thing to notice in this attack is that the attackers were not robbers at all; they did not come for my mobile phone, my tablet or my wallet; they came only for my life. This observation confirms my suspicion that it was an Islamist attack.

I was bleeding badly; still, I was trying my best not to collapse. I realized I must live. This sheer will to live out-shadowed my sensation of pain and injury. After a minute or two a couple of men came by from a nearby shop. I requested one of them to find my spectacles, which I lost over the course of the attack. After getting my glasses back I asked one of them the location of the nearest hospital. Luckily, there was a small clinic just next to the main road, very nearby. Enforced with the aforesaid ‘sheer will to live,’ I ran to that clinic.
"To my shock and surprise, I found nobody in the clinic helped"

As I entered the clinic I shouted: “I am loosing blood at a shocking rate, please stop my bleeding, or else I will die!” But, to my shock and surprise I found nobody did anything, they rather told me to wait for the police to come and that they could treat me only in the presence of the police; I do not know why, probably they thought me being an outlaw of some sort caught in a street battle or something. Anyway, finally the police arrived and my wounds were washed. The clinic decided that my wounds needed to be treated surgically. So, they transferred me to the nearby Monsur Ali hospital, a surgical facility. On my way to that hospital I called my sister and fellow blogger Baki Billah and Ananya Azad and informed them that I had been attacked.

Immediately the news of me being attacked was posted in the ‘Somewherein’ blog. Some of the bloggers gathered in the Monsur Ali Hospital. I saw blogger Sharat talking on his cellphone, crying frantically. Also Selim Anwar, Mahbub Rashid, Shafiul Joy, Anindya, Ananya Azad and my nephew and brother-in-law were there. Doctors stapled the wounds in my body closed. However, the two wounds in my neck were too deep to be stapled. I remember a doctor pushing his finger inside those wounds in order to assess the depth of the wound and saying: "probably we will not be able to save this patient for the wound is so deep that it can house the whole length of my finger inside!" Doctors decided to transfer me to a bigger hospital -- Dhaka Medical College Hospital. We were waiting for the ambulance. Ananya Azad was crying frantically and suddenly out of emotion kissed me very brotherly. In return, I tried my best to smile at him.

Finally, the ambulance arrived and we boarded and set off. My nephew Anindya was trying to keep me awake and was holding my head tightly with his hands. Later I came to know this was for my spinal cord which was at significant risk, if the road bumps and the vibration of the ambulance could injure my spinal cord that would have resulted in permanent paralysis of parts of my whole of my body. By this time my sisters Mimu, Moni, Chanda, Chandana and Mumu reached Dhaka Medical College Hospital, awaiting our arrival.

Finally, we arrived at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital to find Moniruddin Topu, Faruk Wasif, Mahbub Shakil already there. They were making arrangements and were preparing for our arrival. There I met Dr. Imran for the first time. He told me he reads my writings regularly and knowing the news of me being stabbed from Facebook, had rushed to the hospital to see me.
"I was concerned whether I was going to live or not"

I was sent into the X-ray chamber. By the time I came back from there, a small crowd of people had gathered in the hospital ward. I can not remember very clearly because of the sedatives, but there was Mahbuh Rashid, Babu Ahmed, Taosif Hamim, Badhan Shapnyakathak and a lot others. In spite of the strong sedatives, I was trying to listen to their conversation in order to figure out the seriousness of my condition. I was concerned whether I was going to live or not. The conversation I heard was not very positive. The realization that there was a significant probability of me dying, suddenly made me feel that I needed a cigarette. To that little crowd I casually communicated this supposed last wish of mine. But, unfortunately, nobody seemed very much keen to fulfill this last deathbed wish of mine; ‘a cigarette’ seemed a rather bizarre and completely unacceptable deathbed wish to them for some reason.

