Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Save Taslima Nasrin From Islamic Death Fatwa in India

In a most outrageous manner, a fatwa has been issued by All India Ibtehad Council against one of the most eminent writer and intellectual Taslima Nasreen. Taslima Nasreen has gained prominence by vocally supporting the rights of minorities in Bangladesh and for waging consistent struggle against the fundamentalist elements and their mindless, barbaric ideas. She has spoken out in favour of equal rights for women and has expressed opposition to the oppression of non-Islamic minorities in Islamic societies, such as in her home country Bangladesh. As a result of her bold initiatives, she was forced to leave Bangladesh in 1994 and take shelter in India after radical Muslims decried her writings as blasphemous and demanded her execution. She is seeking permanent residence or citizenship in India.
It is unfortunate to note that an Indian Muslim group has offered a 500,000 rupees ($11,319; BD4, 267) bounty for the beheading the Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. The president of the All India Ibtehad Council, Taqi Raza Khan has declared the reward for anyone who carried out the "qatal" or "extermination" of the "notorious woman" saying, "Taslima has put Muslims to shame in her writings. She should be killed and beheaded and anyone who does this will get a reward from the council." Nasreen has incensed fundamentalist Muslims for writing a novel Lajja (Shame) depicting the life of a Hindu family facing the ire of Muslims in Bangladesh. The author was also forced to flee her homeland in 1994 after radical Muslims decried her writings as blasphemous and demanded her execution. She is seeking permanent residence or citizenship in India.

It is not that Taslima Nasreen is facing the ire of fundamentalist elements for the first time but in 1993, sparked by a series of newspaper columns in which she was critical of the treatment of women under Islam, Islamic fundamentalists pronounced a fatwa against her and offered a bounty for her death. Later, the government banned her book Lajja, (a Bangla word meaning shame), which drew attention to the torture of Hindu minorities in Bangladesh. Again there were calls for her death and her passport was confiscated by the government. In 1994, organised groups identified with religious fundamentalists demanded her execution by hanging after she was quoted in The Statesman stating that "…the Koran should be revised thoroughly." The government of the day, whilst not taking action against those who had issued threats, filed a court case against Nasreen charging her with hurting the religious feelings of people and an arrest warrant was issued. Although she anticipated that she may have faced a jail term of up to two years, Nasreen felt it was very likely that she would have been murdered in jail; she went into hiding. After two months she was granted bail and left the country. In the same year she received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament and other awards. Nasreen is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.

In November 2003, the West Bengal government in India banned the sale, distribution and collection of Nasreen's book Dwikhandito, the 3rd part of her autobiography. The ban was lifted by the High Court in September 2004. In 2004, an Indian Muslim cleric offered a reward of 20,000 rupees to anyone who "blackened" her face, an action considered a grave insult. Most recently, in pursuance of its own political suitability, the West Bengal Government in connivance with the UPA at the centre has been deliberately delaying the process of granting citizenship status to Taslima Nasreen. It is an irony to see that the government which is not in favour of implementing the Supreme Court order on illegal Bangladeshi migrants is afraid of granting citizenship to Taslima Nasreen who has waged immense struggle for the rights of minorities in Bangladesh and for gender justice.

Although, a section of Muslim clerics is against the kind of fatwa issued against Taslima Nasreen, they are unanimous in denouncing her actions and want her to leave India. "At most, the lady needs to be boycotted and driven out of India." A Lucknow cleric, Maulan Khalid Rasheed Firangimahali, would also like to see the back of Nasreen. "She has been consistently vicious in her attack on the Prophet and must be restrained." Maulana Naimurrehman, general secretary of Ulema Council, aired grave reservation over government's support for Taslima, "She has hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims and must be asked to leave immediately."

It is very unfortunate to note that the entire society has failed to strongly respond to such a fatwa which is openly pronounced in a democratic country challenging the law and order machinery of the state. The government has failed to take action against such barbaric and illegal acts and such fundamentalist elements are now openly and shamefully supported by political dispensations of all hues. We appeal to all the democratic minded people to appeal to the Government to grant citizenship of India to Taslima Nasreen and ensure safety of her life and punish the culprits for issuing illegal and inhuman fatwa immediately.

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