For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
June 01, 2015
Center for Inquiry Establishes New Emergency Fund for Freethought Writers Threatened by Radical Islamists
The Center for Inquiry has established an emergency fund to assist freethought activists whose lives are under threat by Islamic radicals linked to Al Qaeda in countries such as Bangladesh, where three secularist bloggers have been murdered since February. Outspoken human rights activist Taslima Nasrin, specifically named as an imminent target by the same extremists responsible for the murders of Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, and Ananta Bijoy Das, arrived in the United States last week under the assistance of CFI.
Nasrin was recently named as one of the next targets for murder by Al Qaeda-linked extremists, prompting CFI to assist in transporting her safely to the U.S., alleviating the immediate threat to her life. Her safety is only temporary if she cannot remain in the U.S., however, which is why CFI has established an emergency fund to help with food, housing, and the means for her to be safely settled. An appeal will be sent out today to CFI’s supporters asking them to donate to this cause. Dr. Nasrin arrived in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday, and was met by CFI staff.
CFI has also heard from several other writers and activists in Bangladesh who are in similarly perilous situations, many of whom have also been specifically named as targets for murder for their secular advocacy. The decision was made by CFI that any money raised in excess of what is necessary for Dr. Nasrin will go toward a general freethought emergency fund to assist with the rescue of other atheist, humanist, and secular activists under threat.
Dr. Taslima Nasrin is a world-renowned secular activist and author, whose uncompromising advocacy of human rights and criticism of religion forced her into exile from her native Bangladesh in 1994. A physician by training, she has written innumerable books, articles, and poems, and been at the forefront of political activism for secularism, free expression, and equality. Since 2004 she has lived in India, but even there she has faced persecution and threats. She is now an associate editor and frequent contributor for CFI’s magazine Free Inquiry, and has been a repeat speaker at CFI events, as well as a longtime ally in CFI’s fight for free expression around the world.
“Taslima is a truly international role model, as her work and her courage inspire people of all ages to question tradition, challenge dogma, and fight for human rights,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We could not stand by while her life was in danger, nor will we turn our backs on the other brave freethinkers in fear for their lives. I know our community will make a strong show of solidarity and give generously to this emergency fund.”
“I lost a valued friend and ally when Islamic extremists murdered Avijit Roy, and since then, two more secular writers have been taken from us,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s representative to the United Nations. “While it is truly up to the authorities of countries like Bangladesh and others to rein in this threat, we’re going to do our part to keep these people safe. We’ll need the secular movement’s help to do it, and I know we can count on this community’s support.”
* * * Media Alert: CFI and allied groups will host congressional briefings on the threats to religious dissidents around the world on June 9, and on the specific situation in Bangladesh on June 10. Details here.
- Taslima Nasrin’s presentation to CFI’s 2014 Women in Secularism conference was adapted into Free Inquiry’s February/March 2015 cover feature: “Why Secularism Is Necessary for Women”
- The widow of Avijit Roy, writer and activist Rafida Bonya Ahmed, delivered her first public statement after the murder of her husband through CFI
- CFI’s Michael De Dora addressed the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year on the subject of state-sanctioned religious violence
- A timeline of the attacks on Bangladeshi freethinkers
- Learn more about CFI’s work on behalf of dissidents around the world at our Campaign for Free Expression
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.