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Pre-print of Dr. Avijit Roy’s final article for Free Inquiry, to be published in the upcoming April/May issue:
***  “The Virus of Faith” [free PDF-download]  *** 

The Virus of Faith 
by Avijit Roy (1972 - 26 Feb 2015)

Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms.
—Salman Rushdie

On January 7, 2015, the world witnessed a tragic atrocity committed by soldiers of the so-called religion of peace when two masked Islamists armed with assault rifles entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo (a French satirical weekly newspaper) and killed twelve people, including two police officers, three cartoonists, and seven journalists. The gunmen were heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.” A mere three weeks before, on December 16, 2014, nine gunmen affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban conducted a terrorist attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. They entered a school, opened fire, and killed 145 people, 132 of whom were schoolchildren.

To me, such religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus. My own recent experiences in this regard verify the horrific reality that such religious extremism is a “virus of faith.”

It all started with a book. A national book fair (popularly known as the Ekushey Book Fair) is held every February in Bangladesh. Newly published books are displayed in more than five hundred stalls. Literally thousands of people come to the fair every day and enjoy buying new books. Publishers start preparing for this event quite early as they try to get their books ready for the frenzy of the fair. One of my recent publishers, Jagriti Prakashani, timed the publication of my book Biswasher Virus (Bengali for "The Virus of Faith") to coincide with the book fair of 2014.

As soon as the book was released, it rose to the top of the fair’s bestseller list. At the same time, it hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists. 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. A well-known extremist by the name of Farabi Shafiur Rahman openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook statuses. 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.”

Continue reading: full-text PDF-download

Dr. Avijit Roy was a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the freethought movement in Bangladesh. He was well-known for his writings on his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona — an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent. As an advocate of atheism, science, and metaphysical naturalism, he published eight Bengali books, and many of his articles have been published in magazines and journals. His last two books, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), have been critically well-received and are popular Bengali books on science, skepticism, and rationalism. At press time, we learned that Dr. Roy was killed and his wife injured by unknown assailants while visiting Bangladesh.
Tags: religion
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