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Al-Qaeda Attack Survivor Says Quran Makes Her 'Such a Good Atheist'

A survivor of a 2015 machete attack by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent told a conference in Pittsburgh this past weekend that she only has to read the Quran to confirm her atheism.

In February 2015, Bangladeshi-American secularist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death on a Dhaka street. “The target was an American citizen.. 2 in 1. #America recently martyred 2 of our brothers in #Khurasan & #Shaam. #Revenge+#Punishment,” Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh tweeted afterward.

Roy and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, lived in suburban Atlanta and were visiting Bangladesh for a month.

"I am a Bangladeshi American writer, blogger and also one of the moderators of the Bengali blog Muktomona – which is the first freethinking blog in the Bengali language," Ahmed said while accepting the "Forward" award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. "My late husband Dr. Avijit Roy founded this online platform in 2001 as a Yahoo forum, way before the very, very noisy days of blogging."

"My husband and I were attacked by the Indian Subcontinent [branch] of al-Qaeda, on Feb. 26, 2015, when we were visiting Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for a book signing event," she said. "This claimed Avijit’s life and I barely escaped… I suffered four machete stabs on my head, a sliced-off thumb, and numerous other injuries all over my body."

"What was our fault? Avi and I were, are atheists, blogger, writer, and above all secular humanists. Avijit wrote and edited 10 books... two of his books titled Philosophy of Disbelief and Virus of Faith, they made him exceedingly popular among young adults and progressive readers."

But those titles, Ahmed said, "also fueled hostility and anger towards Avijit from religious fundamentalists."

"The online blogging platform Muktomona also became the name of a secular humanist movement for Bangla-speaking people. I wrote a book on evolution and wrote many other blogs," she added. "I guess that would be it -- a pretty good summary of our crimes in the eyes of the Islamic terrorist groups."

Before the attack, Ahmed was a marketing director with a computer science background. After the attack, she accepted an offer from a university "to do research work on the rise of Islamism in Bangladesh."

"My late husband would have loved such an opportunity; he loved to write, that was his life, his passion," she said. "The reason I think Bangladesh is important because unlike many other Islamic countries, Bangladesh, had a secular history with 90 percent Muslim population... over the last few decades it has slowly moved towards Islamic fundamentalism. I think it will be a unique case to uncover why Bangladesh is embracing the same fate as many other traditional Islamic countries, though Bangladesh had such a different background."