Shuddhashar’s concern about the threat on Sultana Kamal

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Shuddhashar notes with increasing concern that prominent human rights lawyer and internationally renowned human rights activist Sultana Kamal has been targeted with abuse and death threats by the leadership of Hefazat-e-Islami. We note with equal concern that the Government of Bangladesh has not taken any steps to hold Hefazat-e-Islami to account for such heinous actions.

In recent years, Islamist extremist groups and madrasahs have operated in the name of Hefazat-e-Islami in carrying out, justifying and defending unconstitutional and extrajudicial violence, including the killing of bloggers, writers and publishers. Hefazat’s interpretation of Islam is misguided and destructive, and it continues to operate against the mainstream religious sentiment of Bangladesh and this should be clear to the rest of the world. Due to their destructive operations in Bangladesh, it has become extremely difficult for people to live their lives with democratic and secular freedoms.

Hefazat leaders have misinterpreted a recent statement made by Sultana Kamal on a television talk show. Anyone who views a recording of the interview will clearly be able to discern what she actually means. The distortion of such a clear and reasonable statement provides a worrying insight into the intentions of Hefazat-e-Islami. Their activities show obvious antagonism towards democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

Moreover, the filing of legal cases against internationally renowned women’s rights pioneer and human rights activist Khushi Kabir, and against writer Afsan Chowdhury, as well as the most recent one against Sultana Kamal for “hurting religious sentiment” show that any individual who speaks out against religious fundamentalism and communalism in Bangladesh is at grave risk.

Shuddhashar would like to make an impassioned plea to the Government of Bangladesh to take a responsible view on this matter. We hope the Government fulfils its role in protecting democratic values, secularism, human rights, and freedoms of thought and expression against the violence perpetrated by extremist groups.

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About Author

Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, known as Tutul, is a publisher, writer, and editor from Bangladesh. In 1990, Chowdhury began publishing and editing Shuddhashar (“Pure Voice”), a magazine that soon became a platform for young and unconventional writers in Bangladesh. Chowdhury opened his own publishing house in Dhaka in 2004 under the same name, where he published of open-minded and progressive Bangladeshi writers. From 2004 to 2015 he published more than 1000 items book. In 2013, the publishing house was awarded the Shaheed Munir Chowdhury Award for publishing the highest number of best-sellers in Bangladesh and is considered one of the most important publishing houses in the country. In 31st October 2015, Chowdhury was a victim of a coordinated machete attack on publishers of secular authors. Chowdhury had received direct death threats from Islamists and was among the main targets of the attack. Despite these threats, Chowdhury continues to publish, including books written by Avijit Roy, who was murdered in February 2015. In 2016, Chowdgury won the Pinter International Writer of Courage Award and the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award. Chowdhury currently lives in exile in Norway.

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