At least one Canadian is on a so-called global hit list of bloggers put out by Bangladeshi jihadist group Ansarullah which has vowed to take action against those it deems to have denigrated Islam.

The group named Raihan Abir editor of the Bengali-English blog Mukto-Mona, which has other Canadian contributors writing under pseudonyms among its stable of 300 writers from around the world.

Mukto-Mona started as an online discussion circle, but has now evolved into a social movement through blogs, activism and research. In English, the literal dictionary translation of "Muktomona" is freethinker. 

Prominent in the list is Bengali author Taslima Nasreen, who is presently staying under police protection in India, after fleeing Bangladesh 21 years ago in the face of death threats and fatwas from fundamentalists.

The list includes names of Abdul Ghaffar Choudhury (London), Dawood Haider (Germany), Banya Ahmed (US), Asif Mohiuddin (Germany), Ananya Azad (Germany), Omer Farooq Luqs (Germany), Farzana Kabir Khan (Germany), Naastiker Dharmakatha (Germany), Foring Camelia (Germany), Qamrul Hassan (London), Sushanta Dasgupta (London), Arifur Rehman(london), Ajanta Debroy (London), Maneer Hassan (Birmingham), Shantanu Adeeb (London), Nijhoom Majumdar (London), Rumala Hashem (London), Raihan Abir (Canada) and Nirjhar Majumdar (Sweden).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There have been reports in the media recently that Ansarullah activists are trying to cross over from Bangladesh to India to target Taslima Nasreen.[/quote]

At the bottom of the list, the extremist group Ansarullah has issued the following chilling threat: "Enemies of Islam and madrassa education, atheists, anti-Islamic apostates, Shahbagi bloggers, acting on behalf of India, are trying to set obstacles in the path of establishment of Islamic caliphate. We demand that the Bangladesh government cancel the citizenship of such enemies of Islam, otherwise we will liquidate them wherever we find them across the world. Our jihad will continue, Inshallah. Amen. - Ansarullah Bangla Team".

There have been reports in the media recently that Ansarullah activists are trying to cross over from Bangladesh to India to target Taslima Nasreen.
Ansarullah believes in the ideology of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based al-Qaeda activist, and has been involved in the gruesome murders of at least four Bangladeshi freethinkers and bloggers including US-based Bengali writer Avijit Roy and blogger Washiqur Rahman.

Taslima Nasreen tweeted: "Ansarullah Team that killed B'deshi atheist bloggers just published global hit list of bloggers. My name is in the list." She has attached the photo of the hit list.

Police have linked Ansarullah Bangla Team to the recent murders of five secularist bloggers in Bangladesh, and arrested seven of its members, Dhakar police joint Commissioner Monirul Islam said.

He said there was little threat to society within Bangladesh, where more than 90 per cent of the 160 million people are practising Muslims, Asia Times reported.

Fear for the future

Many intellectuals, especially among the Bangladeshi diaspora, do fear for the future however, and worry that the South Asian country could be seen as a safe destination for radical Islamists if the blogger killers are not caught and prosecuted.

Four of the bloggers were killed this year alone.

Bangladeshi-born U.S. writer Avijit Roy was hacked to death by unidentified assailants on February 26 when leaving a university book fair in Dhaka with his wife.

Oyeshekur Rahman Babu, an atheist writer, was chopped to death in central Dhaka on March 30, after he criticized Islam, followed by the killing of science writer Ananta Bijoy Das in a similar attack in the north-eastern city of Sylhet on May 12.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who campaigns for secularism beside Islam as a state religion, was criticized for requesting local bloggers and activists “not to cross the limit” over sensitive religious issues after blogger Niladri Chattapadhay was killed in another gruesome murder in Dhaka on August 7.

Writers around the world chime in

For critics, the government’s stance seems like double standards.

