I want to remind folks that context is important. My understanding is that the blogger was targeted not because he was an atheist, but because he was calling for the death of "war criminals" (from the war for independence in 1971) who had been granted amnesty decades ago.https://shariaunveiled.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/bangladesh-government-shuts-down-ahmed-rajib-haiders-infidel-website-following-his-murder/
I am in no way saying that this justifies his murder, which is obviously a horrific act. And I don't pretend to understand the whole war crime trial issue in Bangladesh, other than to say that in my neighborhood, where we have a huge Bangladeshi community, there is a strong division on this issue, and in my workplace, good friends are arguing and angry about these trials.
This is an excellent article that provides an overview of the situation. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/23/protest-death-penalty-bangladesh
It argues that the trials and the protests have successfully distracted the populace from the social and economic issues facing the country, and the upcoming elections.
Here is a segment for those who don't like to click:Analysts say the protests have worked to the government's advantage and distracted attention from economic and governance issues the opposition had been agitating about. Last year, Hasina scrapped a constitutional provision under which a non-partisan caretaker government oversees elections, leading to the opposition threatening a boycott of parliamentary elections due in early 2014.
"Had it not been for the protests, now we would all be focusing on next year's elections and looking at the government's record in office and the opposition's pledges," said Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, an English daily. "Now, all bets are off and elections seem a distant concern. It is hard to see how things will revert to politics as usual after this."
Asif Mohiuddin, a co-ordinator of the bloggers' network that called for the Shahbag protests, is keen to point out the group's struggle did not start with Shahbag. "We have been waging war on religious fundamentalists on the blogs for years," he said. "Shahbag has been successful because people are so outraged by the war crimes."
Yet some analysts say the narrative of a secular revolution leading the country towards a democratic future may be simplistic. The protests have polarised the country and led to tensions between those who identify themselves as progressive.
"Many are worried about the Shahbag protest's aggressive tone and narrow focus on the death penalty," said one of the editors of alalodulal.org, an English language blog. "I wish the unique energy of Shahbag could be channelled into the energy and desire to do thorough research, digging out solid evidence that can result in fair trials that do not require government contortions."
Edited to add: A friend of mine argues that the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is very smart, and that she is using these trials as a political strategy, not as an ideological issue. It appears she is being successful. Just about everyone in Bangladesh has a relative who died in the war - a grandfather or great uncle. And so calling for the death of those who fought on the other side of the war for independence draws on the emotions of the masses, and distracts them from the lousy economy and lack of infrastructure in the nation.
On the other side of the issue, the fundamentalists get to call for the death of the people who are calling for the death.....