2002 November 22 Friday
Bangldeshi Exile Writer Taslima Nasrin

Bangladeshi Novelist and poet Taslima Nasrin, the first volume of whose memoir is entitled Meyebela: My Bengali Girlhood faces a jail sentence in Bangladesh for offending Muslims. She is, wisely, living in exile. Her book banned in Bangladesh as are other books which she has written. She recently spoke at the Asia Society (presumably in New York City):

People filled the auditorium to see the woman who fled Bangladesh in 1994 after official action was first taken against her for work that exposed the oppression of women there and the realities of Muslim-Hindu violence. Nasrin, now 40, was reported that year to have told a newspaper that the Koran should be thoroughly revised. She still insists she was misquoted, but at the time she sent a correction to the paper that fundamentalists objected to even more. Nasrin was forced into hiding, but with PEN's help, was finally allowed to leave, and she escaped to Sweden. In Bangladesh, her books are banned, and recently she was tried in absentia and found guilty of blasphemy.

Despite a request at the reading for written questions only, someone asked out loud if the uncles who raped her as a child were in the marches against her. She simply replied, "Yes." The rapes and other horrors of a childhood in a well-to-do Muslim family, marked by the sometimes brutal rule of her father, are told in Meyebela, My Bengali Girlhood (Steerforth Press), the first volume of her memoir, just now being published in the United States. Speaking of the title, Nasrin said there is no word in Bengali for girlhood, and Meyebela is her coinage to fill that void.

Some background on legal actions against her in Bangladesh:

Her 1992 novel Lajja (Shame), about a Hindu family's sufferings when Muslims in Bangladesh attacked them, led in 1993 to a call for Taslima's execution "for blasphemy and conspiracy against Islam, the Holy Koran, and its prophet." A fatwa was placed on her head by a mullah, and observers were slow to realize that the extremely strict Saudi Arabin Washhabism form of Islamic fundamentalism had now spread to Bangladesh with the help of money from followers of Osama bin Laden.

In 1994 a case was filed against her that provides for two years' imprisonment for "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class of citizens by insulting its religion or religious beliefs." Threatened and hounded by demonstrations, she immediately went into hiding.

Aided by PEN and Amnesty International, Taslima fled to Germany and Sweden, where she has remained in hiding, always fearful of being assassinated by some extremist Muslim. Daring to return her seriously ill mother from New York City, she again was detected and forced to flee. When her mother died, Taslima did not dare return to the funeral. Nor is she able to return to minister to her father, also seriously ill, because the government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, and Jamaate-Islami (which held a number of seats in the Parliament), have found it politically expedient to give in to the religious extremists.

Meredith Tax writes about Nasrin's life, religious violence in India and Bangladesh, and reviews Meyebela in an article in The Nation entitled Taslima's Pilgrimage:

But if Taslima Nasrin had worried about such things, she would not have become a human rights case. She tried to knock down every taboo in her society, writing about religion, ethnic violence, sex, all at the same time, crash! And she is still doing it. Nasrin did not have to flee Bangladesh merely because she wrote a novel about the persecution of its Hindu minority or told an Indian reporter the Sharia (Islamic law) was outdated and should be left behind. Other Bangladeshi writers, male and female, have said such things; some have also been threatened by fundamentalists; but most are still there. Nasrin combined the violation of those taboos with an even more daring transgression: She opened the closet door on a whole world of subterranean sexual experience and feeling, much of it abusive, and none of it considered fit to be discussed. She wrote about sex and religion and state politics all together, and she did it at a bad time, when fundamentalism was on the rise. The combination did her in.

This is a particularly disturbing passage from the article:

September 11, 2001, shows these events in a new light. Wahhabism, the extremely strict form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, had not only penetrated the countryside in Pakistan and Afghanistan (where the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996) but was also gaining a foothold in Bangladesh, carried by migrant laborers and spread by modern communications. Sylhet had been a center of emigration since the 1950s; thousands of young men went abroad each year to settle and send money home to their families; increasingly, they went to the Middle East. The money they earned there enabled them to come back and become landowners and leaders in their villages, and to set up madrassahs that taught the Saudi variation of Islam. The fatwa put on Taslima Nasrin in 1993 must now be seen as an early warning signal that this globalized, politicized form of Islamic fundamentalism was growing more aggressive and looking for an opportunity to test its strength in Bangladesh.

She sees religious fundamentalists as a great threat:

In December 1993, 5,000 zealots marched through Dhaka, demanding the death of the 34-year-old Bangladeshi gynecologist, poet, and author. In an ensuing general strike, one man was killed and more than two hundred other people were injured. As tension mounted, her physician-father's office was broken into, her family was threatened, and Nasrin hid with the help of friends for sixty days. The U.S. State Department was helpful in getting her out of Bangladesh, and twelve nations of the European Union made a formal offer of asylum to the writer. So she fled to Germany and to Sweden, proclaiming that "the fundamentalists are destroying our society. The silent majority is afraid of them. They will do anything in the name of God. The progressives are not so organized, for they cannot bring together 300,000 people at one time." As for the Muslim clergy, "The country is infected with them. Their long hair, beards, and robes conceal their insatiable lust for wealth and women."