More than 150 writers from around the world, including Canada, issued an open letter this week to the Bangladeshi government after the killing of Ananta Bijoy Das.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][F]reedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution and one of the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[/quote]

The writers including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and Colm Tóibín, in the letter said freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution and one of the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It called Bangladesh to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in the South Asian country in line with Bangladesh’s obligations under national and international laws.

Lux said the death list was nothing new, and warned that the extremists could also strike others.

Like others who received it by email, he has taken precautions, he said, and is under German police protection.

The role of the government

Religion and secularism have frequently clashed in Bangladesh’s recent history.

Secularism was one of the basic principles of Bangladesh’s constitution when the Muslim-majority part of the then Pakistan (East Pakistan) became independent after a bloody war in 1971.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Whatever the official status of Islam, the individual’s freedom of expression must be protected, says Arifur Rahman, a writer living in London.[/quote]

But military-chief-turned-president Ziaur Rahman began the process of Islamizing the constitution after the assassination of Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Ziaur Rahman gave way to the Islamists, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami party which opposed Bangladesh during the war.

Military dictator Hussein Muhammad Ershad, who took over shortly after Ziaur Rahman’s murder in 1981, formalized Islam as the state religion in 1988.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Mujibur Rahman’s daughter, brought back secularism in the constitution in 2011, while keeping Islam as the state religion.

With the political stakes high in Bangladesh’s sharply divided politics, analysts say Hasina would never put her popularity at risk by repealing the state religion.

Whatever the official status of Islam, the individual’s freedom of expression must be protected, says Arifur Rahman, a writer living in London.

The government had a duty to “create an atmosphere where everyone can express their opinion without fear,” he said.

Re-published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in South Asia

by Hadani Ditmars (@HadaniDitmars) in Vancouver

As the Academy Award nominations briefly usurp global terror headlines, I recall how watching events unfold in Paris last week was a somewhat cinematic experience.

More often than not, it was a bad B movie. Images of a femme fatale terrorist Hayat Boumeddiene – alternately a Bond girl in bikini turned fantasy villain in niqab and cross bow (cross bow!? really?) – were surreal at best, grotesque at worst.

There were some definite Hollywood moments – including the police stand offs, the hostage taking and even a few unlikely heroes, like the Muslim worker at the kosher deli who saved his fellow citizens by hiding them in a freezer.

It was a thriller of a movie that kept much of the “free world” glued to CNN and culminated with a march that saw world leaders – many of them perpetrators of gross violations of freedom of expression in their own countries – link arms in solidarity with the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

And it was myopic in the extreme – what about Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the 17 Palestinian journalists killed by Israeli forces during the attack on Gaza last year that killed over 2,100 people, the Palestinian cartoonist recently released from prison who was critical of both Hamas and Netanyahu, or the journalists locked in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s new gulags in Cairo? And what about the hundreds of Iraqi journalists (including cartoonists) murdered since the invasion in 2003 (Iraq has consistently been the most dangerous country for journalist for years), unmourned by the world at large, or their Syrian colleagues caught in a half-decade-long nightmare fuelled by proxy militias funded by international players?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][H]ow was it that the Kouachi brothers just happened to conveniently leave their ID lying around for the police to discover? Or, that they had apparently been on the radar of French intelligence for years?[/quote]

Of course, we’ve come to accept myopia from Hollywood. But even by the usual standards, there were more than a few cracks in this narrative, not to mention some thin plotlines.

How was it possible that the killers of the cartoonists, the Kouachi brothers – linked to kosher deli hostage taker Amedy Coulibaly by a dodgy video broadcast to the world after the attack – were working in tandem with a rival jihadist group? The Kouachi brothers claimed to represent al-Qaeda in Yemen, while Coulibaly claimed to be with Islamic State (IS) – two factions currently at each other’s throats in Syria.

