By Lisa Rodrigues, Global LGBT, London
We are here to talk to Mr. Muhaiminul Biswas Parvez who is one of the pioneer thinking atheists and LGBT rights activists from Bangladesh. We will be talking about his works as an atheist blogger as well as his concern about the LGBT community.
G-LGBT-N: Mr. Parvez, please tell us about your own journey to becoming an atheist blogger and a dedicated contributor to the rights of the LGBT community.
Parvez: Well, I have started writing in early 2019. Which is not a considerably very long time. But even being born in a Muslim household or family I guess I had always felt that there are certain elements of religion that seemed questionable to me. However, a religious upbringing in Bangladesh doesn’t always allow one to raise any moral arguments on religion. In other words, it is considered a sin in Islam if someone questions Allah’s will or commands. As usual in my case, such an attitude has always kept me from searching the answers to those sinful questions. But that had changed with a very traumatic Incident of my life in mid-2018. Although I belonged to a strict Muslim household, my education and experience of living in a secular country like the UK did allow me to liberate myself to some extent even before I completely denounced my religion. It was like one is choosing to keep his/her eyes closed even though he/she might have the vision of light. In 2018 when my father threatened me and I was disowned by my family, I have had to reevaluate everything that I had known so far. I was alone and also desperate to share what had happened to me and how; because of the religion I had been judged by my own family. After putting my story out there I had found many others with similar experiences. Thousands of people had been wrongfully prosecuted because simply what they believed in or how they wanted to live their life. After coming across these inspiring people with a similar background of struggle, I decided to put my thoughts down onto paper and start writing for what I believed was right.
G-LGBT-N: We have seen you criticizing religion and verses of the Quran before. But you come from a religious background, how was the journey from there to being a secular writer and activist.
Parvez: I haven’t read much of the Quran growing up, at least not more than what was required by the Islamic teachings of school or that was forced upon by my parents. But even then I wasn’t quite dedicated to understanding the content, let alone doubting or trying to find the justification of it. Because in a Muslim family or environment, it is taught from a very early age that certain things about Allah and his will or commands should not be questioned. Even though it is meant to be for one’s own good, but disobeying those commands will be a major punishable sin. Now the concept of the punishments which are presented in the book or taught in the school; and the implications of it on a mind of a child is quite the subject itself to be discussed. But that is most often the reason for the majority of the people that have grown up in an Islamic society who takes their religious teaching for granted from an early age.
G-LGBT-N: You admitted that your writing activity is considerably recent, what do you think that brings such attention towards your content?
Parvez: I realized that I started getting severe attention from readers in support or against my content after a few posts on (different atheist blog sites). I was surprised and overwhelmed by people’s responses. Many from Bangladesh had appreciated for taking a bold approach towards the norm, others have sympathized to my circumstances. I was also contacted by several religious extremist groups or Islamists who threatened to kill me if I carried on my work. It is true that all these negative, as well as positive reaction, has only made me more motivated towards my cause. It has also made me realize that there is a growing number of people who can ignite the tyranny and limitation that is created by religion or Islamism on a social level.
G-LGBT-N: Would you like to share with us your concerns about the limitations that are in place due to religious sentiment among people in Bangladesh?
Parvez: I think in a modern world one cannot hide from the tragic obstacles that are placed by the radical religious sentiment. Muslims consider that one of the reasons for the revelation of the Quran is to make communities workable. However, in reality, exercising these extreme measures for social problems does not contribute to creating workable communities; instead, it more naturally leads to social distress. Take homosexuality for example. Throughout different verses of the Quran and Prophet, it has made God’s unacceptance for homosexuality comprehensible. Hadiths like “Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets if be done to him.” (Tirmidhi, a sahih (authentic) hadith) or “May Allah curse him who does that Lot’s people did.” (Ibn Hibban, sahih (authentic)) creates nothing more than destructive sentiment among its followers let alone tolerance towards them. And the results are thousands of violent acts committed against the minorities by the Islamists in the name of their religion. In 2016 the attack on a gay club in Orlando America which back in 2016 was considered the worst mass shooting in 25 years. Not so long before that in Bangladesh; the key organizer of the country’s first LGBT-themed magazine “Roopbaan” whose name was Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Mahbub Tonoy who was a gay actor was brutally hacked to death. The series of death also followed by many similar to the cause including countries prominent writers of secularism Abhijit Roy and many others.
G-LGBT-N: Those are deeply saddening matters indeed. How does one can see any hope of light among all these?
Parvez: As I said earlier to your question there is a rising number of people who are also wary of this extremism. Yet it is also true that people are afraid of such barbarism committed by the extremist groups. But I believe a change is yet to come. And that is all depending upon raising awareness and understanding among regular people of the country. For them to change their attitude; we and I mean everyone including myself or organizations like this have to carry on the fight till the end.
G-LGBT-N: Mr. Parvez thank you for joining us today and having this very elaborative discussion with us.