Taslima Nasrin: ‘The real battle should be for the death of fundamentalism.’
Columnist, editor, poet and prose writer Taslima Nasrin has published scathing critiques of Islamic oppression and even called for a radical revision of Shari’ah Law—the civil, criminal and moral law based on Islam—to protect the rights of women. In response, she has faced two fatwas in India and three in her home country, Bangladesh, which called for violence, including her beheading or hanging.
Nasrin, who has lived in exile since the early ’90s, is the author of more than 30 books of poetry, essays, short stories and novels—most of which are banned in her home country. She currently lives in India.
This month, Nasrin became an honorary citizen of Esch, Luxembourg, and Metz and Thionville, France. As a part of the resulting coverage, Emmanuelle De Rosa from Le Républicain Lorrain lead a Q&A session with the activist. Here Sampsonia Way presents the conversation translated by Clare Gates with De Rosa’s permission.
Read the original Le Républicain Lorrain article in French:
Do you fear for your life?
I am a target—I know that I can be killed at any time—but I am not afraid. India isn’t always a secure country for me. I have already been attacked physically; I have five fatwas and a price on my head. Even so, I have decided to live in India to take a stand for human rights and democracy.
The Islamists consider you an enemy, but is this your only battle?
I am not against Islam; I am for the rights of women. In my opinion, all religions are against women! There will always be people who are offended with this statement: those who don’t believe in democracy and human rights.
What do you think of the French law banning the wearing of burqas in public?
I appreciate it; I agree with the law. The burqa is a symbol of oppression, of humiliation, so it must be banned. Besides, the law is a security rule at its root: you must see the face of the person to whom you speak. I refused to wear the burqa when my mother implored me to. The burqa is evidence that women are sexual objects. It is mandatory since it’s believed that it controls men’s uncontrollable desires, and this belief only shows that men are perverse. The burqa is therefore as degrading to men as to women.
How have you taken the death of Osama bin Laden?
I am not disappointed, but for me, he has been dead for a long time. Even so, terrorism doesn’t end with his death. The problem that remains is poor education in democracy, freedom of expression, human rights and secularism in a great part of the world. The real battle should be for the death of fundamentalism.
What is your message to the women and young people?
I’m not important enough to give a message or advice, but I have so many things to say to them! To summarize, I would say that women must live with dignity and honor. They mustn’t compromise, whatever the case may be. As for the youth, it’s crucial to speak to them about equality—which is fundamental to improvement—for they will create the future.
Read more about Nasrin or check out her poetry on her website.