American atheist blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death in Dhaka

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An American atheist blogger who vocally opposed religious extremism has been hacked to death in a street in Bangladesh.

Avijit Roy was a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen who proved a prominent critic of ideological hatred in his native country. He and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were attacked as they returned from a book fair at Dhaka University in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, as the Associated Press reported. Some outlets reported that the weapons used were machetes; others reported cleavers. Roy died at a hospital after the attack. His wife was seriously injured, losing a finger, but survived.

While police did not say Islamic extremists attacked Roy, the location and method are similar to that of earlier religiously motivated crimes. Indeed, 11 years ago to the day, another anti-extremist author was attacked at the same location in Dhaka, and extremists killed another atheist blogger in Dhaka in 2013.

Roy, reported to be in his 40s, founded a blog called “Mukto-Mona,” or “free mind.” He had received threats from extremists before. His books — with titles such as “The Virus of Faith” sure to inflame fundamentalists — were banned from at least one popular Bangladeshi online retailer.

Bangladesh is almost 90 percent Muslim, and one of the world’s few Muslim-majority democracies — but, it seems, always near a tipping point.

“It is a moderate and generally secular and tolerant — though sometimes this is getting stretched at the moment — alternative to violent extremism in a very troubled part of the world,” Dan Mozena, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, said last year, as The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen reported.

Roy’s life was dedicated into turning Bangladesh toward secular democracy.

“Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science,” Roy said in an interview in 2007.

Protests at Dhaka University were planned as Roy’s peers paid tribute to him.

“He was a free thinker,” Baki Billah, a friend and fellow blogger, told Independent TV station. “… He was not only a strong voice against Islamic fanatics but also equally against other religious fanatics.”

“Dr Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack,” the Center for Inquiry, a U.S. nonprofit that promotes secularism, said in a statement, as the Guardian reported.