She has a web site. You can also find some of her poetry here.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 22 12:32 AM  Civilizations Clash Of

Mohammed said at February 4, 2003 2:49 AM:

why is it not ni bangla

Ashley Odukoya said at March 9, 2003 6:28 PM:

I am a 17 year old African American girl and I began researching Taslima Nasrin for an English project, but now her life has become so much more for me. Although I did not face the same oppression she did by any means I can identify with her struggle to make womankind realize we are still being forced to live in a male dominated society. Being of African descent I see my female relatives all around me forced to cope with some horrible things that their men just get away with. My mother always told me I shouldn't get so caught up in such movements because I have to act this way to protect my future family. However, even in this day and age unless my husband can understand the plight of women and the fact that I will always support the everpresent movement I won't get married, willingly. Nasrin's laudable efforts have caused her excruciating pain and endless repercussions, but she has definately given this young woman the strength to stand up and join the fight for equality.

aisha said at June 24, 2003 10:25 AM:

"As for the Muslim clergy, "The country is infected with them. Their long hair, beards, and robes conceal their insatiable lust for wealth and women.""

this woman is clearly insane

mamun said at October 4, 2003 1:21 PM:

nasrin apu like u very much. also your litareture long live for us

mamun said at October 4, 2003 1:28 PM:

taslima apu pls send me a mail

sabareesan said at November 17, 2003 2:20 AM:


Madam why you been soo critical i havent read much about you but i had this question for you

Samit Ray said at December 2, 2003 7:44 AM:

I feel that Taslims's books outline the threat posed by the extremists in Bangadesh, but that also creates an 'uneasy' environment in India. Why don't you drop some of your comments to make India-friendly. Hurting the Muslim religion should not be your last word - you should be responsible for building the society. Now you live in New York - far from your own country - you are making money by writing books - but that should not be a way for you to live. Think about it.

masud said at December 7, 2003 9:16 AM:

Dear Taslima Apu !
I am from your Mymenshing; Being a man by birth I belive in human concept. So I strongly belive in your in your arguments. I think , if not today , tomorrow and the next generation must salute your for your advance works. On be half of your my generation I would like to show you my heartest respect and gratitude to you. We, the inhabitant of greater mymenshing, are really ashemed of being not able to show more sentiment publicly on favour to you. Apu ,pplz excuse us, we are here always with you. Thank you . Wish you the best work and strong life.

mansur said at January 28, 2004 11:36 PM:

dear taslima,
u r a writer - u have a right to say any thing what u belive.
i appreciate u for this reason u write in your opinion & con cept.
i like u because i obey democracy.
i support u this is my democratic write.
wish ure success in every way.
long-live taslima.
i am waiting for ure mail.
hasan mansur.

nandan said at March 10, 2004 2:57 AM:

Dear Taslima,
Hi, How r u today? Hope u r fine. I honour ur voice and perception about life and the society. Being a Bangladeshi man, I must say that u r facing illogical attack by fundamentalists and the government as well. I expect that u would return home, ur motherland and the government must pave the way for ur safe return. I read ur last book "Sai sab Andhoker". But I was surprised and actually shocked to know that u r suffering from diabetes. I have seen u practically back in 1993. I like u very much. Enjoy urself. I expect a safe sex with u.

pathak said at March 12, 2004 5:07 PM:

taslima nasrin u r just a stupid women

Hasan Abid said at March 31, 2004 7:45 PM:

Dear Taslima Nasrin,
First of all, I would like to say that you are a real hypocrate, confusing, misleading character. You want other people to be like you. You are nothing but a fox without a tail who does not have a family, who does not have a real male who can share his feelings,who can trust you, who can love you with heart and you don't have a place to live. You just live with a male who can give you the temporary pleasure for fun, you just live in a country who can give you a temporary tourist visa. Because you are a virtual person and you like virtual people and virtual place.Most of your accusations about Islam and Bangladesh are virtual and temporary. What do you possess and what did you get in your life? Nothing, no family, no lovable person, no place to live. I know you cry a lot at deep night for your own activities. Although you wanna show yourself in front of the media that you are very happy person, actually you are a psychologically disturbed woman. It is true that many Bangladeshi women are the sufferers of the extremism of Islam. But it will take time to be changed and it's getting changed step by step since women are being enlighted with education and financial stability. Nothing changes in a day and don't try to change everything in a day. To make a change, the crazy, absurd, stupid, nonsense people like you will make the situation worse. It is true that you write very well and I love your writing and I have fallen in love with your writing. But I don't like the way you want to change the society and unnecessry accusations of Islam. Don't get hurt with my writing. I just wanted to say what I feel about you. I love you for your excellent writing skill and I hate you for trying to change the society in a stupid and weird way. But overall, you are an extraordinary lady. Before changing a society, you need to be changed and you have a long way to go. You are an excellent writer, but you are a really disgusting character. I am not a writer.I just cannot express my real feelings about you. I like to cheer up, but at the same time I think that is it really good to cheer up you or not. A lots of people think about you the way I think. Think about my comments seriously.

