The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to offer financial assistance to a Bangladeshi freethinker forced out of his country due to his defense of secularism and LGBTQ rights. FFRF is granting $5,000 to blogger Asad Noor, who is currently in exile in India.
The information minister of Bangladesh recently tried to seize a Buddhist monastery. When the monk who founded the institution tried to speak up, false charges of blasphemy were slapped against him. This is where Noor showed his courage by speaking out on behalf of a religion that a tiny percentage of the population follows in his home nation. The consequences were severe.
“Soon afterwards, police came to Noor’s home and tried to locate him,” states a Foreign Policy magazine op-ed. “When they could not find him, they decided to torture and threaten his family instead. Today, Asad Noor is a fugitive on the run for the crime of defending a Buddhist monk on social media and speaking up for the LGBT community in Bangladesh.”
Noor has been charged under the Digital Security Act, 2018, for defaming Islam — an offense punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years, the Indian news site News18 reports. Noor has already been imprisoned several times in Bangladesh for his outspokenness, spending many months in jail. He has also been detained in India for six months, allegedly for lacking proper papers.
A number of reputed international organizations, such as Amnesty International, Humanists International, Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists have expressed concern over the Bangladeshi government’s maltreatment of Noor and his family members.
“The harassment of Asad’s family is not an isolated incident,” Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said in a press statement. “It is part of a worrying pattern targeting families of human rights defenders in exile.”
FFRF applauds the immense courage Noor has displayed in defending freethought and secular principles.
“Noor has shown tremendous daring,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “All the persecution he and his family have been subjected to seems to have left him unfazed.”
The Bangladeshi activist is expressing his appreciation for FFRF’s support.
“If you are with us, I am confident that one day we will be able to establish a freethinking-based society in Bangladesh — and assure the rights of atheists and other minority people. It was the dream of our iconoclast and beloved Dr. Avijit Roy,” says Noor, referencing the assassinated Bangladeshi-American freethinker in the memory of whom FFRF has instituted an award. “Freedom will certainly come through the light of reason if we continue our activism. And I feel it is our duty to fulfill his dream so that his sacrifice will not go in vain.”
FFRF has also recently given a $5,000 stipend to an endangered Egyptian atheist who has fled to another Muslim nation that must remain undisclosed for his safety, where he and is family are stranded as they await resettlement via an international agency.
“It is a measure of the terror spread by Islamic anti-apostasy laws that we cannot even reveal where he currently resides,” adds Gaylor. “Thoughts should be free — and being an atheist or freethinker should not be a crime anywhere.”