We have a long fight still ahead of us to quash the forces of extremism
It has been five years since LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan and his associate Mahbub Rabby Tonoy were brutally murdered by six extremists -- all of them members of the militant organization Ansar al-Islam. It brings a ray of hope to see justice delivered at last, for a crime that sent shockwaves through the country at the time, resulting in an atmosphere of fear in the capital and in other parts of the country.
The capital punishment was handed down to six people under Section 6(2) of the Anti-terrorism Act 2009, and two were acquitted as the charges against them could not be proven. Finally, the families of the two victims can find some solace in the fact that justice has been served, and a clear, strong message has been sent to extremist outfits: Our justice system will not cower before forces of militancy, or those who seek to create panic and chaos, and repress free speech.
This verdict, in a way, is part of an even bigger picture: The murders of Xulhaz and Tonoy were part of a long series of attacks on writers, bloggers, intellectuals, and others who exercised their rights to voice their opinions contrary to the views of militants. By murdering Xulhaz, Tonoy, and many others, militant forces had hoped to achieve a larger objective of silencing a society that is constitutionally based on tolerance, free speech, and religious plurality.
The truth is, we have a long fight still ahead of us to quash the forces of extremism. But we can win this fight by bringing justice to all those who were slain for similar reasons as Xulhaz and Tonoy swiftly, and never giving any quarter to militancy, whatever shape it may take.