Ranab sharma said at June 30, 2004 3:49 AM:

Dear Taslima apu
I love you from the tablet of my heart.I know you are a very good genious women. For this reason i like you so so...........But i don't want to say you why..... because eveybody knows it,
Bye and take care.

Ranab sharma

Aparna Sarkar said at November 24, 2004 6:21 AM:

Taslima di,
Please help me. My situation is very critical.To day I decide to resigned my job.Terrible preplaned mental, physical,economical torture only for wearing churidar in my school[even all educated people,addministration of my state].
What can I do? Please suggest me.

Galeb said at March 23, 2005 2:38 PM:

Dear Taslima,
I wish the modern scholar should add another wonders of the world ,counting you the eight wonder of the world . Who wants to be famous for anything whether she sells her country"s pride,her sexuality or whatever else.

Recently I came to know on your becoming more famous or should i call your unsuccessful try to become more , you have targeted marrying and ex mp (who is a scoundral, and also murderer of many innocent youths) , this causes us to laugh at you.

We have a nice piece of advice for you , ,it will be completely new and you will be more famous than anyone other novelist the world ever had. That is why don"t you marry a street dog instead marrying a murderer. Because you see , marrying a street dog will help it to get good food(if u are really kind enough to it :)) ) and also it will have good wild sex from you . As we know u r sooooooo SEX crazy .And on the other hand it will help you to be the first noivelist who showed real love top animals ...

try it ...this time we swear the novel committe might consider and who knows stanford or oxford may give u another phd degrees ....

ur true well wishers

Galeb and arro oneke.

Md.Yasin Arafat said at May 26, 2005 9:54 PM:

Your novel Lajja is my favourit book.
Your idea, your thinks realy nice,
If you dont mind,can I present a question?
#Do you enquiry about relizion consciously?
Do you mind?
Please Excuse me.

Rajat Raychaudhuri said at November 17, 2005 12:45 AM:

Many of your lifetime experience matches with my childhood experience. This is mainly related to our mother's oppression by our fathers. To be honest in my childhood I used to consider my father as a demon. That time I promised that whenever I will grow up I shall take the revenge against him. But strangely I found when ever I raised my voice against my father or whenever I criticized him openly, strangely my mother played a negative role. She rather complained against my bad temperament to all our relatives and our neighbors. What actually gave me enough of pain. And I also found that after my marriage she behaved double standard role. In front of me she always told that she loves me the most but behind me she expressed bad remarks against me. Her dishonesty generated severe pain in my mind. You might have faced similar type of situations in your life. Can you please suggest how can I give her some relief? I am born in a Bengali Hindu family. As the present Hindu society does not allow to suppress or oppress our women so openly my father could not venture all those things what your father explored , at least as you claimed in your writings. Otherwise from the core of heart both of our fathers are same I firmly believe. Moreover, now he is no more but he has left a lot of his followers and good friends who will not easily believe the bad side of his character. Rather who always obeyed him blindly or with some expectation from him are the main prominent characters around me. My question is how can I establish the truth? Or should I consider that I should have to accept my defeat? I might have thrown you in a very tough situation. I know that these are all psychological issues. But you have seen the world more critically than me and as you are more experienced than me in many social issues and you have faced the tough side of the world in true sense I want to listen your idea or suggestion on this issue. I planned to contact you before two and half years from now that time my father was alive and before his demise I wanted him to confess all his guilt in public. But I stopped apprehending some real bad effects. Now I believe that it could be the best. Any way seek your help. Lastly I must say that like you I also could forgive my father as he is my father but now I get pain seeing my mother’s dishonesty against me. I believe many of the Asian children and youth suffer from the same experience what both you and me suffered. And in our socio economic situation even the parents exploit the situation and their offspring , so a genuine protest can not take place.And finally the dishonest rules. I think we must stand behind those children or youth. They should not be confused and should not feel themselves helpless.

I don't know whether you will ever receive my mail or not as I don't know your mail id . If possible please reply.

smkm said at March 31, 2009 11:04 PM:

What is the fault of Taslima Nasrin? She tells the truth, is this? She tells the truth without any hesitation and clearly. I think where she tells directly there another writer (not all) tells by tkaing window or by a shade. Such as Nusrins show a rape seen in at screen by a rape seen (man and woman) where other shows a rape seen by flowers, birds, rain and stroms etc. Dont think you are alone.
I have more to say. May somone give me Writers email ID please.

my email id tarimonii@yahoo.com

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