Letter: Bangladeshi author's fatwa

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The Independent Online
Sir: I would like to point out certain misrepresentations in the article about the controversial writer Taslima Nasreen ('Life in a cage for feminist who dared to tell the truth', 2 March). Nasreen does not live in a 'cage'. Her home is a high-rise flat, a luxury apartment in Dhaka. A property no poet of her age in Bangladesh could ever dream of buying. A school principal in Sylhet is said to have issued a fatwa or death threat against her but the Sharia-fatwa cannot be issued by any individual. The principal only demanded that the government take action against her for blasphemous remarks in her writings. Some people staged marches in Dhaka demanding the same.

Bangladeshis are religious, God- fearing people but not zealots or fanatics. Women move about openly, dress modestly, but not all in veils. Of 34 women MPs only two use veils in parliament.

Nasreen, a government doctor by profession, wanted to travel in India last year but her passport was taken away by the immigration authorities because she falsely stated that she was a journalist. She has replied to the charges made against her and the case is now pending.

She can apply for a new passport, but as she is still in government service, she has to apply through her administrative ministry stating her reasons for asking for a new passport.

Her novel, Lajja (Shame), was banned because it depicted a wrong picture of Bangladesh in the wake of the destruction of Babri Mosque in India. Shocked Muslims took to the streets in protest and seven people died, three were Muslims killed in police action and the others were burnt to death in their homes when certain elements from their community set fire to their homes to take their land.

Nasreen says she is shocked at the extremist support for her in India but it is the Hindu extremists who printed and distributed several language editions of her book. The Bangladeshi government did not prosecute her. We believe in Nasreen's fundamental right to speak and to write, even though her books preach free sex and

polygamy for women.

Yours faithfully,

SHEHABUDDIN AHMED

Minister (Press)

High Commission for the

People's Republic of

Bangladesh

London, SW7

8 March

(Photograph omitted)

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