Letter: Nasreen's heroism

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Sir: Congratulations on giving prominence to the cause of the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen ('Life in a cage for feminist who dared to tell the truth', 2 March), whose danger from local fundamentalists and their fatwas clearly demonstrates that when ideological terrorism is appeased, and when censorship in the name of religious 'sensibilities' finds so many worthy apologists, then that technique will rapidly be reused.

Recently your correspondent Yasmin Alibhai-Brown pointed out ('A new Islam for the West', 14 February) the many beneficial effects of an earlier fatwa. Had it not been for Khomeini's 'fateful' deed, she argued, British Islamists would never have formulated their critique of secularism, a principle which she disparages as the right to eat hamburgers and wear blue jeans.

I thought then that you probably can do without Big Macs if you are turning your writers into hamburger meat instead. Tim McGirk's timely piece about Taslima Nasreen prompts me to ask: how many burgered writers are to be offered up on the bloody altar of religious sanctities before we conclude that religions which treat dissenters like this may, just conceivably, deserve a little criticism, a little satirising, a little dissent?

May I also lodge a small protest against Mr McGirk's attempt to drive a wedge between Taslima Nasreen, whose courage I greatly admire, and myself. He praises her for continuing to live 'openly' (that is, being unable to leave her home, which is guarded by policemen, except under cover of darkness, and being unable to walk the streets) and sneers at me for remaining 'in hiding' (that is, going out regularly into public places in broad daylight). Such comparisons between two writers struggling in different ways against injustice are surely unnecessary.

Taslima Nasreen says that if she wins her fight to regain the passport so disgustingly confiscated by the Bangladeshi government, she wants to travel to Britain to meet me. I look forward to that day, and salute her heroism.

Yours faithfully,


2 March