I just read an alarming article in the Guardian Weekly. It was about a series of murders of Bangladeshi atheists by Muslim fundamentalists. Mrs SG and I met and married in Bangladesh (or East Pakistan as it then was) so we have a soft spot for the country.
We also have some understanding of Bengali cultural traditions, which are characterised by love of learning and literature, intellectual inquiry, openness to ideas. It is especially painful, therefore, to read that intellectual fascism is gaining ascendancy in that land.
Horrible though the murders are, the effect of intimidation on others is just as serious. People emigrate, stay silent or pretend belief they do not hold, to protect themselves and their families.
Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is an eternal truth. All of us, whether writers, politicians, judges, police officers or teachers, have responsibility to resist evil wherever we find it.
This is easy for me to say, of course. I live in a leafy suburb in Adelaide. I do not meet terrorists, murderers or drug-dealers on my way to the post office. The only religious fundamentalist I know is Peter, the Jehovah’s Witness who comes to chat to me once a month in the dim hope that I will one day see the light.
But I hope that, if confronted by raw evil such as now afflicts Bangladesh, I will find a kind of courage that I have never had to call on before.