In February 2015, author Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed were attacked by Islamic extremists with machetes while returning home from a book signing event in Dhaka (Bangladesh). Rafida was hurt and lost her thumb in the attack, and her husband died.
Ahmed has been criticizing the government’s response to the attack ever since and she never stops asking the question, “What was our fault?” She said it was hard to "blame religion only without blaming the local and foreign powers who use religion as a tool, as a weapon to maintain their power."
The U.S. government designated AQIS (Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) as a foreign terrorist organization nearly a year and a half after Roy's murder. AQIS issued an updated list of "who's next" targeting guidelines in which they named anyone insulting Prophet Muhammad as a target.
Rafida sees herself as a Bangladeshi American writer, blogger and also one of the moderators of the Bengali blog Muktomona. Blog Muktomona was created by her husband Avijit and it is the first progressive and freethinking blog in the Bengali language. Dr. Avijit Roy was an author who wrote 10 books, and two of his books titled Philosophy of Disbelief and Virus of Faith made him exceedingly popular among young adults and progressive readers. On the other side, those titles—according to Ahmed—caused hostility and anger towards Avijit from religious fundamentalists.
Before the attack, Ahmed was a marketing director with a computer science background. After the attack, she accepted an offer from a university "to do research work on the rise of Islamism in Bangladesh." She is certain that her husband would have loved such an opportunity because he loved to write, that was his life, his passion.
Reflecting on growing up in Bangladesh, Ahmed noted that Muslim girls and women face discrimination and injustice on every field from their family lives to their professional lives. She described her parents as liberal—her mother was a lawyer, and her father encouraged her to read texts from all different religions to determine what she wanted to believe.
Bangladesh, unlike many Islamic countries, has a different background and a long secular history, but Ahmed is now concerned with the fact that over the last few decades it has slowly moved towards Islamic fundamentalism and became similar to other traditional Islamic countries.
When it comes to reconsideration of faith, Ahmed sad that she reads Surah Nisa from the Quran, which talks about women and women’s rights in Islam. She concluded: “I have been grateful to the Quran for making me such a good atheist ever since."
Photo Credits: Freedom of Thought Report