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TAKING A STAND...

October 19, 2020


American Atheists takes action in the case of Taslima Nasin... Officials at the Embassy of the Republic of Bangladesh respond to calls that Nasrin be protected from Islamic fundamentalist threats and hooliganism.

On Short notice, members of American Atheist gathered outside of the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC today to speak out on behalf of embattled writer and Atheist Taslima Nasrin. Nasrin has attracted the wrath of Islamic militants in her native Bangladesh for her comments about the status of women, as well as her call for civil political institutions as an alternative to theocracy and religious dogmatism. But in 1994, officials in Bangladesh issued a warrant for Nasrin, insisting that she offended religious believers. Nasrin fled to Sweden, and for the last four years has travelled throughout the continent and the United States.

While her story has not received the publicity comparable to that accorded to novelist Salman Rushdie, Nasrin’s case highlights the growing confrontation between “the religious resurgence,” particularly of militant Islam, and the spread of secular institutions as well as the recognition of human rights for all.
She recently returned to Bangladesh to be with her terminally ill mother. Moslem militants have taken to the streets, often in violent demonstrations, and demanded her arrest and summary execution. In addition, the Islamists are using Nasrin to point out the need for tough “blasphemy” laws which would prohibit any remarks which insult or question religious superstition. The new government of Bangladesh has not withdrawn the 1994 warrant, and recently a government minister called upon Ms. Nasrin to “surrender” so she might be prosecuted under the law. If convicted, she could receive up to a three year prison sentence and a fine -- all for “insulting” the feelings of Moslems.

While her story has not received the publicity comparable to that accorded to novelist Salman Rushdie, Nasrin’s case highlights the growing confrontation between “the religious resurgence,” particularly of militant Islam, and the spread of secular institutions as well as the recognition of human rights for all.

Today’s demonstration was relatively low key. Kudos go to Washington D.C. Director Chris Prokop, and Maryland AA Director John Obst for their hard work in organizing this action on relatively short notice. North Carolina members Dale Hicks and Jim Senyszyn joined State Director Wayne Aiken in making the trip to the nation’s capitol. National Outreach Director Neal Cary drove in from Virginia, and Board Member Noel Scott (a long-time resident of Foggy Bottom) joined the action.

The highpoint of today’s protest, though, was when John Obst walked in to the embassy to deliver a brief letter to the legation concerning the Nasrin case. John informed us later that he was courteously received and that the embassy was “making sure” that officials in Bangladesh knew that Americans were speaking out and demonstrating about this issue. A staff official told Mr. Obst that Islamic fundamentalists are relatively few in number in Bangladesh, but that the government -- poor and hard-pressed for resources -- is having trouble dealing with their movements and demonstrations.

Picket signs made our point clearly ...

DEFEND RIGHTS FOR SECULARISTS, DEFEND TASLIMA NASRIN

“BLASPHEMY” = The Right to Question, Doubt & Disagree

FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE AND INTOLERANCE1

INTOLERANCE IS NOT A VIRTUE

RIGHTS FOR ATHEISTS!

Looking Ahead -- Back to DC?

If the Bangladesh government does not guarantee Ms. Nasrin's safety, or caves in to the demands of religious extremists by enacting a new “blasphemy” law, Atheists -- indeed, secularists in general -- should consider more demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns and other appropriate actions on behalf of the dissident writer.

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John Obst’s Letter to The Ambassador from Bangladesh

Ambassador K.M. Shehabuddin
Embassy of Bangladesh
2201 Wisconsin Ave.
Washington, DC


Dear Ambassador Shehabuddin:

I am writing as a concerned citizen in relation to support for author Taslima Nasrin. I really think it is a shame that a person can be sentenced to death by a group of extremists for speaking out for the basic human right to speak freely. There is a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which was adoped by the United Nations in 1948 which guarantees the right of all persons to the freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, and assembly.

The plight of Taslima Nasrin is in clear violation of this and I wish to strongly urge you to personally get involved to insure that Taslima Nasrin will be safe. Thank you for your time in reading this and please do respond and if possible, keep me up to date on this human rights tragedy.


Sincerely,

John Obst
PO Box 2892
Kensington, Md. 20891



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