Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Al-Qaeda takes responsibility for killing a USAID worker and gay rights activist in Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi mourners at the funeral of  Xulhaz Mannan, a gay rights activist. AP.

Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Bangladesh, Ansar al-Islam, have taken credit of the murder of two gay rights activists. AP. Xulhaz Mannan, was murdered along with his friend, actor Tanay Majumder. A third person, a security guard, was also injured in the attack, which involved five young male attackers. Mannan was an outspoken gay rights activist who in 2014 created the first gay magazine for the country. He also worked with the US embassy under the USAID program. Homosexuality is illegal in Bangladesh, but the government initially blamed the opposition party for the attack. The murders come on the heels of multiple murders of secular and atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. 

My Comment:
Americans like to act like gays are still incredibly oppressed in the United States. To some degree that is true, but it is nothing compared to what is going on in the Muslim world. Even though there are still many hate crimes here, they always inspire outrage across the political spectrum. Indeed, I think plenty of Christian conservatives would condemn these attacks out of hand. Even the ones that think that homosexuality is evil would mostly like gay people to change their behavior, and would not advocate murdering them outright. Thought that stance, and even more tolerant ones such as live and let live, exist in Muslim countries as well, my impression is that there are lot more intolerant Muslims then there are intolerant Christians, at least during the 21st century. 

These murders are not surprising at all. Bangladesh doesn't like homosexuals all that much, but al-Qaeda takes it quite a bit further. Indeed, al-Qaeda and even ISIS have been rather active in Bangladesh lately. Unlike in other countries, where major, spectacular terrorist attacks seem to be the main tactic, Islamic terrorist groups in Bangladesh  tend to go with the assassination route. Their targets aren't just homosexuals, but atheists and secularists as well. We have seen some of this in the West, especially for attacks aimed at people that make Mohammad cartoons, but it seems to be a primary tactic for al-Qaeda in Bangladesh. Given the success of this and other attacks in the country, I wouldn't be surprised if the tactic spread to other countries and terrorist groups. 

Indeed, blogging is a very dangerous habit to have in Bangladesh. As a blogger myself, that angers me. I know there might be a few people in the world that might want to murder me for what I have said here (posting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in the past would be enough), but I don't actually have to fear for my life. If I was in Bangladesh I don't know if I would still be doing this. If the wrong person read my blog while I lived in that country, I could be in trouble. The most I fear by writing this blog is some social justice warrior sending a twitter mob after me. That would be extremely annoying but nothing compared to being murdered... 

I am always disgusted by attacks on free speech and this is pretty clearly a case of that happening. Mannan was an advocate for political change and his magazine was helping to organize followers. By killing him, al-Qaeda has weakened the gay rights movement in Bangladesh quite significantly and will likely prevent other people from speaking out. I completely disagree with this kind of thinking, no matter who it comes from. Ideas should be allowed to expressed no matter who doesn't like it. If the radical Muslims think it is obvious that gay people are wrong, then they should make the argument, not kill people. But asking for that is just wishful thinking... 

The relationship between Islam and homosexuality is an interesting one. Officially it's prohibited, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of gay Muslims. They just tend to stay in the shadows, especially in countries like Bangladesh. My guess is that homosexuality is as common in Muslim countries as it is anywhere else, it's just that they can't live openly. 

That's not what a lot of these people in these countries believe though. There is a rather large conspiracy theory that homosexuality is a Western perversion and that we are spreading it there in an effort to weaken Islam. I don't buy the reasoning, but it's clear to me that there is a bit of truth to it. After all, you can't tell me that Mannan wasn't at least getting encouragement from the US government. I don't think it is a controversial statement that expanding gay rights globally is a goal for our current president. It isn't to destroy the Muslim world though, it's just because our government cares about gay rights. 

Do I think it is a wise idea for us to be doing this? I am not sure. Of course I don't think it is right that gay people are getting murdered and it's really stupid that Bangladesh still makes homosexuality illegal. But I also think that pushing gay rights onto the Muslim world plays into their conspiracy theories about the west. If it fails, there will be a whole lot of resentment... and a lot of dead activists. 

No comments:

Post a Comment