The Bangladesh Blogger Murders

Bangladesh is known to the world to be a secular, democratic Islamic nation, yet increasingly so there has been a growing intolerance to its non-Muslim and atheist bloggers. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seem to be carefully monitored so that especially prominent and public critics of Islam can be brought to book and in extreme cases murdered.
Enclosed below is a link to the BBC World documentary highlighting the most recent examples. For those not residing in the UK, perhaps the mini documentary has been uploaded onto YouTube so just punch into the search bar ‘BBC Our World: The Bangladesh Blogger Murders’.

Sustained Persecution of Hussain family: 2000-2006

It hurts my heart to sit here and write about the hellish experience these past 15 years have been for my family. Those of you who read my very first blog post ‘Abnormal Normality’  (  ) will know that I gave a brief insight into growing up as an apostate in Bradford. That abnormal normality continues to present day and it can be absolutely exhausting. I can’t fully express it in writing nor in conversation as you soon become numb to it, or ‘battle hardened’ as Dad terms it.
From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden. For example.
Our youngest sister was born in 2001 but the memory of her birth was overridden by an incident that has always stuck in my mind. Dad’s car had been written off yet again and had to use a friend’s car to take my older brother to Boys Brigade at a local church. He stayed with my brother, leaving me (7), sisters 5, 3 and a baby with my mother. As soon as my dad pulled away from our street the tirade of abuse and intimidation began. They had our home under siege, circling in their cars, trashing the front of our property with debris and swearing at Mum, who, unable to dial for the police on the phone held a baby in one arm whilst holding a phone in the other; panic-stricken and paralysed for those 3 whole hours. All of us were petrified, our eyes fixated on the men standing below the bedroom window.
Dad returned with my brother a few hours later, witnessing our tormentors speeding off and took in our frozen expressions. As my Dad called up to my Mum to ask her what had been happening, one of the ringleaders who lived 3 doors down from us, shot out of his car to make his way home. I don’t know what came over my father but he finally snapped. Years of having to endure pure, animalistic behaviour, years of police ignorance, fear and refusal to help one Christian convert family in the face of a bigger Muslim community had taken its toll on him. Over the years these anti-Christian men had witnessed police inaction and openly took advantage of their self-proclaimed domination and subjugation of us. Over the years they’d grown to be audacious and invincible.
Dad finally snapped. I remember looking at a man who had tried so desperately to abide by his Christian principles of forgiveness and mercy be overruled by the need to protect his four daughters. He lunged at this ringleader, laying into him time and time again until it took my brother’s plea of ‘Daddy, Daddy please, stop, you’re going to kill him’ to bring him back to his senses. As he picked himself off the ground and led my brother back to the house, the ringleader pulled out his phone. Minutes later 6 cars screeched to a halt outside our home, packed with Pakistani Muslim men from the local and surrounding communities.
Utter carnage followed. What must have been at least 30 men advanced towards our front door, armed with knives, wheel braces, chains and other weaponry I couldn’t identify as a 7 year old. They were seething and bloodthirsty. An infidel had humiliated a fellow Muslim brother and for that his whole family would pay. I distinctly remember Dad running into the kitchen searching for a suitable, sturdy knife. His words of ‘I’m going to die tonight, but I’m going to take as many of them with me’ echoes in my head today. What man would allow a stampede into his own home, into a living room containing 5 young children, 1 of which was newly born?
I shoved my younger sisters into the back kitchen and shut the door. Peering through the crack I saw my mother wrestling the knife out of my father’s hand, having already called the police. They were outside by now, two police cars and 1 riot van but due to the hoardes of people surrounding them, they were unable to get out. The mob had immobilised the officers. When they finally emerged and dispersed the crowd, due to numerous ‘independent witness statements’ alleging Dad as the perpetrators; they came and arrested him and it was the first time we’d witnessed our father handcuffed and taken into police custody. I couldn’t understand why the police had only arrested one ringleader and his sister especially given the context of the weaponry and the obvious intent to storm into our home. Being too young to understand that Dad would eventually be returned to us, we couldn’t be comforted and I was convinced I wouldn’t see him again. I felt a change in my siblings, we became officially traumatised. I can’t speak for my siblings but that day in January 2003 was when I lost belief in the concept of justice.
As children we were incapable of functioning normally and were all assigned personal care by Bradford social services for the next few years until it came to an end. It takes a Pakistani, an ex-Muslim to understand the mentality behind our persecution and the sympathetic faces and words of the family service unit could never penetrate into the heart of the problem.
Our family vehicle became accustomed to regular drive-by brickings, but not content with smashing the car, they torched it one night. The ringleader responsible for this walked up to Dad in October 2003 to spit into his face ‘you’ve seen what we’ve done to your car, now we’re gonna burn you out of your house’. True to form we were effectively burned out of our house a few weeks later. The property directly adjacent to us had been vacant for years and the lower window was broken into before the house was set alight, in the hope the flames would spread to our property. My brother smelt the smoke first, alerting my dad who ran out to the front of our home. Next door’s windows had smoke bellowing out, with the glass cracking under the pressure of the heat. He realised that the fire was intended for us when he saw our persecutors gathered together on the street, waving at him and jeering, clinking their glasses and celebrating.
The fire brigade came within two minutes of being called but not before our whole house was smothered in thick, pungent smoke that stifled our senses. We couldn’t see nor breathe and I remember locating all of my siblings as we collapsed on the ground, sobbing and choking. It is hard to take myself back to that spot on the living room floor, with our arms outstretched to the nearest sibling holding on for dear life, while we buried our faces into our laps. I remember thanking God my mother and baby sister had been away at a women’s conference for I was sure my then 13 month year old sister could well have been killed. We were forced to flee to the nearest vicarage for a week’s worth of safety and sanity, sat in a strange location with the only familiarity being that of the family photo albums my mother refused to leave without.
We were permanently forced out of our home in 2006 and enjoyed a 2 year break from daily persecution, getting on famously with the Pakistani Muslims in our new community, as they assumed us to be Muslims also. For obvious reasons we never corrected those assumptions. However we were thrown back into the net of anti-Christian venom in the aftermath of the 2008 Dispatches Documentary my family partook in entitled ‘Unholy War’,  ( ) where it became publicly known we were a convert Christian family.
I will be posting an account of continued and increased persecution of my family from 2008-current day in my subsequent blogs.

