LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tanay Majumder, a policeman, were hacked to death in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, Monday night. Though the attackers fled without being identified, police believe they were radical Islamists—a local news broadcaster who witnessed the attack said that at least five men were involved and that they chanted “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) as they departed the scene.
Mannan was an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the editor of Bangladesh’s first gay rights magazine, Roopbaan. U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat mourned Mannan’s death in a statement released Monday and urged the Bangladeshi government, “in strongest terms,” to find and convict his murderers.
These two killings are just the most recent in a series of hostile attacks that have been launched against Bangladeshi bloggers, intellectuals, and atheists since February 2015. Just two days ago, a professor at Rajshahi University, in northwestern Bangladesh, was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus. Earlier this month, a Bangladeshi law student who had voiced secular opinions online was hacked to death with machetes on his way home.
Though Bangladesh has a history of tolerance and secularism, these attacks are thought to stem from a mounting condemnation of the West by religious leaders, including by the conservative religious party Hefazat-e-Islam, which rails against “alien culture” infiltrating the country. Young men exposed to these views have been known to attack people they see as agents of the West. As these attacks become more frequent, concern is growing that the extremists are gaining influence.
In November 2015, the United States issued a travel alert for Bangladesh. Now it is considering granting refuge to a number of bloggers and intellectuals. Whatever course of action the United States decides to take, it needs to be taken soon, before these attacks become even more commonplace.