by Ram Swarup
(Organiser, December 12 1993)
Young Taslima Nasreen, author of Lajja, is a lady of rare courage and
wide sympathies. She has spoken for the Muslim women of Bangladesh and
indeed women of all Muslim countries who do not have many spokesmen.
Though under great pressure, she refuses to be silenced. She says that
women in Islamic countries "are exposed to male domination as a rule
rather than as an exception... . If anyone protets against such
malpractices, as I have done, she is sure to be branded as a witch."
She clarifies that she does not preach promiscuity but she holds that
"for Muslim males changing bed-partners should not be as easy as
throwing out left-over food. What I demand is freedom for women from
male domination and a uniform code... . If that can be construed as
blasphemy, I cannot help it." She needs support from her sisters and
brothers from across the border and other parts of the world.
But what makes her particularly outstsanding is that she has spoken
for the sorry plight of the persecuted Hindus in Bangladesh. The
Muslim world has its feminists, though not numerous, but none speaks
about what it does to its minorities, particularly to its infidels.
She was allowed to continue so long as she restricted herself to the
feminist cause though it could not make her popular with Muslim
religious authorities. But as soon as she showed sympathy with
persecuted Hindus, there was agreat uproar; her book Lajja was banned
and there was aprice on her head. But she has spoken, and that makes
her exceptional. Persecution of Hindus, whether in Fiji or Bangladesh
or in their own country in Kashmir, is no one's concern --
unfortunately not even of the Hindus themselves. Who will speak for
those who will not speak for themselves? It may explain why not even
Amnestyists and civil rights bodies who speak on every subject under
the sun have been eloquently silent on this one. Some readers in the
West now know Tasleema as a feminist but not many know her as the
author of Lajja in which she describes the condition of the Hindus of
her country. That was simply not reported in the western press.
Her description of the terror in which Hindus live in Bangladesh has
angered not only her Muslim compatriots but has also embarrased the
pseudosecularist Hindus of India -- sympathy for persecuted Hinddus is
not part of the creed they know and practise. Thus though she is under
a fatwa of death declared by the fundamentalists of her country, it
has made her earn no popularity with Hindu-hating Hindus of India. But
another India is coming up, the India of Hindu-loving Hindus; that
India gratefully acknowledges her role.
Today she writes from a feminist and humanist viewpoint. These are
great viewpoints from which to look at prophetic religions. But a more
comprehensive viewpoint and criterion would also take into account man
of a deeper definition and more spiritual needs. It is possible that
someday Tasleema would see that Islam's anti-woman and anti-infidel
derive from its inadequacy as a proper spiritual religion and that she
would then write about its basic categories like its exclusive and
jealous god, its prophetism, and self-suggested revelations, its
concepts of dar-ul-Islam, dar-ul-harb, ghazwah, jihad and jizya and
such other barbaric concepts.