Taslima Nasreen – A Muslim Womans Dares But…………Her Voice Gets Stifled
Taslima Nasreen a Muslim woman who dared to protest against the ‘sad plight ‘of women in her community but was compelled to recant her intransigent writings a few days ago.
Taslima Nasrin/ Nasreen has been on the run from Islamic fundamentalists for over 14 years now ever since she published her thoughts in various writings especially her novella ‘Lajja’ (shame).
It all began in 1993 when this particular event proved cataclysmic.
In 1993, outraged by a series of newspaper columns in which she was critical of the treatment of women under Islam, including her writing about the execution in 1993 of a twenty-one-year-old woman at the behest of a local mullah. Declaring the young woman’s second marriage a violation of Islamic law, the mullah gathered the villagers together. First burying her waist deep in a pit, they stoned her with more than one hundred stones. Islamic fundamentalists issued a fatwa and offered a bounty for Taslima’s death.
Freedom of expression , a facet which most of us take for granted, airily voicing our opinions vociferously, stridently, often responsibly one would like to believe but many a times misusing it vapidly, if not rabidly, is proclaimed as ‘blasphemy’ by Islamic fundamentalists. Especially if it is a woman whose voice gets heard above the call of the muezzin and who threatens to expose first hand the horrendous conditions of regression and dominance she and others such as her are compelled to undergo because of a quirk of fate… being born Muslim…a choice less choice.
An excerpt from her writings:
‘If any religion allows the persecution of the people of different faiths, if any religion keeps women in slavery, if any religion keeps people in ignorance, then I can’t accept that religion.’
‘Freedom of expression for some is not enough.
We must work for freedom of expression for all.
Human rights for some is not enough.
We must work for the human rights for all.
Peace for some is not enough.
We must work for peace for all.
I, come what may, will not be silenced.
Come what may, I will continue my fight for equality and justice without any compromise until my death.
Come what may, I will never be silenced.’
“Women are oppressed in the east, in the west, in the south, in the north. Women are oppressed inside, outside home . Whether a woman is a believer or a non believer, she is oppressed. Beautiful or ugly, oppressed. Crippled or not, rich or poor, literate or illiterate, oppressed. Covered or naked, she is oppressed. Dumb or not, cowardly or courageous, she is always oppressed.”
“Even a mangy cur of the house barks now and then,
but over the mouths of women cheaply had,
there’s a lock, a golden lock.”
It elicits a ‘Bravo’ from me but a ‘Blasphemy ‘ from Islamist groups who have offered a bounty of Rs 500,000 for her beheading!
Taslima has been in exile from her home in Bangladesh since 1993 earlier in Europe, when she received the prestigious ‘ Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought’. While the western world has hailed her writings, home for her meant India as a second best alternative . Being a Bengali she preferred to live in Calcutta where she has been residing for the last two years .
By no stretch of imagination can her residence here be called ‘peaceful’. She has been continuously hounded, booed, threatened and victimised. Her 4 part biography has been banned in Bangladesh while “in November 2003, the West Bengal government in India banned the sale, distribution and collection of Taslima’s Dwikhandito, the 3rd part of her autobiography The ban was lifted by the High Court in September 2004.”
In a country like India where lakhs of Bangladeshi refugees continue to reside illegally and surrpetitiously, a brave woman who sought asylum legally has been stripped of her dignity and rights repeatedly.
The core of the post however is the turn of events in the last three weeks, when India has turned its back on her and Taslima has had to flee from Calcutta to Jaipur and Delhi, unable to find supporters willing to shield her from the unscrupulous and conniving ways of vacillating political games.
In an attempt to veer attention away from the Nandigram fiasco, West Bengal Government who lost face with Muslim vote bank since most of Nandigram farmers were Muslim, paroxysmically decided to use Taslima as pawn to covet the King. She was forced to escape fearing violent wrath, while hoping fatuously that her visa would be extended by the Centre. Turncoats are rampant in India…. underneath the masks all that remains is hollow empty eyes, with tongues hanging out, hungry for power, a metier they excel in….namely “Appeasement Politics”. Resultantly, Taslima had to cower down.
Most uncharacteristically and in an almost unprecedented action in her’ book of life’ Taslima with her back to the wall found herself playing a stroke on the back foot.
On November 30th 2007 Taslima agreed to removed two pages from her book Dwikhondito (Split into two). The book has been critisised by Muslims as anti-Islamic. Taslima made a statement saying: It had not been her intention to “hurt anybody’s religious sentiments”[ ]“Now that some people in India have said they are upset with what I have said, I have decided to drop the controversial portions of the book and have told the publisher to take necessary action,”[ ]“After these portions are removed, I think there will be no more scope for controversy and all the tension so far caused should die down .
What a country of bigots we are. Salman Rushdie has been prosperously residing in Britain for almost three decades after being similarly threatened with various ‘fatwas’. But there aint no Muslim vote bank for the Brits to cater to. Hence Rushdies problems center around Padma Lakshmi and his now-on now-off marriage to her, or other love interests… while Taslima Nasreen has been running from pillar to post in India looking for protection from what she might have considered lofty Indians and their open minded principles of ‘democracy’ and individual rights only to shockingly realise that Gods have feet of clay in India. Nothing is what it appears to be especially inside high domed structures, of the Parliament, the temples or Masjids. These are inhabited by ‘mere’ mortals nowhere close to Godliness in thought word or deed.
What gain then, deleting those pages of ‘her truth’? Will truth now cease to exist or will women as she perceives them be free from the shame they face in circumstances they do? “Ostrich-head-buried-in-sand” attitude is tell tale of immaturity, short sightedness, and didactism for the sake of it.
As an Indian woman today I am ashamed at the stance taken by The Indian Government. “Lajja’ her title is applicable to women all over the world whose voice is stifled in return for granting them residence whether in the precincts of their own home or in a country that chest beating-ly refers to itself as ‘SECULAR”.
Paradoxically while I enjoy the freedom to say so, Taslima is facing humiliation, rejection, ostracism and being treated as an out cast for the same. The die has been cast. She has had to recant her statements in lieu of residence in India.
Ahh.. Eureka.. I get it. We continue to dwell in the Neanderthal age .. Barter is as yet an operating and valid mode of currency!!