Freddom of expression, religion and freedom

Controversial Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen has been moved out of the western Indian city of Jaipur to an undisclosed destination.

Taslima Nasreen is one of the few authors who have to pay for their voice. She isn’t the first one to be threatened with death. Sulmane Rushdie is a striking example of the authors who has to go in hiding for about twenty years because of the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to have him killed. Although it is revoked later by the Iranian religious authority, there is still a bounty on his head by Muslim extremists.

Taslima Nasreen can be right or wrong in her attitude towards some Muslim practices, which can be just the invention of some Muslim scholars. But there are cases in which women are treated unfairly. In Saudi Arabia women can’t drive or set up their own businesses without the supervision of a male. The latest outcry was case of a gang-rape woman victim who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six-months in jail. Her crime was to accompany males with whom she had no family relations.

But Taslima Nasreen isn’t the only author to be silenced. In the West, there are many authors, especially males ones, who have to flee their countries of origin to express themselves freely without the risk of being prosecuted.

Free speech is a fundamental right. Authors should be protected as long as their ideas are for enlightenment and not about the spread of hatred. It’s wrong that the interpretation of Islam should remain in the hands just of male dominance, belittling female capacity to come up with the right notions on how society should deal with all individuals regardless of gender or race.

Taslima Nasreen remains for many reformists a daring voice. She needs the support of those who see female liberation through vocal and political action. Perhaps the best way for her is to be granted asylum in a Western country where she can enjoy her full freedom as a woman and as an author. Using death threat is not the perfect way to silence calls for fundamental rights. An author can be killed but his/her ideas can’t as long as they are embraced by the multitude. Killing is barbaric. Dialogue is an aspect of civilised behaviour.

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