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The recent slaughtering of secular writers in Bangladesh by the radical extremists in the name of

Islam and the government's response to it has raised some serious questions about our democracy,
freedom, security and the power of political Islam in our democratic politics.
How free are we to say what we think and what we believe? How free are we to hear the views of
others- of those who challenge widely held beliefs or dare to criticize the powerful's? As a citizen of
a democratic nation are we free to disagree with another person's opinion and to express that
disagreement in a democratic manner? Are we free to mock or to satire in drawings or in writings?
Freedom of speech is probably the most essential element of a democratic society which lies the
foundation of a functional democracy. It is one of the basic requirement for a nation to progress
under democratic system. It allows the citizens to control their elected officials and those who are in
the responsible offices through communication networks like media and social networks.
The major international human rights legislations recognized freedom of speech as one of the basic
rights of the modern human civilization. It is the element that inspires the citizens of a democratic
society to get involved. It defines whether a society is democratic or not. It indicates how civilized
the society is and how much they have evolved as a modern democratic society.
It is expected from a democratic government like ours to stand up for the freedom of its citizens freedom for the writers and freedom to support or to disagree.
An intellectual society must continue to express what they believe through writings, debates and
publications without censorship. In long term, censorship could result in intellectual disability for
the entire nation. All the the great functional democracies in the world has one thing in commonthey insures the freedom of debate, the proposition and contest of ideas both good and bad from all
and by all.
For the future prosperity of our nation and for us to evolve as a modern democratic society it is
absolutely important for us to ensure right for every citizen to express their ideas and their opinions
freely.
The on going attacks on the secular bloggers and writers is an assault on our democracy, on our
freedom, and on the forging ideals of Bengoli nation. What shocks me most is the governments
response to it. Instead of cracking down on terrorism the government is putting more pressure on
the victims and by doing so the government actually limiting our freedom to speak, to think and to
express.
The current government has not only imprisoned and tortured the bloggers, it has also shut downed
the blog sites and blocked websites. To impose censorship on freedom of speech the government
amended blasphemous ICT act just after the brutal killing of blogger Ahmed Razib Haider and the
role-call of death of the progressive minds continued as the terrorists were inspired by the inaction
of the government.
As a keen observer of Bangladeshi blog movement, I clearly know that the bloggers are more afraid
of ICT act than the terrorists. It is hard to believe that in a modern democratic state a person could
be- imprisoned for years, arrested without a warrant and deprived from seeking a bail just because
he or she had published an article in electronic form.
The government and our mainstream political parties have much to do - to ensure freedom and
security of the society. If they continue responding to the terrorists by censoring the freedom on
which our nation was forged, they will be playing into the murderer's hands.
The political parties must not answer to the religious groups. It is not expected from the government
to restrict publication of a newspaper or a blog site because of the demand of the extremist religious

groups. The government should just simply stand up for the core democratic principles such as
freedom of speech. Neither the government nor any political party should give the terrorists the
legitimacy they seek.
These fanatics and the religious groups are not the authority to dictate the course of our democratic
system. Bangladesh has ninety percent of Muslim population and fundamentally Bangladeshi
Muslims are progressive and tolerant. These religious terrorists are just the cancer of the society and
the Bangladeshi society is intelligent enough to understand that their radical interpretation of
Islamic texts is actually causing harm to Islam and Muslim people.
The bloggers are not the first one to suffer for publishing their thoughts in Bangladesh. Nations top
intellectuals- the likes of Shamsur Rahman, Humayun Azad, Taslima Nasrin have also suffered
because some radicals accused them of blasphemy just because they have published writings what
they thought are right.
As we face the evil forces of terror, we must summon up the courage to speak freely for the ideals
we believe and to safeguard the right to express what we believe. We must not only stand for our
own beliefs, we must also recognise and respect the fact that others have the same right.
Right now our democracy is in life support. Though our leaders are elected by us but seemingly the
only role we have in democracy is just to support a particular political party. We may some time
allowed to criticise the elected officials or report on corruptions but we are not allowed to think
differently or to express our daredevil thoughts.
This Zombie state of democracy is not what we have fought for. As a democratic society we deserve
better and certainly we can do better. Time has come for us to think carefully for the long term
prospect of our nation and provide much needed Oxygen to our fragile democracy.