Before beginning my treatment the doctors had to get a consent form signed by my sister, who was my next of kin. That form explicitly stated that if the course of my treatment resulted in my death, that it was not due to any criminal or medical negligence, but due to the very natural chain of events, and that the doctors could not be held legally liable. After this Dr. Pratap, another blogger doctor who goes by the pseudonym ‘incognito’ and a lady doctor started my treatment. First, an initial assessment of my medical condition was made. Here again the gloved finger of Dr. Pratap penetrated the two deep wounds in my neck. This was extremely painful because my neck by that time had inflamed and swelled badly. I was screaming in pain and others were hearing my blood chilling cries; and I later came to know that Babu Ahmed and my nephew fainted outside the hospital room door. The result of the initial assessment was again not very optimistic. Therefore, the doctors made my sister sign another acknowledgement form which stated that my medical condition was particularly vulnerable and surgical treatment had significant possibility of resulting in death. I can picture how difficult it was for my beloved sister to sign a form of this sort! Soon after the initial assessment, I was taken to the surgical chamber and was sedated again. The last thing I can remember before losing consciousness were the the anxious glances of Dr. Imran, Dr. Pratap, and that lady doctor pouring over me.

In the morning when I regained my consciousness I was informed that my lover was here to see me. However she was not allowed in, she was waiting outside. I was very weak at that point, yet with all my energy I yelled: "let her come in!" She entered crying frantically and held my hand. It was at that moment when I finally realized my life had been saved; I am not going to die, not this time! It took 70 stitches to staple my wounds close. Catheters were placed everywhere in my body. I was sedated and badly disoriented and needless to say extremely, extremely weak. Yet I felt as refreshed as ever when my girlfriend was by my side.

"I never lost faith in humanity nor will I ever"

I had been helped by a lot of friends and well-wishers to whom I have a great deal of thanks to give. At some point in my stay in the hospital I discovered the bed behind me in the ward that I was staying was vacant. I could not figure how a bed in the busiest hospital in Bangladesh can ever remain vacant. I never knew who it was, but later I came to know some good Samaritan paid for that vacant seat and made sure it remained vacant so that I did not have to share the hospital ward with someone else. I never lost faith in humanity, nor will I ever -- the men who assaulted me for the sole purpose of killing me were human beings. On the other hand, the men who spent their entire sleepless nights looking after me, working hard to save my life praying and crying, were also human beings. In fact, this endless stream of love from them is what hijacked my soul back from the black grips of death and restored it in the living earth, ever colorful, once again. They were countless in numbers: laymen, bloggers, well-wishers and what not.
Some of them came and talked to me crying; while some others came to see that I was still alive and breathing, stood far and remained standing not saying a word. I can not remember all of them because of the anesthetics-induced amnesia. But I do know, cured when I see them again that I will be struggling to find appropriate words to express my thankfulness towards them; no word I know could be appropriate, no word enough! At some point the doctors and nurses were forced to say that if not the almost mortal wounds, then the endless stream of visitors and well-wishers was going to kill me; for they were thousands in number. This large crowd of visitors also made them figure quite erroneously that I must be some very influential person, which I certainly was not.

Although I had been helped by a lot of friends, unfortunately some other person was not so helpful nor so friendly. One of the most circulated daily newspapers -- named Prothom Alo, and which claims itself to be a progressive daily -- very tactfully omitted my name from being published in one of its news cover about the Deutsche Welle award. Although they published the names of other winners, they did not publish my name despite me being an award winner. They also published the news of me being attacked as a mere ‘robbery’ instead of what it truly was: an Islamic fundamentalist attack. Also they published that news in one of the least visited corners of the newspaper as opposed to the first page headlines. In a country like Bangladesh being an outspoken atheist is not really a very good idea it seems.
"Blogger Rajib Hayder was not so lucky as me"

