Libmonster ID: UK-1335
Author(s) of the publication: A. A. SUVOROV

A. A. SUVOROVA, Doctor of Philology

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Bangladesh, feminism, Muslim fundamentalism, fatwa, struggle for women's rights

In the modern world, the recognition of a writer is measured by prizes, awards, laudatory reviews and large print runs. But there are only a few writers who have gained worldwide fame because a fatwa has been issued against them - the conclusion of authoritative Muslim scholars that has the force of law, and in practice is a death sentence. Among those targeted for the fatwa are two of the most prominent: Salman Rushdie (b. 1947), a native of India, and Taslima Nasreen (b.1962), a resident of Bangladesh. Their lives and works are surrounded by a halo of scandal, although in this case the price of sensation is to live in an atmosphere of constant deadly danger.

If the work of the English-language prose writer Rushdie is well known in Russia, then the poetry and prose of Taslima, who writes in Bengali, have not yet been translated into Russian. Taslima began publishing in her early youth, writing 13 collections of poetry, 8 novels, and 6 volumes of short stories, essays, and autobiographical prose. Despite her prolific work, she was not particularly well known as a writer until the early 1990s, but within a few years her name was on everyone's lips. This happened after the publication of her novel "Shame" (Lajja, 1993), which describes religious intolerance and severe persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh, including the scene of the rape of a Hindu girl by Muslims.

At the same time, the Bangladeshi Ulama issued a fatwa declaring Taslima an apostate and "hater of Islam", and the radical religious organization "Council of Warriors of Islam" appointed a monetary reward for her head1. The writer herself, as if adding fuel to the fire, in numerous interviews openly declared her "secular humanism" and atheism, spoke critically about the role of religion, in particular, Islam, in society, speaking from the position of radical feminism.

Interestingly, Taslima's companion in misfortune, Salman Rushdie, also has a novel called Shame (1983). This is not surprising: anthropologists refer South Asian countries to the so-called "culture of shame", where the concepts of "shame" and "honor", the violation of which leads to social ostracism, play a primary role in regulating social relations, in particular, in the system of education and control over behavior in society. The " culture of shame "is opposed by the" culture of guilt", which is traditionally attributed to Christian countries, where the same control is provided by the fear of moral retribution for sinful actions.2

From Taslima's point of view," shame " as a factor of social regulation is primarily responsible for the disenfranchised position of women, whose behavior, sexuality and fertility are strictly controlled by the male part of society, relying on the rules of religion. In one of the interviews, she said:: "No matter who comes to power in Bangladesh - a man or a woman, and no matter what party they represent, they will not do anything for women's equality. They support Muslim legislation that discriminates against women to please fundamentalists. Women make up half of the country's population, but they have little access to education and political participation, and no decent jobs. They are forcibly kept at home and forced to give birth endlessly, under the guise of arguments about traditions, female modesty and family honor. " 3


Of course, Taslima does not correspond at all to traditional Muslim ideas about the purpose and behavior of women. Continuing her father's profession, she graduated from the Medical Faculty of Dhaka University and became a gynecologist. Her medical practice in municipal hospitals has exposed her to the dark side of the situation of women in Bangladesh: diseases resulting from early marriages, sexual violence in the family, forced termination of pregnancy - rather inconvenient subjects that she often uses, sometimes provocatively, in her prose. Taslima herself was married three times, and for the sake of her first husband, she ran away from her parents ' home, but all her marriages ended in scandalous divorces.

But the main thing that Taslima violates the image of a good Muslim woman is her civil position of protest against the very foundations of society-religion, family and power. After her novel was banned

The article was written with the financial support of the Russian Foundation for Science, grant N 14 - 03 - 00014 "Heiresses of Asian Democracies: Tender and Political Dynasties in South Asian countries".

* See: Asia and Africa Today, 2004, No. 1.

page 70

"Shame" in 1994, she made an appeal in the press to abolish the operation of Sharia courts and the general application of Sharia in Bangladesh, which caused a real storm - thousands of rallies and demonstrations, branding her as an agent of imperialist forces and a blasphemer, and demanding her arrest and immediate execution. A radical Islamic group has even threatened to unleash thousands of venomous snakes on the streets of Dhaka if Taslima is not executed.4 The country's prime minister at that time was a woman, Khaleda Zia, but even if she felt sympathy for the persecuted writer, she was unable to influence the tense situation in the country.

Then Taslima managed to avoid arrest and leave the country, and since then her whole life has been spent in exile. She seems to have been banned from entering Bangladesh for a long time, if not forever: she was not allowed to return home even for the funeral of her father and mother. "Home is where you are hated," the writer 5 bitterly stated. For ten years, Taslima lived in the West: in France, Germany, the United States and Sweden, which gave her citizenship. Although it received a warm welcome everywhere in these countries, especially in liberal and feminist circles, it could no longer exist without its readers and outside of its native language environment. And in 2004, after many years of waiting for the right to temporarily reside in India, she did not hesitate to leave the quiet Sweden and moved to Kolkata (until 2001 - Calcutta. - editor's note), the capital of the state of West Bengal, which shares with Bangladesh the common world of Bengali culture, language and spiritual values.


