A professor in Bangladesh was attacked with machetes as he walked from his home to a bus station in the north-western city of Rajshahi.

Professor Siddique was involved in cultural programmes and friends and relatives of the deceased have made it clear that he had never spoken against religion in public. This and similar killings have sparked outrage at home and abroad, with international rights groups demanding that the secular government protect freedom of speech. Terrorist attacks to get concessions from the state is one thing, but this targeted killing of secularists and the intelligentsia is much more sinister and gruesome. The methods of the Islamic State are here, and so are they, and no one can be safe speaking their mind.

Bangladeshi Islamist militants have been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013. Authorities have consistently denied that international Islamist networks, such as al-Qaida or Islamic State, which recently claimed responsibility for the murders of minorities and foreigners, are active in the country. Last week in Dhaka, 28-year-old law student Nazimuddin Samad was surrounded by Islamist extremists, reportedly linked to al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. They killed him with machetes and shot him to ensure he was dead, over a Facebook post promoting secularism and criticising radical Islam.

The truth is that a secular state is one that promotes pluralism, where multiple faiths and beliefs can coexist without one faith dictating law and policy. Such a state by no means promotes atheism. Bangladesh, constitutionally, is a secular state, and these writers were not promoting anything wrong. The misconceptions about secularism must be corrected and are a sign of total ignorance on the part of radicalised Muslims.

The bitter truth is, that while a radical Muslim can live in peace in a secular state and practice his beliefs openly so long as he wasn’t violent, a conservative Islamic state would end up marginalising everyone except the dominant class’s version of a “Muslim” at best, and would end up quashing the political and human rights of most minorities, if not all, at worst.