Taslima Nasrin of Bangladesh--A Muslim Hero
It shows the ultimate power of at first obscure and later world famous human rights fighters. After all, it has been said that the Jewish teenager in hiding who wrote a classic diary, Anne Frank, emerged, in contrast to Adolf Hitler, as ultimately the most famous persons to be remembered from World War II. And in Russia, it has been Andrei Sakarov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg who became the real heroes of the history of the Soviet Union by their writings on the character of the regime and its Gulag Archipelago. When Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited the 89-year-old Solzhenitsyn at his home in Moscow, no one could question which one of the two had greater stature.
So, it is with those who are trying to reform Islam, taking away from it its barbaric features, fighting its discriminatory posture toward women, it is they who will be the real Muslim heroes of tomorrow.
I thought of this yesterday when the L.A. Times ran an article by Bruce Wallace reporting on the Muslim fundamentalist thugs who showed up at a news conference in Hyderabad and assaulted the exiled Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasrin, one of just a few Muslim women who have emerged in recent years as outspoken critics of Islam as it is often practiced.
Nasrin, who presently lives in Calcutta with two policemen always stationed at her door, has been threatened with death for writing in behalf of Islamic reform. In March, a group of Muslim clerics (read barbaric scoundrels) in Lucknow offered a $12,000 reward to anyone who killed Nasrin.
The author was appearing at the news conference to present a newly-published translation of her book "Shodh," or "Getting Even." The thugs, who included three elected officials of a local hard-line Muslim political party, overturned chairs, and cornered Nasrin, hurling books, bouquets of flowers and abuse at her, before police arrived. She was shaken but not seriously hurt.
The melee has been shown widely on Indian television, and drawn the condemnation of the Indian government, which said it will now extend Nasrin's visa to live in India. She was forced by threats against her life to leave Bangladesh in 1994, and has also lived in the West during much of the period since.
However, Agence France-Presse reported later that Nasrin would face criminal charges in Hyderabad for what authorities there called "hurting Muslim feelings." This is like the charges against The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for defying segregationist policies in Birmingham, Ala.. charges that resulted in his brief incarceration in the Birmingham jail. If it is a crime to hurt Muslim feelings by pointing out that religion's discrimination against women, the the world is really turned upside down, in an Orwellian sense.
"I hope to live safely in this country as a democrat," Nasrin said of her present residency in India. "The people who attacked me are in a minority. I get support and sympathy from a majority of people."
That may be putting the best face on things. India, of course, has a Hindu majority. Many of the substantial Muslim minority have been all too prone to accept extremism.
In the long run, I'm confident Nasrin and her views will prevail. But it may not be soon in much of the Middle East and South Asia.
Continuing to read through back issues of the L.A. Times, following my return from a recent trip, I was rather taken aback by the "Opinion" section of Sunday, July 29. The lead article, on summer camps treating trust fund youngsters how to handle their wealth, would have been more suitable as a feature in the Calendar section. An editorial called for the early release of a traitor to the United States, John Walker Lindh, serving an appropriate 20-year term for fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. And two more appropriate Opinion articles, on Jerry Brown's chances to become governor again, and comparing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoss affair with television newscaster Mirthala Salinas, with other affairs reporters have had with news sources, ran way back in the section.
It should be remembered, as a letter writer later pointed out to the Times, that Lindh failed to warn his American interragators of an impending attack against Americans at the prison camp in which he was held, and that an American CIA agent, Johnny Spann, was subsequently killed in such an attack. Lindh is, accordingly, not just a naive American Muslim who stumbled into Taliban hands, but he collaborated with their deadly attacks against Americans.
While the able Jim Newton has become editorial pages editor, he is under the supervision and control of the Chicago toady, publisher David Hiller. It appears that both may have been eating rotten Chicago food.