Sectarianism in modern Britain

This is an article I’ve pasted onto my blog highlighting the apostasy situation in the UK, written by journalist Iram Ramzan

From Iranian dissidents fearing deportation after seeking asylum from theocracy, to ex-Muslims driven from their homes in Bradford, Iram Ramzan looks at some worrying examples of sectarianism threatening Britain’s reputation for tolerance.

Peyman (not his real name) is to all appearances like any other foreign student in Manchester. He’s 30 years-old, learning English and was drawn to Britain because of its reputation for religious and political pluralism, a sort of default secularism protected by the rule of law. Peyman hopes to become a counsellor after his studies.

But his smiling face hides his desperate situation. In 2010 Peyman fled the Islam Republic of Iran to seek asylum. Unfortunately for him, the authorities did not believe he arrived when he said he did and he had his application rejected. His political and religious views (Peyman is an ex-Muslim and a critic of the theocratic regime) placed him and his family in grave danger. However like many ex-Muslims applying for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution Peyman found this difficult to prove and is still appealing his case.

“[In Iran] they had proof I was an atheist, that I was against Islam and against the Ayatollah. But here I don’t have proof to get refugee status.”

Peyman fears being made homeless again if he loses his right to accommodation and the potentially deadly possibility of being deported to Iran. Under the theocratic regime political and religious dissent is often conflated, mirroring the fusion of state and religious power, and blasphemy/apostasy are common charges against dissidents.

Peyman’s Kurdish-Iranian family have more experience of this than many. After the revolution in 1979, the regime would round up any dissidents. His older brother was imprisoned and subsequently tortured, as were some of his other relatives for their political activities. Peyman was also beaten at a police station. “Most Iranians hate the government but they can’t say it,” he added.

On August 26 2015, Amnesty International reported that Behrouz Alkhani, a 30-year-old man from Iran’s Kurdish minority, was executed while awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal. A Revolutionary Court had charged him with “effective collaboration with PJAK” (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) and “enmity against God” for his alleged role in the assassination of the Prosecutor of Khoy, West Azerbaijan province.

Iranians were among the top five nationalities applying for asylum in Britain in the year ending June 2015. However, it is difficult to determine how many asylum applications to the UK are based on fear of persecution on the grounds of religion or belief. Some Christian groups have done important work highlighting the cases of Christians (including ex-Muslim Christian converts) facing persecution in the Middle East and/or seeking asylum. But groups supporting atheists and other religious minorities are often less resourced or politically connected.

Iranian-born Maryam Namazie helped found the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain in 2007 to break the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam. Eight years on, it seems that little has changed. Today, apostasy is a crime in 23 out 49 Muslim-majority countries. In Saudi Arabia and Iran it is punishable by death. In some countries, like Pakistan, people are accused of “blasphemy” by their fellow citizens.

Maryam said: “Those accused can be religious, including Muslims, or atheists. They may not have even done anything ‘wrong’; it’s an accusation that can be used by states and others in order to silence, threaten and even murder those deemed ‘undesirable’.”

