By JULFIKAR ALI MANIK and ELLEN BARRY
APRIL 23, 2016
A photograph of Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, a professor who was killed in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, on Saturday. Credit Md. Abdullah Iqbal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A professor of English was hacked to death and nearly beheaded near his home in northwestern Bangladesh on Saturday morning, in what the police suspect to be the latest in a series of targeted killings by Islamist militants.
Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, 61, was attacked by unknown assailants about 60 yards from his home and died at the scene, said Mohammad Shamsuddin, commissioner of the metropolitan police in the city of Rajshahi. Neighbors heard the victim screaming and alerted his family.
Mr. Shamsuddin said that “our preliminary suspicion is that the murder was committed by an Islamist militant group,” based on the attack’s similarities to recent killings of secularist bloggers in Bangladesh. He said Mr. Siddiquee had sustained three deep wounds to the neck and that his head had been nearly severed.
The murder echoed one that took place at Rajshahi University, where Mr. Siddiquee taught, in November of 2014, when a sociology professor was hacked to death on his way home from the campus. That professor had advocated that students not be allowed to wear burqas, the traditional Islamic covering, during sociology examinations.
Targeted killings of secular activists have become a grim commonplace in Bangladesh over the last two years, and intellectuals are increasingly afraid of publishing views critical of fundamentalist Islam. About two weeks ago, an atheist student blogger was killed by men with machetes at a crowded intersection in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.
However, Mr. Siddiquee was not, like most of the previous victims, an avowed atheist or anti-religious campaigner, but instead focused on introducing students to traditional Bangladeshi music and the poetry of literary figures like Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
“He was a purely academic person, but he was a progressive and secular person,” said Professor Mohammad Shahidullah, head of the English department at Rajshahi University. He said the slain professor had recently established a music school in his village.
Police officers who interviewed Mr. Siddiquee’s family said he had never published any materials critical of Islam and had never received threats.
Julfikar Ali Manik reported from Dhaka and Ellen Barry from New Delhi.