In India, Taslima felt in her element - she actively participated in the cultural life of Kolkata, wrote a column in the Bengali version of The Statesman newspaper, and gave public lectures. However, in 2006, the campaign against Taslima Nasrin broke out with renewed vigor. This time the occasion was another of her novels, "Revenge "("Shodh"). It tells the somewhat far-fetched story of a young Muslim family, where a domineering husband, at the instigation of his relatives, forces his wife to terminate her first pregnancy. Subsequently, his wife takes revenge on him by conceiving a child from a neighbor. The novel may have high artistic merit in the original, but in the English translation it seems somewhat sketchy and primitive.

The novel caused a wave of rage in both Kolkata and Hyderabad, where a Telugu translation of it was published. On November 9, 2007, during a book launch in Hyderabad, Taslima was attacked by protesters organized by the All India Majlis of the Muslim Union (Majlis-e-ittehadul Muslimin), who demanded that she leave India immediately. A week later, in Kolkata, Muslim community leaders issued a new fatwa offering an "unlimited amount" as a reward to anyone who kills the writer. 6 On November 21, riots broke out in the city, inspired by the radical Islamist group All India Minority Forum, which required the army to intervene to restore order.7 Fearing for her life, Taslima was forced to flee from Kolkata to Delhi.

In the capital, the government of India, in an effort to ensure the safety of the writer, placed her under house arrest for seven months. Western human rights organizations, primarily Amnesty International, have launched a broad campaign in support of her. In January 2008, Taslima was awarded the prestigious French Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women's Freedom, but the writer refused to go to Paris for the award ceremony, fearing that she would not be allowed back to India.8

However, the protests did not subside, and this time they were caused by the publication of a multi-volume memoir of the writer, in which she highlighted both some scandalous facts from her biography and intimate details from the personal lives of prominent representatives of the Bengali intelligentsia, in particular, her first husband Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah (1956-1992). A revolutionary romantic poet, Shahidullah is widely recognized by Bengalis as the author of many popular songs. An annual festival called "Rudra Mela"is held in Dhaka in his memory. In her autobiography, Taslima told the world about Rudra's drug addiction and how he infected her with syphilis on their wedding night. The scandal resulted in 25 defamation lawsuits brought against Taslima by her colleagues, Bengali writers and journalists.9 Under pressure from the court and public opinion, Taslima deleted the most odious passages and refused to publish the last, most outspoken volume of her memoirs.


In March 2008, endless scandals, lawsuits, and threats forced Taslima to leave India and move to the West. She first lived in Sweden and France, then lectured at New York University. As is often the case with exiled dissidents, Taslima was showered with awards and prizes in recognition of her uncompromising demands for freedom of speech and human rights work. Among them: the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, the Prize of the French Republic "For Human Rights", the British award" Outstanding Humanist", the World Leader of the Future Award from the World Economic Forum and many others. She is an honorary doctor of several European universities and an honorary citizen of Paris.

At the same time, in her numerous interviews, Taslima complains that she feels lonely and homeless outside the Bengali world. By her own admission, she never managed to integrate into Western culture. "No country for women" is the name of the blog that she runs on her website on the Internet. In it, she writes: "I am not an enemy of Islam, I am a secular humanist. All over the world, women suffer and people hate each other because of their religion. It's time to end this. In a modern society, there should be neither Christian nor mu-

page 71

no Muslim laws, no Jewish or Hindu laws. We should all live by the laws of a secular society, not a religious one, and then women won't have to suffer. It's hard for me to live without my homeland, but I keep writing because so many people are waiting for me to tell the world their unspoken stories. They say I give them the strength to live. And for me, the main thing is to remain the mouthpiece of these suffering and oppressed people. " 10

As an example of Taslima Nasrin's creative work, the reader is offered a translation of her short story " Motherhood "("Matritto"). from the collection of works of the writer "Unhappy girls "("Dukhoboti Meye"), published in 1994 in Dhaka. This translation is made from Urdu as the intermediary language: Taslima Nasrin. Madariyat ("Motherhood") / / Aurat ki udas kahanianyan ("Sad stories of a woman"). Lucknow, 1998.

Targe M Simon. 1 She who makes holy men fume // Times Higher Education, 24 February 1995.

Hiebert Paul G. 2 Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985.

Deibert Michael. 3 Women's untold stories - blogs/women-s-untold-stories

Walsh James, Farid Hossain, Anita Pratap, Jefferson Penberthy. 4 Death to the Author // Time, 15 August 1994.

Richards David. 5 "Home is where they hate you" // The Nation, 25 July 1998.

Hossain Rakeeb. 6 Fatwa offers unlimited money to kill Taslima // The Hindustan Times, 18 August 2007.

7 Army deployed after Calcutta riot // BBC News, 21 November 2007.

8 Top French honour for Taslima Nasreen // The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2008.

Habib Haroon, Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay. 9 A Shocker from Taslima: Taslima Nasreen's New Book Causes a Furore in the Literary Circles of Dhaka and Kolkata // Frontline, 19 December 2003.

Nasrin Taslima. 10 No Country for Women - http://freethought


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