But persecution of minorities and the enforcement of ‘apostasy’ taboos is also an issue in the UK. Many of those who leave the Islamic faith in this country can often be ostracised from their communities and families. Nissar Hussain (49), a married father-of-six found this out when he admitted he had converted to Christianity following the death of his older brother. His family promptly disowned him, refusing to inform him when his father had died. Even his 45-year-old wife Qubra was horrified at first, but after spending time with his Christian friends from church she also decided to convert to Christianity.

When word of Nissar’s conversion got out “like wildfire”, what initially started out as name calling quickly escalated into acts of vandalism.

After an arson attack on the empty house next door, Nissar decided enough was enough and moved the family to the other side of Bradford, in Manningham. All was fine until he appeared in Channel 4’s Dispatchesprogramme on Christian converts. His Muslim neighbours took offence and he recently had to quit his job as a nurse after he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after 16 years of constant harassment.

“We’re in the frontline, in the trenches,” he said. “The fact that it’s from my own fellow Pakistanis is traumatic. The Pakistani, Muslim community needs to exercise tolerance and goodwill towards converts such as ourselves.

“They took offence, in general, to converts. We’re an offence here. This is a form of terrorism. It’s so very personal. It’s vindictive.”

Nissar worries for the fate of his children, including his Daughter Anniesa – a 21-year-old international relations student at the University of Nottingham, who has blogged about her experiences. Anniesa recalled painful memories of being rushed upstairs after dinner, in anticipation of the next brick through the window. Although the children were not brought up religiously, she says the experience has made her Christian; only her faith, she said, keeps her “sane”.

“We would get called Jew dogs, at school we were told: you’re a kaafir; my mum said I can’t sit next to you,” Anniesa said. “I realised we were different. Mum got asked in the playground, why are you wearing salwar kameez, why aren’t you wearing a mini skirt now you’re not a Muslim? Christianity is equated to whiteness. She said my colour is still the same, I’m still a Pakistani woman.

“I’ve bottled it up. Being the eldest sister you can’t let it show. I see the UK as having become radicalised. Political correctness has allowed this to ferment.”

When Naz Shah MP (Bradford West) was elected it was widely viewed a rejection of sectarian politics and Nissar wrote to his new MP to ask for help. Ms Shah’s office confirmed that they had received the requests for support from Nissar and a multi-agency meeting was held, with ongoing matters being dealt with by the police, though Nissar does not believe enough is being done.

Whether it is young men like Peyman or the Hussain family in Bradford, it is clear religious persecution and sectarianism are issues Britain must grapple with at home and abroad. Our politicians often speak about our tolerant nation and condemn those countries that persecute their minorities. The Government must then uphold the criteria – which includes persecution – for those seeking refugee status. Protecting them is our moral responsibility.

Here in the UK, there are growing numbers of ex-Muslims who can now be helped by various organisations (CEMB and Faith to Faithless to name a few). Such organisations should be given more platforms to talk about the vital work they do to assist not just asylum seekers but British citizens who need their help. Otherwise this sectarianism will threaten Britain’s long-held reputation for tolerance.

Iram Ramzan is a reporter and freelance journalist who writes on politics, foreign affairs, secularism and human rights. You can follow her on Twitter @Iram_Ramzan. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the NSS.