I was attacked but I was lucky, I did not have to die. But, blogger Rajib Hayder was not so lucky as me. Rajib was attacked later that month. His throat was slashed, the attackers left him only after ensuring his death. Those senseless attackers of Rajib had no quarrel with him, for they did not even know him. Still they decided to attack and kill him because they figured his writing is somehow challenging and threatening the all powerful position of Allah and the only true religion called Islam. They figured this challenge should be countered with knives and machetes for the holy purpose of the protection of almighty Allah and the holiest religion Islam. Although they believe Allah to be all powerful, omnipresent and omnipotent, they still figured he needs some protection from the literary assaults of an innocent writer who writes against what he considers to be bigoted, wrong, and poisonous. Although the weapon of that alleged assault of Rajib on their all powerful god was nothing more than pen and paper; the weapons with which those silly soldiers of Allah decided to counter that assault was much more dangerous, namely knives and machetes. They slashed Rajib’s throat shouting ''Allahu Akbar' -- or God is great -- and in doing so thought they had successfully protected Allah and Islam from a very, very dreadful threat. And what were those threats? Well, some articles written by an outspoken atheist who does not want to be told how he should live his life. However, if my reaction upon hearing these horrible sets of news becomes: ''mad, barbaric, ignorant,'' then fingers would be pointed at me; my reaction will be considered more offensive than the actual act of the slashers of Rajib’s throat and how can I not feel enraged, how can not feel helpless; how can any sensible person not?

I do not know whether I am going to be attacked again. So far all the alleged hit-lists published by Islamists contain my name, so it is very possible that I am going to be attacked again. Humayun Azad once said: “Speak, for the cup of hemlock is not yet on your lips.” Therefore, I will keep speaking, I will be writing as long as I am alive, as long as the cup of hemlock is not pushed to my lips.

"I never block any religious fundamentalist from Facebook ... the doors of thoughtfulness should never be closed"

To me death is a very natural thing. I am therefore prepared to accept it as naturally as I can. It has been years since I started writing against religious fundamentalism. In this long struggle I have made a lot of friends, comrades; quite naturally I have made a lot of enemies as well. I have repeatedly seen ideological enmity run into the personal. I also may become a victim of this enmity of a nasty sort. I know how to take criticism and know how to respect the freedom of speech of every individual. That is why I never block any religious fundamentalist from my Facebook although they very often threaten me with death and call me names. I do this because I believe the doors of thoughtfulness should never be closed, the calls of taking the path of progressiveness should never be barred. If I block them from my Facebook, if I bar them from reading what I have to write, then probably they will remain ever deprived of that very call that I believe every individual should hear and respond to. I have no hatred towards the people who tried to kill me. This is because I know they do not know what they are doing, they are senseless, at least for the time being. They have been taught and trained in this way, they have been brainwashed into hating and killing. That my attempted murderers be brought to trial and punished is not the first thing that I want. I rather want this senseless practice of indoctrination and brainwashing to be abolished someday. Only when this happens I would consider my attempted murderers have been punished and justice been done.

I have a humble request to make to you all. I do not know how long am I going to survive this struggle against religious fundamentalist bigotry. However, if I fall, please make sure nobody successfully claims that I ever was a theist, or I ever in anyway was respectful towards any superstitious middle-age beliefs commonly known as religion. I do not want to be defeated by the superstitions against which I spent my entire life fighting, not even after my death. I do not want any funeral or any sort of religious service for me after my death. I lived my life with my ideals and I want to die with them too; I do not want death to separate me from the ideology that I upheld throughout all my life with all my efforts. I have always been outspoken as opposed to being passive. I do not want death to distort my true face to any comparatively more politically correct and generally acceptable form. I am what I always have been and I want to remain so even after my death.
"I love this planet so very much. And therefore I fight for it and am ready to die for it"

And please make sure my corpse is donated to a medical school. My eyes and kidneys and every other transplantable organ is to be donated to the people who need them the most. What can be more joyful than the thought that my deceased eyes will enable a blind person to see again, that my deceased heart will be pumping blood into the arteries of a sick person? I want the rest of my body, my bones and muscles, be donated to medicine so that the pupils there can master surgery by cutting incisions on my deceased skin. I never believed in heaven and hell. I rather believed in earth, the planet where we all make our stand. I love this planet so very much. And therefore I fight for it and am ready to die for it, for it being the way I always dream it to be. In this hard battle I do not want to surrender, nor do I want to retreat.