Nasrin, a doctor specialising in family planning
by profession, is a Bangladeshi feminist writer.
By accident perhaps rather than design she became
the leading warrior on a major battleground where
a potentially life or death struggle would be fought
on the question of freedom of speech.
crowned with thorns Taslima Nasrin's career and
made her controversial was the publication of a
novel about the suffering of a minority Hindu family,
Shame, in 1993. It became an instant best seller
but the government banned it and had it removed
from the shops after sales had reached the 50,000
mark. It so infuriated Islamic fundamentalists that
they issued a fatwa, unenviably paralleling her
with Salman Rushdie. She left the country for four
years but returned to be with her terminally ill
mother. She merely wanted to live in peace and freedom
from fear in familiar surroundings. Still, the hatred
refused to abate, and after her mother's death she
fled to Sweden.
I told the fundamentalists that I had changed my
ideas, they have said they would forgive me... I
will never compromise with the fundamentalists.
I will never stop my writing. I have a right to
write the truth. Fundamentalists should not have
rights to kill me for that reason. I will not let
myself be reduced to silence...Don't I have a moral
responsibility to raise a voice in protest? I will
continue my writing and I will say what I believe
until the last day of my life, in Bangladesh, in
Europe, or wherever....Women are raped, tortured
and killed by their husbands. I decided to protest
against such inequalities and injustice, so I took
up my pen against the social system and religion.
now the mullahs want to take up the rope against
her pen. But why should she stop writing? Obviously
the gallows are preferable to giving in to that
lot. And given that tens of thousands of men have
marched the streets of Dhaka calling for her to
be hanged the danger is more real than imagined.
At one point preparations were being made for a
mass picket of the Bangladeshi home ministry demanding
her execution. Her big crime it seems is that of,
according to one of two police blasphemy charges
against her, 'outraging religious feeling'. That
means she speaks with what the Independent described
as 'breathtaking directness' to Bangladeshis. Those
benefiting from the power structure in Bangladeshi
society would not like that. Telling it as it seems
to be - no thank you.
North of Ireland intellectual milieu would suit
the powerful of Bangladesh better. They would like
the logic of the Good Friday Agreement applied to
their situation. At a meeting in September 1998
at Oxford University organised by the Catholic Institute
for International Relations and the Uppsala Peace
Institute on the need for a Truth and Reconciliation
commission in Ireland, one leading Irish participant
stated that the Agreement is 'a delicately balanced
compromise which can be destroyed by truth (...)
honesty and straightforward talking must be avoided
at all costs'. In other words we must all live a
such latitude, every rotten dictator that ever lived
from Chile to Rwanda, every practitioner of the
dark art of disappearing political opponents, every
fascist thug and racist bigot could all make do
with their own version of the Good Friday Agreement.
But sure it will satisfy us advanced thinkers of
West Belfast and Free Derry. We shall settle for
it. It is what we fought, killed and died for. It
has put all those counter-revolutionaries from London
to Washington via Dublin on the side of our revolution.
They have all somersaulted and we have not budged.
The socialist flag shall be hoist over Stormont.
It just takes some time and craftsmanship to erase
the white and the blue from the one flying there
at present. But don't worry - that is just a red
flag in transition. Onward to Socialist Stormont.
you imagine Taslima Nasrin ever writing that?
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