Brave men in Bangladesh

Keith Hudson

I am an agnostic.  This means that I neither believe in God nor disbelieve.  I see no evidence either way.  I have intuitive faith in the scientific method and that our brains are coherent with the reality they are trying to uncover.  But even this may be a delusion.

So I muddle along.  One of my friends (Steve Kurtz, an atheist) has sent me something which ought to be of wider interest — and certainly to many of those who are regular readers of this blog.  It concerns a very courageous man who has translated Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion into Bengali.  In my opinion, Richard Dawkins is one of the outstanding scientists of the last century, his book The Selfish Gene being especially brilliant even though, these days, many modern evolutionary biologists are now leaning towards the idea that evolution occurrs at levels other than genes alone — both lower (epigenes) and higher (selection of the fittest groups of individuals).

Richard Dawkins has authored many superbly written books on evolution and those books have done a great deal in introducing many readers to the idea of evolution.  Nevetheless, his additional role as an adversarial atheist  bothers me.  Books of his, such as The God Delusion does slightly more damage than good in my opinion.  He unnecessarily arouses the opposition of religious believers instead of gently leading them to incorporate evolution in their beliefs and leaving their religious beliefs for them to decide about in the fulness of time.

Anyway, Richard Dawkins was recently sent a letter by Kazi Mahboob Hassan — below — and it speaks for itself.  It also speaks for the problem that the Western countries (and China also) are having with extremist Muslims and just how much cultural change there needs to take place in Bangladesh and other similar countries — that is, if they want to have the consumer goods that we have and which deoend on a through scientific base.  Here is the letter:

“Dear Dr. Richard Dawkins,

“I am Kazi Mahboob Hassan from Bangladesh (currently living in Toronto).

“Please kindly accept the Bengali trnslation of your book, The God Delusion as my humble tribute to thank you for your magnificent effort to promote science and reason. You have always been a great inspiration for me. I have translated The God Delusion into my native language, Bengali (Bangla), which was published in limited numbers furing our national book fair (held in Fenruary 2015).

“You must be aware that since February 2015, there have been several murders of Secular/Atheist bloggers in Bangladesh including US[Bangladeshi Dr Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy, the editor of the only magazine  on rationality. The Islamists have killed two of our best comrades within the span of three months. Many are now in hiding or trying to flee the country.  So this is now more or less a hidden publication. But people arre reading your wonderful book now in Bengali, as this is the first time one of your books has been translated.

“I have managed to bring out some copies to Toronto.  This is one of those.  I would also like to take the opportunity to apologize sincerely for not asking your permission. Though we tried to contact you (as much as our resources permitted) but failed, then through Brockman agency we found a process to approach. But you know that we donlt have that much money to offer and no publisher in Bangladesh is willing to pay in advance for such a book that might be considered as an offence under Banglahesh’s pseudo blasphemy law (Inofrmation and Communication Technology Act 2006, Section 57).  so we were unable to npursie that route.

“As a reulst this translation became a ‘friends-funded’ labour of love. I sincerely hope you will forgive us for that as this is the only way to disseminate your works in our language at this moment. I am also trying to translate all of your books, sadly, many main stream publication houses are too afraid to show interest. Publishers in Bangladesh are usually threatened by fundamentalists to publish these books, even to display . . . so the situation is really difficult, so we donlt the backing like many countries. I hope the situatio   will change one day and your The God Delusion will certainly liberate many in Bangladesh.

“Also I would like to apologise to take the opportunity to ask for your kind permission to translate all of your books. (Yes, all, as they are necessary for my country, two recent projects are The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth.)  This is one of my life’s most kimportant goals.  In your autobiography Appetite for Wonder I have read about your donfness for art asnd I humbly offer one of my drawings with the book.

“Thank you do much, Gratefully, Kazi Mahboob Hassan, website: kmhb,”.

[KH: In his reply, Richard Dawnkins admired Mahboob’s artwork and gave him permission to keep all royalties from the translations so they can be directed towards more translations.]

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