Crackdown or harassment? More LGBT activists face legal ramifications

October 20 19:33 2018 Print This Article

This past 17th  October the Dhaka Judicial Magistrate Court, registered a blasphemy lawsuit filed by one Munshi Mokidul Islam. The lawsuit in question was filed against the creators of a magazine called ‘Atheist in Bangladesh’. Mr Islam alleges that the magazine’s publishers and contributors are guilty of slandering and insulting religion, particularly Islam. He states that the whole magazine is inundated with such crude content, geared towards ‘unfairly and biasedly’ criticising religion and its constituencies.

Mr Islam cites that it was his duty as the ‘member of a respected Muslim community’ to help abolish such hostile tendencies towards religion, especially Islam.

Our court correspondent reports that as many as 55 men and women have been charged with blasphemy or contributing towards producing such content. It is perhaps one of the most elaborate blasphemy cases to date in Bangladesh, at least in recent times. What is unsurprising, however, is that the magazine ‘Atheist in Bangladesh’ is at the centre of it again.

As an organization in general, they have recently drawn a lot of criticism in Bangladesh over their zealous pursuit of demystifying religious myths (their mission statement mentions as much, for anyone interested here is a link to their website As a result, they have been subjected to multiple blasphemy lawsuits here in Bangladesh, and they have been well-documented. In fact, some hold them (because of the content they produce) responsible for the hard-core atheistic values that are slowly seeping into the Bangladeshi society.

For those of us who wish to know the barebones, our court correspondent reports that the blasphemy lawsuit has indeed been filed in accordance with the much-debated Bangladesh Penal code 295. A total of the 55 individual have been accused of blasphemy in this lawsuit.

The list of accused is comprised of the magazine’s editor Arifur Rahman, publisher ‘Secular Publishers Ltd’ alongside the magazine’s contributors, and quite a few LGBT activists, writers as well. Some of the other notable names in this list including the primary accused Mr Zobair Hossain followed by the likeds of Md Abdullah Al Hasan, Kazi Md Saiful Haque, Ashef Abrar Titu, Pinaki Deb Apu, Farzana Islam,Hussain Mohammad Parvez, Riana Trina, Miltan Kumar Dey, Tamzid Hossain, Abu Taher Md Mustafa, Abdul Kader, Abdur Rahman, Pinaki Deb Apu, Hosni Mubarak, Shahadat Hossain, Taushnuva Fardousi, Syed Ishtiak Hossain, Sujan Chandra Deb, Md. Tofayel Hossain, Adnan Sakib, Arunangsho Chakraborty, Roosevelt Haldar, Abu Hanif, Syed Mohammad Shojib Abed, Md Mehedi Hossain, Syed Sunvy Anick Hossain, Enayetul Huda, Naymul Islam and others

However, it is a bit unclear as to whether the lawsuit also serves a dual purpose, namely to subjugate known members of the LGBT community. Yes, some of the contributors of ‘Atheist in Bangladesh’, named in this huge lawsuit, are indeed gay, lesbian or bisexual. For instance, the primary defendant Taushnuva Fardousi, is an openly homosexual woman, and a proactive LGBT activist in the UK. As you may very well know that homosexuality or bisexuality is categorized as a punishable offence in Bangladesh. It would have been no surprise had the plaintiff brought charges in accordance with Bangladesh Penal code 377, which describes at length the levies of being a member of the LGBT community in Bangladesh.

As you can probably gauge, our court correspondent did catch up to the plaintiff Mr Munshi Mokidul Islam, who was not shy of making some strong comments about the men and women he had just accused of blasphemy. For the benefit of our readers, we had to edit some sections of his comments, but in general he described ‘Atheist in Bangladesh’ and its contributors as “disgusting creatures of habit” who are “besmirching our great religion and by extension our country (Bangladesh)”. Indeed, Mr Islam expressed his surprise how more people are not rallying together against this. He also blamed the Bangladeshi government for “being too soft” and claimed that he is looking to launch a nationwide campaign against blasphemy to raise awareness. He was unable to give us an exact date on it though.

Our correspondent decided to do some further probing and contacted the Home Ministry for their thoughts on this latest blasphemy lawsuit. After 45 minutes on the line our correspondent was put through to a spokesperson who although amicable, flatly refused to comment on what he claimed was ‘an isolated incident’. We asked to speak to the deputy Home Minister but where denied again.

Our correspondent afterwards managed to track down the primary accused in this lawsuit Zobair Hossain, who currently lives in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, we were able to get in touch with the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI). Indeed, one of the officer Shamim Ahmed spoke to us briefly, citing that they are investigating the claims according to the court order and trying to get in touch with those that have been accused. The media will be updated as soon as there are any developments.

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