The fatwas against Taslima Nasreen are not in consonance with the merciful, compassionate and forgiving spirit of Islam. Believers have not been authorised by Allah to kill even those who have turned away from the right path.”
Those who are baying for the blood of Nasreen are not serving the cause of Islam. They are providing Islam baiters with a stick to beat Islam with. They should instead allow the law of the land deal with the writer.
Nasreen’s statements have rightly been deemed as an offence under section 295(A) of the Criminal Procedure Code which states, “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Bangladesh by words either spoken or written, or by visible representations, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment….for a term which may extend to two years or fine, or both.”.
Taslima Nasreen has certainly outraged the sentiments of millions of muslims. Just as the Muslims have no right to kill her, she too has no right to revile and denigrate the Quran which over a billion people hold sacred.
Islam literally means total submission to the Will of God. The Quran says, “O you who believe! Enter Islam fully and wholeheartedly.” Nasreen obviously has reservations about some Islamic tenets and injections because they do not suit her convenience. She can indulge in every conceivable forbidden pleasure and even inconceivable ones like raping men. But why she seeks divine sanction for them calls for the psychoanalysis of her behaviour and libido.
Nasreen’s problem is either she has not read the Quran or not comprehended it. Her tirade against Islam and its holy book is the result of her incomplete knowledge. Hence she makes outrageous statements like the Quran should be thoroughly revised and that Islam treats women as slaves. It was Islam that for the first time raised the status of women and accorded them rights and privileges. More important, it gave them dignity and respect.
Before the advent of Islam, women enjoyed no rights and were virtual slaves. But Muslim women did not have to struggle for their C rights. These were conferred on them 1,400 years ago when other civilisations were not even willing to consider women human beings. Annie Besant said the Islamic law on women “Was until lately, when parts of it have been imitated in England, the most just law….to be found in the world.”
Taslima Nasreen is talking of women’s liberation now, While Prophet Muhammad had declared centuries ago, “The rights of women are sacred” and “He is best among you who is best to his wife.” In his last sermon, he instructed, “ Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Nasreen-says Islam grants no rights to the wife. For her information, every married woman is entitled to the following. First, to live in the house in which her husband lives. Second, to receive the means necessary for maintaining a standard of living not inferior to that of her spouse. Third, in the event of divorce, to receive a means of maintenance conimensurate with her husband’s resources during the period of iddai, both for herself as well as for the children she nurses or keeps-irrespective of her financial status, earnings, or any property she may won. Fourth, seek and obtain dissolution of marriage known as khula. Fifth, inherit from her husband, parents, children and other relatives. Sixth, remarry, after the period of iddat, after her husband’s death.
Islam recognises women and men as equal partners in a marriage. It belives both come from the same essence, possess the same soul and equal capabilities for intellectual, spiritual and moral attainments.
If, despite the rights and privileges granted to women by Islam, some Muslim men ill-treat their spouses and usurp their rights, the fault lies with those men, not with their faith. Contrary to popular misconception, Muslims are backward not because they follow the teachings of the Quran, but because they do not. If Muslims intend to confront the contemporary challenges of life, they will have to go back to the letter and spirit of their holy book. It is a pity Nasreen considers the Quran outdated while thousands of Western men and women are embracing Islam.
Taslima Nasreen deserves credit for taking up cudgels on behalf of oppressed and exploited women and the minorities of her country. But in her over-enthusiasm, she paints far too grim a picture. The truth is Bangladeshi women are far more politically aware and economically independent than many of their third world counterparts. In the past 10 years, there has been a phenomenal rise in the number of women working in that country. In Dhaka, women outnumber men in many industries. In the ready made garment industry, women, overcoming all taboos, are doing night shifts—something unthinkable even in India.’
Even in small villages, Bangladeshi women are trying to stand on their own feet with the commendable assistance of non-governmental organisations and the Grameen Bank.
Agreed, a section of the clergy has tried to obstruct their efforts at achieving self-reliance and economic liberation. But here again, the motive is to maintain the status quo of male domination, characteristic of any patriarchal society.
Ill treating women is not the monopoly of Bangladeshi men. Nor is it something Islam approves of. If and when Taslima Nasreen, who has sought asylum in the United States, sees US society closely, she will be surprised to learn many “civilised” American men are wife beaters and sections on spousal battery and domestic violence have been added to the US Penal Code. Poverty and illiteracy are responsible for the oppression of women in Bangladesh or India or any developing country. Blaming a particular faith for this phenomenon is unfair and selfdefeating.
Taslima Nasreen should thank the fundamentalists for it was their fatwa that catapulted her to international fame. One admires her courage in exposing atrocities on Hindus by Muslims following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. But one cannot help agreeing with the assessment of Dom Moraes that “nobody who has read Nasreen’s book ‘Lajja’ would call her a writer at all”. The Western media and civil rights groups were justifiably appalled by the demands for her death. But surprisingly, they did not deem it fit to condemn the open assassination threats made by right-wing Jews against Mr. Yasser Arafat when he visited Gaza and Jericho.
Nearer home, the criticism of the fatwa soon turned into a criticism of Islamic intolerance—the pet whipping boy of the national press. First, it must be stressed Islam is not intolerant-only a section of its followers is. Muslim intolerance appears more pronounced and provocative because even insignificant events are blown out of proportion and splashed on the front pages of newspapers,
The media needs to do some soul searching. Why did it not pounce upon the Sikhs who put a Rs. 10 million price on the head of the Pakistani author, Sadiq Hussain, for allegedly revealing the Sikh Gurus in one of his books? Why was Sikhism not branded intolerant? Why was Hussain not lionised like Nasreen? Why was there no hue and cry about the brutal suppression of the Pakistani author’s literary freedom?
Recently, when a Sikh writer, settled in the US, wrote something objectionable about the Granth Sahib he was sentenced to clean the shoes of Sikh devotees as penance. Why was this news relegated to an obscure corner in most papers? Why was no moral support lent to the writer?
When Bajrang Dal activists vandalised the venue of an exhibition of cartoons on the Ayodhya affair, why was the report ignored by most newspapers? Why does no one condemn the Shiv Saniks, who despite unqualified apologies from an editor and a publisher of a weekly, forced them to withdraw every copy of the issue that carried a piece which the sainiks considered offensive to Maharashtrian Hindus? One can go on citing examples of intolerance found in every religious, linguistic, ethnic and cultural group.
Though Nasreen’s comments on the Quran have outraged the entire Muslim community, only a handful of Bangladeshi zealots have launched a campaign against her. Almost equal numbers of demonstrations and processions have been taken out in her support. Bangladesh has a strong secular and liberal heritage. Just as the majority of Hindus in India have not been swayed by the communal and fascist propaganda of the sangh parivar, the majority of Bangladeshi Muslims have no truck with Muslim fundamentalists.
We are weakening the hands of the secularists and helping the fundamentalists of Bangladesh by going over board in support of Nasreen. By choosing Indian soil to fire her salvoes against her own country and scriptures, she has succeeded in Souring India’s relations with Bangladesh.
Taslima Nasreen should know the Quran is the word of God. Not some hastily written novel that can be revised, enlarged and improved upon in subsequent editions. The holy book has stood the test of time forever 14 centurics and remained unaltered and immutable despite millions of editions till date.
Written by: Parwez Hafeez (Columnist)
(Courtesy : The Telegraph July 19, 1994)
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