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Taslima Nasreen: No country for women - Humanism, secularism, feminism

Saturday 2 January 2016, by siawi3

Source: http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima/

Taslima Nasreen

December 30, 2015

Intolerance must give place to humanity

Intolerance is discrimination and lack of faith between people of different gender roles, political parties, social status, religions and so on. A debate has stirred up recently around growing intolerance in India. Intolerance does not necessarily refer to the act of harming someone physically. The mob, which killed an innocent person on suspicion th­at he was consuming beef, was not only intolerant, but also h­einous and barbaric.

Writers and artists have be­en returning their awards to t­he government and governm­ent-aided institutions to pro­test growing intolerance in th­is country. This is their form of self-expression. Some people have questioned this act, asking where were these intellectuals when Rushdie’s book w­as banned and he was barred from participating in the Kolkata and Jaipur litfests? Why did they not return their aw­ards when Taslima was atta­cked in Hyderabad or forced to leave India? Do these intellectuals only stand up against hindu extremists? But even if they do, what’s wrong with th­at? I am against any kind of religious terrorism and intolerance, therefore, if someone prefers to speak out against the barbarism of a particular religion, that’s more than welco­me to me. Intellectuals in islamic countries protest agai­nst islamic extremism, they don’t speak about the hindus or christians. Every country has minority sympathisers. H­owever, not all minorities are equally helpless. It is solely dependent on their social st­ratification. Pakistan’s hindu and christian minorities don’t enjoy the same social status as India’s muslims and christi­ans, nor do they enjoy similar freedom. The extent and nature of intolerance of minorities in these two countries are also vastly different. Add to th­at the number of orthodox pr­eachers among India’s minority religions who are ruining their own communities more than the intolerant among the majority hindus.

Having said that, intolerance has reached a new low in India. Aamir Khan’s concern about his wife thinking of lea­ving this country has made hi­m the talk of an entire nation. The Shiv Sena has even ann­ounced cash reward of Rs 1 lakh for whoever is able to slap Aamir. That reminds me of th­e imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque who, way back in 1994, announced a Rs 50,000 reward for whoever was able to smear my face with dirt. However, I still don’t place hi­ndu and muslim extremists in the same quadrant. The RSS or the Shiv Sena’s ranting are no match for the mass mass­acre of innoncents across the globe by the likes ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Laskar-e-Taiba and Al Qaida, though s­omeone did mention that the hindus have still not killed th­ousands in the name of religion because they have not found the scope to do so; had they got similar opportunity, they too would have been equal threat to civil society.

Intolerant people exist everywhere, be it Europe, America, Africa or Asia. Instead of calling an entire nation intolerant, it is wiser to point out the intolerant bunch in every nation. The constitution of In­dia does not provide for intolerance, neither has the prime minister clapped for the extremist acts of hindu fanatics. Hence, calling the country intolerant makes no sense. Certain citizens have suggested that our prime minister must take note of the Dadri incide­nt and make an attempt to ensure justice to those denied protection. It is not only that the muslims have been singl­ed out in the current hate wa­ve across India. Hindu fanatics have assassinated noted r­ationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Intolerance has been evident at all times and under th­e governance of every ruling dispensation, so, why the buzz now?

Hindu extremists live in fe­ar that the muslims would destroy their religion and cu­lture, which will eventually become extinct. Therefore, t­hey are following the same p­ath of the muslim terrorists; killing those who do not subscribe to their religious beli­efs. Can religion be preser­ved this way? Hundreds of p­owerful religions have beco­me history today, as with the Greeks and the Romans. Th­ey don’t exist anymore. Similarly, religions like hinduism, buddhism, judai­sm, christianity and islam would bec­ome extinct some day. Humanity would replace the­se with new religions that are more tolerant, or people would become more rational and logical.

The only confession that h­as arisen out of the ongoing debate on intolerance is that a former home minister has accepted that banning Rush­die’s book, back in the 1980s, wasn’t an appropriate decision. Religious intolerance is not only limited to the religious extremists, even the po­liticians are highly influenced by the same. While West Bengal’s Left Front government originally banned my book, the Trinamool government to­o recently banned the inauguration of my yet another book at Kolkata Book Fair and a television series based on my script was not allowed to be telecast. I did question the fo­rmer chief minister Buddh­adev Bhattacharya and the present chief minister Mamata Banerjee if they would accept their mistake, just as P Chidambaram of the Congre­ss party has done regarding Rushdie. However, the politicians from Bengal are firm on their stand. This is all about vote bank politics. Nobody wa­nts to take a stand against the sentiments of a fair section of the voters because of election arithmetic.

Intolerance and superstitions walk hand in hand with human consciousness and education. This is how India survives. And this is how the wo­rld too survives. Politicians and religious warmongers only look after their own benefits, while pushing the country into the valley of darkness. Only a handful of educated liberals can dare to change the society. It has always been like that.

Human beings are intolerant by nature. Love and hate occupy very strong positions in human psychology. A debate is always welcome, be it in favour of intolerance or against it. A debate makes you think. However, that debate must never give rise to violence. The instinct of violence is deep rooted in our nature. If we succeed in overcoming our thirst for blood, humanity will shine forever.

TASLIMA NASREEN
Taslima Nasreen, an award-winning writer, physician, secular humanist and human rights activist, is known for her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death. In India, Bangladesh and abroad, Nasreen’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry and memoir have topped the best-seller’s list.
Taslima Nasreen was born in Bangladesh. She started writing when she was 13. Her writings won the hearts of people across the border and she landed with the prestigious literary award Ananda from India in 1992. Taslima won The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 1994. She received the Kurt Tucholsky Award from Swedish PEN, the Simone de Beauvoir Award and Human Rights Award from Government of France, Le Prix de l’ Edit de Nantes from the city of Nantes, France, Academy prize from the Royal Academy of arts, science and literature from Belgium. She is a Humanist Laureate in The International Academy for Humanism,USA. She won Distinguished Humanist Award from International Humanist and Ethical Union, Free-thought Heroine award from Freedom From Religion foundation, USA., IBKA award, Germany,and Feminist Press Award, USA . She got the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh prize for Promotion of the Tolerance and Non-violence in 2005. She received the Medal of honor of Lyon. She got honorary citizenship from Paris, Nantes, Lyon, Metz, Thionville, Esch etc. Taslima was awarded the Condorcet-Aron Prize at the “Parliament of the French Community of Belgium†in Brussels and Ananda literary award again in 2000.
Bestowed with honorary doctorates from Gent University and UCL in Belgium, and American University of Paris and Paris Diderot University in France, she has addressed gatherings in major venues of the world like the European Parliament, National Assembly of France, Universities of Sorbonne, Oxford, Harvard, Yale, etc. She got fellowships as a research scholar at Harvard and New York Universities. She was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the USA in 2009.
Taslima has written 40 books in Bengali, which includes poetry, essays, novels and autobiography series. Her works have been translated in thirty different languages. Some of her books are banned in Bangladesh. Because of her thoughts and ideas she has been banned, blacklisted and banished from Bengal, both from Bangladesh and West Bengal part of India. She has been prevented by the authorities from returning to her country since 1994, and to West Bengal since 2007.