An atheist blogger was hacked to death in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Thursday, after reportedly receiving multiple death threats from Islamic radicals — disturbing messages that the writer eerily detailed in a magazine article titled, “The Virus of Faith.”
Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen and the 42-year-old founder of a blog called Mukto-Mona — or, “Free-mind” — a website that discusses secular and atheist themes, was killed and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, was critically injured by unknown assailants, according to the Guardian.
Roy and his wife were reportedly on their way home from a book fair at Dhaka University when they were stopped by two individuals, dragged to a sidewalk and brutally assaulted with machetes; the blogger died as the result of traumatic head wounds.
Police have not confirmed that radical Muslims were behind the attack, though Roy’s father, Ajay Roy, told reporters that militants and hardliners had sent threatening emails to Roy, who is also the author of books that are critical of religion.
“Islamist radicals are behind my son’s murder,” Ajay Roy, said on Friday.
The blogger, himself, had detailed the aforementioned threats in an article published in the forthcoming April/May 2015 issue of Free Inquiry.
That article, titled, “The Virus of Faith,” which was released in the wake of Roy’s death, details how radicals began threatening him in 2014 following the release of his book — also titled “The Virus of Faith.”
“The death threats started flowing to my e-mail inbox on a regular basis. I suddenly found myself a target of militant Islamists and terrorists,” Roy wrote. “A well-known extremist by the name of Farabi Shafiur Rahman openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook statuses.”
Roy continued, delivering perhaps the most eerie of statements: “In one widely circulated status, Rahman wrote, ‘Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back.'”
He proceeded to outline his views on Islam, while also addressing President Barack Obama’s cautious framing of the Islamic State.
“Whatever the motivation behind President Obama’s statements — whether it is simple strategy or so-called political correctness — there is very little doubt that ISIS speaks exactly for Islam,” Roy wrote. “ISIS is what unfolds when the virus of faith launches into action and the outbreak becomes an epidemic.”
It is currently unclear who was responsible for his death, though Roy’s claims about threats published in his article — especially in light of his horrific death — are chilling.
According to NBC News, police are investigating a local Islamic extremist group called the Ansarullah Bangla Team, which allegedly took responsibility for the murder on Friday.
Hundreds of residents in Dhaka reacted to Roy’s death with protests, denouncing radicalism and calling for justice in a nation that has the fourth largest Muslim population in the world.
“Avijit’s killing once again proved that there is a culture of impunity in the country,” Bangladesh Bloggers’ Association head Imran Sarker told the AFP. “The government must arrest the killers in 24 hours or face non-stop protests.”
Atheist bloggers have been under assault in Bangladesh in recent years, with TheBlaze reporting in 2013 that hundreds of thousands of hardline Islamists rallied in Dhaka to demand authorities enact anti-blasphemy laws punishing bloggers and those believed to have insulted Islam.
Another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was also hacked to death by militants that same year. Police believe that Roy’s killing resembles Haider’s death.
“The pattern of the killing appeared to be the same as that of previous attack on a celebrated writer,” Dhaka police assistant commissioner Shiblee Noman said, according to the Guardian. “It seems it was carried out by a reactionary fundamentalist group.”
The Center for Inquiry, a humanist group located in Amherst, New York, that runs Free Inquiry, released a statement condemning Roy’s murder and expressing how “heartbroken” the organization is to have learned what unfolded.
“Dr. Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack,” the statement read.