Discrimination against those that are openly secular runs rampant through the international community, even so, secularist beliefs continue to spread in spite of the very real danger they can mean for the individual holding them. Alexander Aan grew up in a conservative muslim household in rural West Sumatra. From an early age he knew he didn’t believe in God, but it remained a necessity to go through the motions of belief, and pretending as though he did, spending his time faking his way through daily prayer. It wasn’t until he was 26 that he finally gave up praying and told his family about his atheism. While his family responded with disappointment, it didn’t dissuade Alexander from hiding his atheism, and he joined an atheist Facebook group of ex-patriot Indonesians. But it was this desire for community where Alexander ran into trouble. It was here on Facebook that Alexander began voicing his disbelief for all to see, and thereby violating the blasphemy laws of Indonesia. He was released in 2014 after serving more than 19 months on a charge of inciting religious hatred.
Recently, an atheist Bangladeshi blogger, Ananta Bijoy Das, was ambushed and hacked to death by four masked attackers, with machetes, in the streets of Sylhet while walking to work. “They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body,” before fleeing into the crowd, Hasan, commissioner of Sylhet police, told Agence France-Presse. The murder of Ananta Bijoy Das is the third such murder of a Bangladeshi atheist blogger this year.
These two cases highlight the plight of secularists internationally, and the need for awareness. While changing opinions internationally, especially in conservative countries such as Indonesia, is difficult, by bringing attention to ourselves we make the lives of secularists across the world more safe. The more secularists out in the open about their beliefs,the stronger our community is, and the more safe our secularist friends are internationally. Attacking, demonizing or scapegoating one secularist is easy, but coming together as an openly secularist community we show those around the world not only that as a community we are international and dedicated to a more just world, but also we show those secularists struggling with their beliefs like Alexander Aan and Ananta Bijoy Das that they are not alone.