September 22, 2007

Free Arifur Rahman NOW!

The Front Page will highlight cartoonist Arifur Rahman's incarceration until justice is done

Click here for the latest posts.


(This is the front page of the blog and will remain so as long as the cartoonist is denied justice and media coverage. For the latest content, please click on the link at the very top. Watch this post for updates.)

Early February: I am sad to report that the earlier reports of Arif being freed quietly by the regime is false. I am informed that he seems to be in good spirits, and is in a cell with one other
person. I understand that a petition has been moved to discharge him from the case for hurting religious sentiment (now pending before Dhaka Magistrate's Court) on the gruond that:

- there was no basis to the case,

- he had no such intention,

- he was not responsible for publication of the cartoon,

- the cartoon was not offensive,

- Islam preaches tolerance and fprgiveness, and

- he has in any event apologised for any inadvertent offence caused to anyone.

I also understand that his legal team pleaded procedural points of error.

I am informed that a decision is expected on 25th Feb.

Early January 2008: I am informed that Arif has been freed quietly by the regime, and his well wishers want the issue to be not highlighted. Shada Kalo is also reporting similarly.

October 22nd: I am happy to report that unlike a few weeks back, the blogs are now reporting that Arifur Rahman is not in some "undisclosed location", but rather at Dhaka Central Jail. Unheard Voices has begun a letter writing campaign for the jailed cartoonist. Please write to him to show your support and solidarity at this trying time in his young life. The letters can be addressed to:

Mohammad Arifur Rahman,
Son of Mohammad Matiur Rahman,
re CR Case No. 2298/07,
Dhaka Central Jail,
Nazimuddin Road,

I would like to request my fellow bloggers to highlight this letter-writing campaign as well, especially in Bangla blogs. I'm almost ashamed to ask more from them given superb job they've done since our local media lost all its spine in dealing with this issue!

One particular line from the UV post is worth quoting: "We also urge those offended by the cartoon to write to him, for compassion towards one’s adversaries is a fast-vanishing Islamic value in today’s world."

Very few will disagree with that.

October 17th: It is exactly one month since Arifur Rahman's arrest. 30 days. Arif has spent the better part of Ramadan in prison and has spent Eid away from his family. Even his exact whereabouts are open to question.

Let me take a moment here to note the absolute silence about him in the mainstream media. A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E.

Ask yourself: is this what the Prophet (SW) would have prescribed? Given the stories of his sense of generosity, forgiveness and JUSTICE we all grow up with, the answer would have to be a resounding "no"! But of course, this will fall on the deaf ears of the people who use the Prophet's (SW) name explicitly (and that means YOU Hizb-ut-Tahrir!).

I have complained previously about how "secularists" drive an unnatural wedge between the religious sphere and every other sphere of life. Let me say here that I've always regarded this is a two-way process: ek haathey shottiyi taali baajey na! Religious people - and Islamists in particular - drive just such a wedge by barring a cartoonist from speaking about religion (or in this case, what passes for religious practice in Bangladesh).

When you bar your creative people from talking about religion, you cannot then come back and complain that they have become "so secular and worldly"!

Free Arifur Rahman and let him live with security and dignity.

October 1st update: Keep Me Honest has a must-read piece on the cartoonist. Turns out that he recently won a contest for the best cartoon against corruption, this current government's raison d'etre.

The list of bloggers in the September 28th update will be regularly updated. So please keep posting about this issue until justice is assured.

28th September update To my knowledge, the following bloggers have issued calls for the release of the cartoonist Arifur Rahman:

Shourav of Somewherein - The creator of the sticker you see above and on the sidebar, and his personal blog.

Addafication which highlighted the injustice of it all.


Third World View

Voice of Bangladeshi Bloggers

In the Middle of Nowhere, who rightfully asks us not to forget the BRAC worker kidnapped in Afghanistan either!

Serious Golmal

Unheard Voices


Keep Me Honest.


Shada Kalo


I'd like to thank Sid and Rezwan bhai for most of the bloggers on this list.

If you are a blogger who has written about Arifur Rahman's predicament, called for his release or even simply put that sticker up, I would highly appreciate you leaving a comment here with the link to your blog/post. Same goes if you know someone who has. I'd like to highlight the bloggers who are doing all this. Thanks.

