Attack on a voice of reason
We condemn the heinous attack on Professor Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal. We are horrified at the audacity of the assailant who stabbed the respected teacher and writer on Saturday. Thankfully, Dr Iqbal is out of danger at the moment, and the assailant is in custody. We hope for a proper investigation of this cowardly attack and that due punishment is meted out to the assailant, and his accomplices, if any.
But the incident brings to the fore yet again several aspects which deserve serious thinking. First, the attack was made on campus, in the presence of law-enforcement personnel. Dr Iqbal is among those in Bangladesh who have received death threats in the past for their outspoken stance on many issues, including militancy. At the time of the attack, he had police protection. Yet, not only did the attacker manage to get up close to Dr Iqbal with a weapon, but also to stab him multiple times. How was this possible? Dr Iqbal was provided police protection precisely to prevent such incidents—the police must take due responsibility and investigate if there was any negligence and where they failed. However the home minister has already denied any police negligence without any inquiry into the incident.
The love and respect for Dr Zafar Iqbal is evident from the collective condemnation of the attack by professors, intellectuals, his students and readers. His role in popularising science education is unmatched. He is known for his stance against intolerance, injustices and the hatred preached by fundamentalist groups. He has been a vocal proponent over the years of the ideals of our Liberation War. But, all this has clearly earned him enemies. The assailant reportedly attacked the professor because he was an "enemy of Islam." Like in the series of attacks on bloggers and writers in the past few years, misinterpretation of religion was used to justify the attack. This intolerance of opinion and tendency to respond to things one does not agree with through violence must be condemned and stopped. Preventive measures such as deradicalisation, promotion of tolerance and acceptance of multiplicity of opinions must be promoted with all our energy. This incident serves as a reminder to the authorities of the immediate need of addressing these issues.