And how was it that the Kouachi brothers just happened to conveniently leave their ID lying around for the police to discover? Or, that they had apparently been on the radar of French intelligence for years? Or, that police killed them all before due process might determine whom they were working for and why. Or, that the head of the local police investigation happened to kill himself a few days after the attack? It all began to resemble an Islamist version of Three Days of the Condor meets The Battle of Algiers.

Emotional truth in film

My cinematic lens on the scenario can be blamed on the fact that I watched it all unfold whilst attending the Palm Springs International Film Festival, mainly on the flat screen television in my mid-century modernist hotel room deep in the desert. But just as on September 11, 2001, when I found myself in the middle of a cultural festival in Jordan celebrating East meets West (we all carried on, trancelike, with a scheduled performance of Sufi chanting at the Citadel), there was something oddly comforting about sitting in a darkened theatre with strangers watching world cinema.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]...After so much of [journalism] has been compromised by official stenography and disinformation campaigns, perhaps the emotional truth of cinema is more reliable.[/quote]

Discerning what is real and what isn’t used to be a job for journalists. But after so much of that profession has been compromised by official stenography and disinformation campaigns, perhaps the emotional truth of cinema is more reliable.

When I lived in Paris from 1994 to ’96, and wrote about cinema for Sight and Sound magazine, it was the era of cinema de banlieue and of films like Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine  and Malik Chibane’s Douce France that celebrated suburban anti-heroes, many from immigrant backgrounds, and many of whom were becoming radicalized.

It was also the era of FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), when hundreds of Algerian intellectuals fled death threats from an Islamist group many claim was actually fed by the regime, and faced the same very real racism that 10 per cent of France’s population deals with every day.

Echoes of Ferguson

Selma, which opened the Palm Springs Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, with its compelling chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965, seemed uncanny in its post Ferguson timing. Particularly with its depiction of the live broadcast of state troopers beating peaceful black protestors as a key turning point in the struggle – a timely reminder of the power of the image.

Dancing Arabs, an Israeli film by Eran Riklis based on two novels by Palestinian writer Sayed Kashua, spoke to the civil rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, some 20 per cent of the population whose struggle resonates in some ways with that of North African youth in France. The film’s protagonist, a young man who must assume the identity of his dying Israeli classmate in order to keep a job and a tenuous place in society, reminded me of the francization of minorities in France and the intolerance of “difference” vs. the more Anglo-Saxon idea of “multiculturalism” (where you have community representatives who keep tabs on people for the authorities, as was explained to me by a young maghrebin organizer in Paris, who kept a low profile to avoid police harassment).

Timbuktu, a sublime piece of cinema about the Islamist take over of Mali in 2012 by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako – nominated for an Oscar – offered a nuanced, lyrical approach to the whole issue of extremism and intolerance. Through a series of powerful images, ranging from a group of schoolboys playing a phantom game of soccer with no football (banned as “un-Islamic”) to a Malian musician being whipped for her art and singing through her tears, to a former follies bergeres dancer turned local mad woman standing tall and proud in a ragged costume blocking a jeep full of armed men, in gorgeous defiance, the film showed how foreign the jihadi culture is to traditional Malian, Sufi influenced Islam.

Just as foreign as Wahhabist extremism is to kids from French ghettos whose parents emigrated from the Maghreb. Just as foreign as IS is to traditional Iraqi culture: “Who are these people?” an Iraqi friend asked recently, “they don’t even speak Arabic.” And just as foreign as the National Security Agency (NSA) is to the U.S. constitution.

Cry from the heart

In my fantasy Hollywood ending to the march in Paris, all those world leaders linking arms will spend the next several years visiting widows and orphans in Iraq and Syria and Gaza and the dispossessed in inner-city ghettos from Detroit to Marseilles, consoling and offering their heartfelt apologies to the relatives of drone strike victims in Yemen and Pakistan, of journalists murdered in less telegenic climes and the victims of warlordism in Afghanistan and of torture and extraordinary rendition. In my dream, Je Suis Charlie will become a global cri de coeur for actual liberté, egalité and fraternité.