26th September

I'm too middle-class to go out into the streets and protest for anyone's release, I confess. There are many notables languishing in jail right now for whom the clarion cry of "Nishortey Mukti Chai" will be raised no doubt, once the CTG relaxes the ban on politics. I have not joined them on this blog till now and I will not join them in the future.

But when I see a 23-year old BANGLADESHI civilian being picked up and thrown into jail for no reason but that he offended some old men with decrepit ideas, I see injustice of the vilest sort. And protesting injustice, ESPECIALLY when it affects the weak, is a fundamental part of my religion.

It's been late in coming, but the realisation has finally hit those of us who still think independently. Last week Addafication wrote clearly as to why this was less about censorship and more about injustice. Today I found this post on Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying, highlighting the growing web campaign to free this artist.

Very few times in your life will you come across an act whose darkness can completely drown out the bright light of justice. This is one of those times. Raise your voices.


Anonymous said...

Well said, my friend.

asif said...

Least and all I can do right now. Thank you for bringing the sticker to my notice. We need to create a buzz around this.

Sid said...

Can anyone tell me what law exists that allowed the authorities to throw Cartoonist Arif into prison without trial or defence?

Was it Sedition? Have the Jammatis managed to get the Blasphemy Law passed in Bangladesh?

tacit said...

Umm, Sid, I hate to break it to you, but it's called the Emergency Powers Act 2007. Not sedition, not blasphemy, just the law that the military government has used so far to lock up everyone else as well.

Sid said...

thanks tacit. I asked a question, please don't feel obliged to hate yourself for breaking it to me. ;-)

tacit said...

Thanks, Sid, I'll manage. Glad to oblige. So... no more outrage?

asif said...


Hate the game man, not the playah!

Having gotten my ridiculous cliche fix for the day, let me just say that this "Emergency" mentality works in highly insiduous ways.

For instance, about two months back, someone told me that price-fixing made sense because we were in a SOE. When I asked whether the SOE was because of the pre-election troubles or because of inflation, this person obviously had to do a re-think and admit that he really had not thought about it that way. Price-fixing just FEELS right given that we are under an "emergency".

This mindset is also self-perpetuating. I present to you Egypt under Hosni Mubarak: emergency rule for 25 years and counting!

tacit said...

Dear Asif,

You can say that again.

There, another cliche out of the way. Totally agree about the price-fixing observation. I read in Prothom Alo yesterday that two "price terrorists" had been arrested because they were overcharging for their goods.

tacit said...

asif said...


Thanks a bunch. Keep your eyes peeled for more. Any blogger, any language and any nationality.

DhakaShohor said...

Dear Mr. Talat,

This is a thread about Mr. Arifur Rahman, not about UV, Asif Saleh, RU professors, your blogging rights etc. Thus I found your comments irrelevant.

As a blog owner, I reserve the right to clean up irrelevant comments just as a home-owner I reserve the right to restrict entry to my home. I hope you understand. That is a RIGHT, the right to do with my property as I wish. That is what UV is doing.

In contrast, the country belongs to everyone. Thus, public spaces belong to everyone. Thus, anyone can say anything at public spaces without the government (which administers the public space on behalf of us the people) filing cases against them. If you were really concerned with freedom of speech, you would be in favour of the RU professors freedom of speech instead of complaining about Mr. Asif Saleh.

If any government ever shuts you down similar to the RU teachers, I will be the first one to protest. But moderating on blogs is not an issue of freedom, but an issue of property rights. Speaking on public forums/bringing out processions is an issue of freedom of speech, not an issue of property rights since no one OWNS public space.

You are most welcome to come to my blog and leave relevant comments on any topic whenever you wish.

SUSHANTA said...

A Good news for all of you.

I just heard that Arif was quietly released 2 months ago, and newspapers were asked not to report on it.

PIs dont ask me the source please.

Lets celebrate the new year by the name of Arif.

Anonymous said...

you promised you'ld keep Arif front page news until his release. He has not yet been released.. i wonder where Sushanta got his information.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. There has been some confusion regarding whether arifur was free or not. This is going to go back up as soon as I can log onto blogger. My work has blogger log in blocked. Thanks for pointing this out.

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