The BBC reports from Bangladesh: “Up to half a million Hefazat-e-Islam supporters gathered in the city, where rioters set fire to shops and vehicles…Chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is greatest!”) and “One point! One demand! Atheists must be hanged”, the activists marched down at least six main roads as they headed for Motijheel”.
Half a million. Half a million! Protests after the Dhaka building collapse reached twenty thousand, yet here, for what really matters, are half a million.
What does it say, when less people protested the deaths of over 650 labourers in desperately unsafe working conditions, than march calling for the execution of their fellow countrymen for being atheists? What does this say about priorities, about the distortion of morality, and how have we got here?
Is it not possibly the case that contributing to this desperate display of inhumanity is a religious text that holds lack of belief, above all else, to be the worst possible crime? A text in which the sacrifice of hundreds of lives for profit is forgiveable, but lack of belief in a particular god is not? Does a text that obsesses on the endless torture of non-believers, that goes to great lengths to distance, denigrate and other those who aren’t monotheists, not bare some of the responsibility when hundreds of thousands are more enraged by others holding a contrary opinion than by the suffering of the hundreds killed and thousands injured in the Dhaka building collapse? Must this always be blamed on culture, on politics, on circumstances, must the central ideology always be protected from due criticism and apportioned blame?
And yet I am still asked, regularly, “how can you be moral if you don’t believe?” More suitable would be the retort, how can you be moral if you really do?