Why Avijit Roy matters
The murder of Avijit Roy and other writers in Bangladesh is as pathetic as burning Geordano Bruno or forcing Galileo to speak on Church’s script and captivate him behind the bars. As we move forward a human right activist Raif Badawi is facing lashing in jail of Saudi Arabia and his entire family except wife and kids are in prison waiting to be lashed and beheaded. We all get affected no matter what happens on other side of the planet to our species or even a different species.
Question might arise why someone sitting on Stockholm or in Oslo would care for Avijit Roy. A lot of people would probably hear his name first time. The answer would be in broad terms, but I am hopeful people can relate to it. We often forget that we live in an ecosystem. Yes, man has shaped it different ways and the evolution of civilization has brought us to this point.
For an example, what would happen if Royal Bengal Tiger gets extinct from world? I am going back to the concept of eco-system and chain of our complex relationship with environmental factors. Beside the recreational reasons and rich genetic pools loss in forest; very generally, if the number of Tiger declines its prey species Spotted Deer will have population explosion. If number of deer goes up the grazing and browsing of tree leaves and seedlings will increase and major tree species regeneration and survival rate will be less. Eventually the forest will shrink in size which protects local half a million people from cyclone and tidal waves. Shrinking natural barrier will kill more people and destroy human habitat. Plus poachers do not go in deep forest for the fear of Tiger, but if Tiger is not there they will clear cut the entire forest. So, by maintaining Tiger we can save people and all other species in forest ecosystem.
Now let’s replace people like Avijit Roy who is a humanist, science promoter as Bengal Tiger. We need them in society and these kinds of people are very rare as they advocates for rationality and reason in such part of the world where it is more than risky to do so. These people are resources to earth who urges critical thinking, challenge religious superstition and dogma. If they diminish in number we will go back to the “Dark Age” again.
Another classical example came in to my mind. Dr. Bill Warner, on his CSPI (Center for the Study of Political Islam) research found out, there were 518 reported wars on middle age’s between Muslim fighters and opposition on Mediterranean and North Africa and Spain alone (same time wars were going on in India). Europe was dependent on the business with Arab and India via water ways. But due to all those wars and areas won by Islamic warrirors all the business was shut down with Europe. Europe became isolated, there was no business, no economy circulation, no innovative ideas came out, Church rule was still strong and we call that “Dark Age” of Europe. But as “ice age” melt down by volcanic eruptions and release of carbon dioxides; “Dark Age” also melt down by the eruption of arts and intellectual movements.
So the natural eco-system formula still works here, we all are affected by each others; we are living in the same globe and in a huge net of eco-system. That is why crisis in Syria affected Stockholm dwellers, London dwellers, and Cologne or Berlin dwellers. That is why climate change will affect entire globe and not specifically in China or U.S.A.
Avijit Roy matters because he wanted to make a scientifically aware generation whom lifestyle would be driven by reason and evidence. Avijit knew about scientific studies condition in Bangladesh, so he was working to improve the standard, awaking general mass to see the world with reason and extend their hands to the fellow human being and stop looking for aid from heaven. He was always vocal for human rights, rights of tribal group, minorities. For few people that was offensive enough to kill him. Not only killing him has given them enough satisfaction, they have killed and attacked his publisher, threaten to kill his co-author’s, made sure no book of Avijit’s that is offensive never printed and sold again, threaten online e-book site to take Avijit’s book down.
From all these actions the power of Avijit Roy becomes transparent. How powerful was his writing that the entire radical religious groups and followers were so afraid of him and his writing, even after his death. So what Avijit wrote about? He wrote majorly about humanity and freedom of expression content, he was a prolific science writer in Bengali; very few could explain complex matter with ease, humor, example and references. He championed all the attributes with precision so a lay man could understand complex matter of science. He also wrote about literature; he visited the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina to write a book on Argentine Victoria O’ Campo who was admirer of Tagore’s work. Avijit was versatile, sharp, to the point as a writer. His reader always used to be surprised positively on the skill and depth of the writings. Every progressive people in the world should relate to Avijit; he tried to improve our societal life and contribute to a better world than today. Avijit was brutally hacked to death for all these efforts, for trying to make our habitat a better place, for de-radicalize enormous amount of radicals, to examine everything with curiosity and doubt. That is why Avijit Roy matters, his writing matters, his passionate advocacy for human rights matter, his bloodshed matters, and his death matters, his work matters to any sane person who cherish our species scientific achievements and our modern civilization and evolving culture. He loved books, he loved his readers, and he loved fellow human beings.
For all those reason the least we can do is to talk more about him. Bengal has given birth to some famous secular and brilliant minds, Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Avijit Roy all great man’s work should be celebrated; very similarly we celebrate Christopher Hitchens, Karl Sagan and many more enlightened people’s work. These are the people who always wanted our mankind to drive forward and there are others on opposite side pulling back. It’s almost like centrifugal and centripetal force but unlike Physics law we the general people have to choose our side to celebrate humanism and scientific literacy.
We surely want to be part of the world where nobody will kill each other because of morphological (racial) difference or for being followers of certain religion or to rule the world in name of certain brand of super power. At 2016, we must be better than that and if we are not we must work on to be better than that. On geological scale we can say our species just barely came out of caves and jungles but still as highly intelligent and intellectual species we are; we should do better than that. Avijit was working on it passionately and was killed solely for the reason of spreading the light on darkness. In his own country people do not want to talk about it, government are not keen catching the killers group, pseudo-intellectuals do not bother even to mention his work or name to be politically correct (as mass sentiment is created he is atheist and it is fine to slaughter an atheist) but as a general human we all should do. We all should come forward against such regressive ideology for which mankind is still suffering. That is the very least we can do for ourselves and to our hero, a humanist, enlightened Avijit Roy.
This article was written by Md. Sirajul Islam (Hafiz)
Freelance writer/blogger, writes on socio-political, ethno-religious historical issues. Ex-Executive member at Dhaka University Central Student Union (DUCSU); Ex-general member of Dhaka University Debating Society (DUDS).