5th Year of Science, Reason & Understanding
 
Mukto-Mona in Retrospect
 
 
 
It was 2000. I was a new arrival in USA with enrollment at the Colorado State University as an aspirating graduate student. Prior to coming to the USA, I had read quite a few Bengali books on humanism and rationalism. One such book had a mention of CSICOP, the abbreviated name for Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal; I didn’t have the web address though. So one day I tried Google. It was then when I learned about American secular humanist Philosopher Paul Kurtz and his organization Council for Secular Humanism (CSH). I wrote a letter to CSH explaining how thrilled I was to discover- I was not alone in my beliefs! Later in life, I had to hear same from many humanists from different parts of the world, especially after I published my autobiographical essay “My Experience with Islam”. CSH reciprocated promptly with their greetings saying, they’re also working with Taslima Nasrin, the humanist author in exile from Bangladesh. Additionally, CSH provided me the web address of secularislam.org, hosted by Ibn Warraq. I visited the site and posted a few interactive messages. It was Jamal Hasan at the time who sent me a personal e mail saying, he learned about me from Ibn warraq’s website and was glad to know, I was from Bangladesh. He suggested that I join a website named NFB (News from Bangladesh). By the end of 2000 it was at NFB when I met today’s such prolific freethinker writers as Dr. A H Jaffor Ullah, fatemolla, Syed Kamran Mirza, Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, Avijit Roy, Aparthib Zaman & late Narayan Gupta. Abul Kasem had yet to appear. Avijit and I were the youngest in that tiny circle of freethinkers at the time. Everyday, NFB’s Reader’s Opinion section was filled with rebuttals by fatemolla, SKM, Shabbir Ahmed, which were rich in references, eloquent and inspirational to young freethinkers like me.  In the beginning of 2001, I met Abul Kasem at bangla2000.com. Quickly I discovered, we’re in same boat. I referred him to NFB. Soon he became prominent by his own thirst and curiosity to the movement of secular humanism. Realizing the need to communicate among ourselves about many issues of importance perhaps it was Avijit who suggested the formation of an e group. The concept was still alien to me. Besides NFB, we also started rebuttals of scriptures in several other e forums. Although occasionally we received greetings, mostly it was cursing that kept our flame on indicating we’re hitting the right target! Although all of us were hated by mullas (proud to say, still we’re), in the case of Avijit, cursing was two folds. First, he was an atheist and secondly, he was of Hindu origin, thus in mullahs’ eyes, disqualified to pass on any opinion about Holy Quran/Hadeeth! (Funnily, same mullahs claim, Quran is here not only for Muslims, but for the whole humanity!). Anyway, we realized the tremendous need to form our own organization at the time. Adnan from Pakistan (in USA at that time), poet Audrey Manning from Canada, Susan from USA were also with us and supported the decision to form an organization. Avijit created a yahoo group under the name Mukto-Mona on 26th May 2001 (without the web page). Then came the 9/11 amid astounding shock! We formed VOOPs (Voices of the Oppressed, a name given by fatemolla) where we had newly joined Ibn Warraq, Taslima Nasrin and Ali Sina with us. The name coined for our would-be organization, after much discussion and debate, was Faith Freedom International. I need to make it clear, the ideals that Ali Sina’s FFI today preaches have hardly anything in common with the grounds we unanimously agreed on at that time. Possibly in November or December of 2001, Austin Dacey from the CSH invited me to attend a conference of secular humanists of Muslim origin in Buffalo, NY. Ibn Warraq was the convener to the event. Fatemolla, Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, Syed Kamran Mirza, Adnan, Bishnu Dey and I attended the conference. The event for the first time provided me a chance to meet all of above mentioned names in person. We’d a special meeting with Paul Kurtz where each of us had chance to express our views and plans to fight Islamic fanaticism. Unfortunately, attending that meeting didn’t result in anything productive due to profound difference of opinions that existed between us and freethinkers of Iranian origin. It turned out, we’d fundamental differences about the strategy to fight Radical Islam.
     I left Colorado leaving my Ph.D. studies incomplete by the end of 2001. That also brought about an end to my communication with our group. During 2002 and 2003, I was totally inactive in Mukto-Mona. But from my occasional communications with fatemolla, I learned, Mukto-Mona has had its own website by the generosity of Alan Levin, a prominent humanist from Canada, and many people have joined there. In 2004, I sought political asylum in the USA as a humanist and nonreligious writer. The personal statement which I wrote for the US Immigration court was published under the title My Experience with Islamwhen I sent it to Avijit. Paul Kurtz, Ibn Warraq wrote testimonies for me. I was surprised when so many people responded enthusiastically to my essay saying, my essay reflected their own experiences. People enjoyed reading my essay although it carried ample amount of grammatical mistakes & syntax errors. To date, I receive feedbacks on that particular essay. The essay evoked my interest in Mukto-Mona again. When Avijit requested me to join as a moderator in 2004, I agreed immediately. By the time, some new faces such as Bonna Ahmed and others had joined Mukto-Mona Moderation Team.
    Rest of the story is somewhat known to all. Yet I would like to point out that the ideals, missions and goals which Mukto-Mona believes in now are not quite the same the activities which Mukto-Mona carried out during 2002, 2003 & part of 2004. So does it make Mukto-Mona a weak or compromising forum? Well, the very criterion that makes someone a rationalist is that he/she is not afraid of revising the action strategy so long as it creates broader room of improvement for the mankind. Today, Mukto-Mona has 2700+ members. In the meanwhile, Mukto-Mona’s moderation team has been strengthened by the additions such as Mehul Kamdar—a former editor of the MediTech and assistant editor of the Modern Rationalist under M.D. Gopalakrishnan in India—then Farid Ahmed from Canada & Tanbira Talukdar, probably the youngest in our team, from Nederland. The oldest member of our advisory board is about 80 years while the youngest is in his early 20s! Breaking the norm is one of the cardinal missions of Mukto-Mona. However, we don’t measure success just by “hits per counter”. Our aim is to reach out people on the ground. Thus, despite limited resources and man power, we’ve undertaken several ground level projects. On the net, Mukto-Mona   has introduced celebrations of Darwin Day Earth Day, Rationalist Day, Women's Day. Our advisory committee member Dr. Ajoy Roy has been actively protesting all kinds of minority and human rights violations through national and International platforms including MM.  To learn more about our related activities, readers may visit  https://gold.mukto-mona.com/new_site/mukto-mona/muk-projects.htm  
    Has Mukto-Mona been a success?  That’s up to you--the readers and writers of Mukto-Mona--to decide. As a moderator, I’d only say- curse or greetings, we love to hear from you!  
 
     Greetings to all on 5th anniversary!!
 
New York
05/24/2004