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HUMAN RIGHTS: Taslima Nasreen Vows to Continue Her Campaign

Senthil Ratnasabapathy

VIENNA, Dec 14 1994 (IPS) - Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen Wednesday vowed not to compromise her ideals at the behest of “religious fundamentalists” who have sentenced her to death.

“I have seen the cruel face of the fundamentalists,” Nasreen told journalists here. “(But) I am determined come what may I will never compromise.” Nasreen, 32, said that her time in hiding and subsequent exile in Sweden has not weakened her resolve to resist repression of women, intolerance and religious fundamentalism.

Nasreen said the world is divided not into “left or right”, but into “those sitting on the top and trampling the poor and those at the bottom who are being trampled by those at the top.”

Those on top are exploiting religion and tradition to oppress others, she said. “Whenever men are tortured and killed it is called oppression, but when women are tortured and killed it is called tradition,” she told a press conference.

Muslim leaders sentenced Nasreen to death for blasphemy after publication of her book ‘Lajja’ (Shame) last year — the story of the suffering of Bangladesh’s minority Hindus at the hands of Muslim mobs. Bangladeshi cleric Mufti Nazrul Islam has offered a reward of 2,500 dollars to anyone who kills her.

The Bangladeshi government is charging her under a British Empire- era law against “maliciously outraging” religious feelings which carries a maximum sentence of two years.

The charge cites an interview in the Calcutta daily ‘Statesman’ last summer — where she was reportedly quoted as saying: “The Koran must be revised thoroughly.” Nasreen has said that she was misquoted. Her case will reopen in Dhaka on Jan.3.

In Vienna she said church and state should be separated and “religious based political parties” be banned. Schools run by religious groups should be closed and education left secular.

She wants to return to Bangladesh, but said the situation was too volatile to guarantee her safety. “I want to continue with my struggle and for that I should be alive,” she said.

Nasreen said that critics of blasphemy laws were often told that even western countries had such legislation. This was not a justification for such a law, she said, it meant only that “western countries with such laws should abolish them”.

She also rejected claims that by her stand she was helping to feed a wider western campaign against Islam. “If anybody is trying it, they will fail,” she warned.

 
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