After a Dhaka University professor asked a woman to remove her veil during his class, Muslim extremists called for his death, posting his personal details online along with tips on how to kill.
Now he remains under constant guard by armed police, stays mostly at home and bars his front door.
Azizur Rahman is among a growing number of political moderates and intellectuals seeking protection in Bangladesh, where at least 15 writers, activists, religious minorities and foreign aid workers have been killed in targeted attacks since the start of 2015. Islamic extremists have claimed responsibility for the killings, which have prompted some Bangladeshis to go into hiding, and others to seek asylum in the United States and Europe.
Some of the violence has taken place at Rahman’s university in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. Last year, secular writer and blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death and his wife was critically injured in a savage attack on campus. In 2004, members of a banned Islamist group stabbed poet and linguist Humayun Azad at a campus book fair; he died months later.
Rahman, a psychology professor, pleaded with the government for 24-hour armed security outside his classes and at the modest campus apartment where he lives with his wife. Plainclothes policemen follow his every move around the sprawling, tree-filled open campus where he teaches five days a week.
Rahman said in an interview that he had asked the student to remove her veil because “I should know whom I am teaching… I told her if you show your face in the [student] identity card, you can also do so in class.”
As the girl refused, the exchange was captured on a cellphone video by another student in the class. The next day, it had been uploaded on to the Facebook page of an Islamic extremist group called Salauddiner Ghora, or The Horses of Salauddin – along with a clarion call for its followers to murder Rahman, whom they called “un-Islamic”.
With the video, the group also posted Rahman’s photograph, personal phone number and Facebook account. It also posted a link to an online blog detailing strategies for killing someone quietly.