Whether you’re Charlie Hebdo, Avijit Roy or Washiqur Rahman no one has the right to murder you or physically threaten you, for what you say or publish. Those are crimes. Unqualified, full stop.
Freedom of expression, does of course come with responsibility for self-restraint, but not restraint based on fear of the above. Restraint based on being constructive, and gratuitous offence beyond a satirical context, is not necessarily constructive. So I’ve always been careful about expressing unqualified support for what such people express freely and why in any given context- other than their freedom to do so, and the absence of any “right” for others not to be offended.
This piece by Rory Fenton in the Independent gets it right, when it comes to the liberal, atheist Bangladeshi Bloggers. The authorities already have a difficult situation to deal with, that’s clear, in terms popular support for blasphemy law and the bloggers in question do seem to be constructive and not to be focussed on offence. Either way, it is clear the authorities, there and here, must condemn the killings and the implicit threat of further terror, and actively pursue those who kill and threaten.
Achieving a secular Bangladesh – where the concept of blasphemy law is banished – is a larger project of course. Meantime, can we please assert that murder and terrorism are crimes; hate crimes. Full stop.
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