The Killing of Farkhunda

I’ve put off this blog for many weeks. The Blasphemy issue throughout the Muslim world is tiring, open to be manipulated and utilised in order to settle personal scores time and time again. The tune of ‘blasphemy’ ricochets repeatedly with the same end result: imprisonment and/or death. Asia Bibi – my symbol of Christian persecution on this very blog – is a prime example. But however exhausting, however weary-worn it makes one feel, since there are tireless attempts and efforts to persecute, intimidate and subjugate innocent people through this blasphemy farce; then the effort to expose it should be matched and then some. At least that’s what I believe.
I specifically refer to Afghanistan’s latest prolific victim of blasphemy accusations. A 27 year old Islamic scholar’s life was not even given the dignity of being cut short, instead dragged out so agonisingly that it anguished those who watched brief snippets of her ordeal. A life that should never have been stripped away, had the mob of 150 predominantly seething men possessed a mentality of rationality; a need, wanton desire to demand at the very least evidence of the burnt Quran supposedly set alight by the hands of Farkhunda Malikzada.
I initially heard of the fate of Farkhunda when finalising my year of studying abroad and didn’t have the time to follow up on the headlines that exploded concerning her murder. I did assume her to be an Afghan Christian or a member of a religious minority accused of setting fire to Quranic passages, in order to avenge a personal vendetta. The usual. However, I was startled to learn of her deeply devout Islamic beliefs and baffled as to how a caretaker at Shah -e Du Shamshira shrine in Kabul had managed to convince hoards of local men and women, that an Islamic teacher had torched the Quran; some of which would’ve known this young woman, her beliefs, her character.
Those who haven’t watched the BBC documentary of Farkhunda’s ordeal can do so through the link enclosed below. In the BBC’s ‘Killing of Farkhunda’ documentary, 9 minutes are dedicated to her slow murder but is more than enough of an insight into the sheer animalistic nature of her killers and the brutal mercilessness one innocent and helpless Afghan was surrounded by in the face of the murderous mob. They didn’t only disbelieve her pleas that she never burned the Quran but descended upon her, beating, kicking and hurling rocks and stones at her to the point where her niqab had torn away to reveal her bloodied face.
I remember looking at that iconic image that has become ingrained in my mind since and seeing a grief-stricken woman who I feel accepted her fate at that moment. I just feel she knew at that point she was going to die, The frenzy of pain in her eyes is unmistakable and I felt deep love and compassion for a woman I have never known.
Not content with the beating she had already endured, Farkhunda was accused of being ‘an American’ and dragged up to the roof of the Shamshira shrine, thrown off it, ran over by a vehicle and then finally set ablaze and for what? As penance for burning Quranic passages she never did? Blasphemy needs to be addressed. Or rather ‘blasphemy’ does. The world does right to produce the international outcry that it always does when the plight of Farkhundas come to light but the fiery fiasco is quick to simmer down, permitting those imprisoned through accusations of blasphemy to languish, allowing many to be be consumed by mob rule and to be murdered.
There is a deeper implication behind every blasphemy case. Whether we admit it or not there is an intolerant attitude and conduct towards those that are accused of defaming Muhammad, Allah or the Quran. It is approached and handled with absolutism, inevitably leading to extreme results. I always find hypocrisy in the usual claim that ‘Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance‘. Even though I will dissent any person who lauds all Muslims as being of a volatile and violent nature, we have witnessed repeatedly mass crowds worldwide of venemous people, chanting for the death of those accused of blasphemy. Farkhunda is just one recipient of such treatment and is not alive to defend Islam’s ‘peaceful and tolerant’ attitude towards her, when a man she debated with on Islamic grounds took offence at her viewpoint and used
‘blasphemy’ to lure hundreds of local people to reduce her to ashes. Such all too frequent treatment of all those who fall prey to blasphemy is no coincidence.
Nor can the argument that her fate was determined by ‘uneducated people, unaware of the teachings of Islam‘ be utilised here as many Afghanistani leading officials condoned Farkhunda’s killing. The official spokesperson for the Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai said of the situation: ‘Farkhunda thought, like several unbelievers that this kind of action and
insult would get them US/European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life‘. The Deputy Minister for Culture and Information Simiri Ghazal Hasanzada also approved the murder of a woman ‘working for the infidels’. The Chief of the Complaints Commision of the Upper Parliament Zalmai Zabuli posted a picture of Farkhunda’s face with the caption: ‘This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghanistanis only want Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy and spies’. Of course there will be those in the public eye who denounced Farkhunda’s killing, I found Imams who both supported and opposed the crime. However, take note of the few examples mentioned, pay heed to their position in society and their stance on the murder.
There is a climate of intolerance towards those considered ‘Infidels’ or who have committed ‘Infidelic acts’ and the system under which Afghanistani leaders tackles issues such as blasphemy clearly isn’t challenged. Despite police presence during Farkhunda’s ordeal, where was the genuine effort to protect this innocent woman? Why weren’t provisions put in place to safeguard her while her ‘Quranic burning’ was investigated? Why was she allowed to be devoured by wild dogs? And if she had burned the Quran why is death – the symbol of lack of forgiveness -always the favoured option? All this is very telling and none of this is Islamic peace and tolerance. All those complicit in the killing of Farkhunda can never stand on moral ground in crying victim when people doubt and critisise the very principles they adhere to.
Justice hasn’t been served in Farkhunda’s case as it never is. Afghanistan struggles with determining right from wrong in a nation riddled with social, economic and religious corruption and this brutal theft of an otherwise youthful life is a prime example. Instead many women took to the streets of Kabul parading the coffin of Farkhunda and refusing any man to touch the case that contained the remains of her body, chanting ‘where were you the day Farkhunda was attacked and killed by hundreds of men?’
Rightly so.

Persecution on the Rise: Bradford 2014-2015

Hi all,
This will only be a quick post, those who have read my previous post will know that I haven’t been able to post as frequently as I’ve intended to; given that this year of 2014-2015 has marked a significant turn for deeper and perverse persecution towards my family.
The following links enclosed below is a brief description of a few incidents regarding our local Muslim neighbours and my family yet a full account of what life has been like every day this past year is yet to follow. At this moment in time I cannot post the full testimony as there are investigations ongoing (according to the Police) but am intending to release this lengthy blog within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, please find below 2 newspaper articles written about my family in the past month by the Barnabas Fund, a fantastic Christian organisation that works solely for the Persecuted Church and whose expertise lies in the plight of converts to Christianity and apostasy around the globe.
Continue to bear us in prayer,
God Bless.