Ansar Ahmed Ullah Contributing Editor, Shottobani
London: A meeting of community activists was held to discuss extremism, terrorism and defending secular bloggers & free thinkers on Tuesday 25 April 2017 at the Micro Business Centre, Banglatown, East London.
The meeting was chaired by Julie Begum from the Swadhinata Trust who outlined the purpose of the meeting as to explore Islamist network, Islamist violence & its impact, to assist victims of Islamist threats/attacks and to assist defenders of bloggers, secular activists & free thinkers. Panel guests included Prof Chetan Bhatt from London School of Economics – Centre for Human Rights studies who briefed about the overall project under taken by the Nirmul Committee to assist bloggers. Suresh Grover of the Monitoring Project said what help they can provide. Bob Churchill, Director of Communications, of International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) provided the South Asian perspective. Nirmul Committee’s Acting President Syed Enam made introductory speech outlying the background to the project. Panel members said we have witnessed and documented for many years the sophisticated manoeuvrings of the international religious right.
Following the presentations by guest speakers Julie Begum opened the meeting for question & answer sessions from audience especially bloggers. Participants in the discussion included Nirmul Committee’s Vice President Ishaque Kajol, Gonojagoron Moncho’s Ajanta Dev Roy, Syeda Naznin Sultana Shikha, M A Rauf, Muhammad Yahya, lawyer Pia Mayenin, Nirmul Committee’s International Secretary Pushpita Gupta, Salim Mahmud and Nijhoom Mazumder amongst others.
They said since the secular Awami League led- alliance came to power in 2008 in Bangladesh and the formation of ICT (International Crimes Tribunal) in 2010, Islamist attacks on bloggers, secular activists, free thinkers and members of minority faith communities both in Bangladesh and the UK have increased. They added Tower Hamlets Council and Tower Hamlets Police have not taken the issue of Islamism seriously. There have been several meetings with police including the Borough Commanders with no results. Young people from this borough, including the four girls were drawn by extremism yet the community is being kept in dark both by the Council & the police. The community aren’t aware what the Council or police are doing to prevent further young people being drawn to extremism or how they are combating Islamism/extremism.
The meeting which was organised by the UK Nirmul Committee in association with the Swadhinata Trust and supported by the Network for Social Change. The meeting was called to discuss as a community what can be done to challenge extremist narrative, what can be done to defend bloggers & activists who are under threat.
A short video made by Gonojagoron Moncho UK of bloggers killed so far by the Islamist were shown. In addition, the meeting announced publication of a directory to assist the bloggers and those under threat.