Renowned science fiction and children’s stories author, activist and professor Muhammad Zafar Iqbal was stabbed on 3 March 2018 before he was set to take the stage at a science festival at a university in the city of Sylhet in north-eastern Bangladesh, reported Deutsche Welle.
After the attack, the writer was flown to a military hospital in Dhaka, but his life was not endangered. A student at an Islamic school, Faizur Rahman, claimed he attacked the writer because Iqbal was “an enemy of Islam”, reported Reuters.
“Freemuse condemns this act of violence against the artist, for any reason, including religious disagreements. Artists in Bangladesh are caught between powerful government authorities and influential non-state actors, who often target writers and publishers. We call on authorities to live up to human rights obligations to protect artists and the plurality of opinion,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
Rahman was arrested after the attack, but was first taken to a hospital for treatment as he was attacked by students after the stabbing.
Initial investigations have found evidence that Rahman may be connected with the right-wing forum named Dawah Ilallah, an internet forum run by banned Bangladeshi group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and Ansar al-Islam, which were reportedly also responsible for the deadly attacks against secular bloggers in 2015, reported Al Jazeera.
Iqbal’s wife, Yasmin Haque claimed that her husband had authored more than 200 books, but none of them had “anything that goes against the Islammic sentiment”.
Upon his release from hospital on 14 March, Iqbal invited those who disagreed with him to talk to him if they had any confusion about him and his writings, reported Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star.
For additional information on the silencing environment artists face in Bangladesh and wider issues of artistic freedom of expression worldwide, read Freemuse’s newly published The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report.