In the meantime, celluloid dreams aside, we still have culture as a form of self-defence, and as a reminder of what’s real. Just as the final image of Timbuktu – a jihadist secretly practising a beautiful, fragile dance of his own creation – suggests: Peut-être je ne suis pas Charlie, mais certainment je suis humaine.

Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq, a past editor at New Internationalist, and has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades. A fifth generation Canadian of mixed ancestry, she lived in Paris in the 90's and wrote for Sight and Sound and The Independent. Her next book is a political travelogue of ancient sites in Iraq.

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Tahir Aslam Gora

"Down Down Harper": one could hear those rants by a bunch of radical Canadian Muslims in Downtown Toronto in the Al Quds Rally last Saturday.

They were not calling "Down Down Harper" due to their internal political conflicts based on Canadian issues with Harper government. They were denouncing their own Prime Minister for not supporting, according to them, the liberation of Jerusalem from Israel.

That's what Al Quds Day is all about.

They create a mess in the month of August every year and give a bad name to Islam and create a false image of Muslims that Islam is a religion of violence and Canadian Muslims are the people who care more about conflicts in the Middle East and hatred against "Zionists" than their own livelihood in Canada.

They do so in the name of freedom of expression but they are not willing to accept same rights of freedom of expression for their opponents.

However, it's not all about freedom of expression. There is a fine line between freedom of expression and hatred propaganda.

Every year, Al Quds rally seems set on on provoking violence and hate against Jews community and Canada, directly and indirectly.

"We have to give them an ultimatum. You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine...When somebody tries to rob a bank the police get in, they don't negotiate and we have been negotiating with them for 65 years. We say get out or you are dead. We give them two minutes and then we start shooting and that's the only way they'll understand," those were the violent provoking words uttered by Elias Hazineh, former President Palestinian House, in last Saturday's Al Quds Rally.

In response to such statements and hate provoked rallies, when Islamists see banners in the hands of Jewish Defense League members that read 'Islam inconsistent with Canadian values' or 'stop Islamic terrorism' they should not blame JDL because Islamists are the ones who are bringing that bad image to Islam and Muslims.

Unfortunately, these Islamists are continuously staging anti-Jewish movement in Toronto, particularly.

I happened to write a piece on this complex issue a while ago in the Huffington Post.

This Al Quds rally is a clear exhibit of Antisemitism.

There is another serious concern in the wake of growing anti Jewish movement in Toronto that Islamists have started introducing young kids as hate-mongering speakers now.

"Israel is a cadence of falsehood and falsehood was bound to perish. And I stand on these words, that Israel is an illegal, terrorizing, racist group, which works for the destruction of humanity and peace in the world," said a young Canadian Muslims boy in the rally.

There is certainly a challenge not for just Harper government or ruling conservative party, also for Liberals, NDP and law enforcement agencies that we are witnessing hatred from Islamist towards Israel, Jews, India, Hindus, the USA etc., day and night.

The whole Al Quds rally is becoming a saga of hate against Jews and Israel.

Pakistani diplomats are spewing their hate against India and Hindus at a very low level.

Those Islamists with the back of some diplomats are not serving to Islam, Muslims, Pakistan or Middle East. They are helping create negative tone against Islam, Muslims, Pakistan and Middle East.

Our political parties and law enforcement agencies must look into the matter very seriously. -- New Canadian Media

Tahir Aslam Gora is a Canadian-Pakistani writer, novelist, poet, journalist, editor, translator and publisher. He is the founder of ‘Canadian Thinkers’ Forum’ ‘Progressive Muslims Institute Canada’ and ‘Muslim Committee Against Antisemitism.’ He contributes regularly to various European and American media outlets including Huffington Post. He is currently at work on two manuscripts; one about Islam, the other titled "Understanding Canadian Multiculturalism." Follow him on Twitter:

Published in Commentary

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved