How's this for a staunch defense of free speech in a secular state? Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh denounced anyone who criticized religion or expressed their own lack of religious faith in striking terms: "I don't consider such writings as freethinking but filthy words. Why would anyone write such words? It's not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions."

So does she mean that it's all right to kill people who write such words? Hack them to death with machetes, usually? She didn't say "yes," but she didn't exactly say "no" either. And this is regrettable, because quite a few people are being hacked to death in Bangladesh these days.

In the current wave of murders, most of the victims have been "secular" bloggers who publicly stated that they were atheists and offered reasons for their lack of belief. They did not criticize or mock Islam directly, but merely insisting that religious faith was not necessary or rational was enough to "hurt religious sentiment." For some people, it was reason enough to kill them.