Theatre of the Absurd: The Attack on Taslima Nasreen

August 11, 2007

Our cops seem to be eager to perfectly fit the mould that Bollywood/Indian cinema has set for them.

The Hyderabad police have registered a case against controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who was recently attacked by Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen workers in Hyderabad, for allegedly creating ill-feeling among communities.

The writer has been booked under Indian Penal Code Section 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, language etc) on a complaint registered by MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi, police said.

The best we can say in their favour is that they're largely helpless.

Some hooligans/legislators attacked Taslima Nasreen a few days ago. All news channels do their bit by assaulting us repeatedly with the footage, which shows a man who first yells at the folks on the rostrum and then hurls a chair at an elderly gentleman who's visibly shaken. Somebody flings a badly-mangled bouquet that lands on Nasreen. Somebody else charges at the gentleman and smacks his forehead badly. He bleeds. TIMES Now shoves this whole visual drama down our throats. I was having a hearty lunch. Life is good.

Life gets better thereafter because — to my knowledge — no frothing-at-the-mouth editorials appear after this disgraceful incident. It is relevant to recall media and blogosphere reactions during the Baroda art incident. Where are those chapter-long essays on freedom and liberty by eminent bloggers now? I guess it is because while fascism reigned in Baroda a few months ago, the goons who attacked Taslima exhibited exemplary behaviour of democratic protest. I now understand why the defenders of free speech didn't find this incident blogworthy.

But there's something deeper. Barbar Indians digs up various news sources on this and concludes that:

Only headlines from western news sources such as Reuters, Voice of America, Washington Post etc. (and surprisingly some from Malaysia and Gulf too) had the word "Muslims" in them. Most Indian headlines read: Tasleema heckled, Tasleema roughed up etc.

It's amazing how the shrillery on freedom, liberty etc. works in India. And Taslima is just about the perfect example of this.

Taslima is the poster girl of the Left/liberal intelligentsia. She's the rebel woman writer/thinker. And she's a Muslim woman who dared to expose some dreadful things about Islam in Lajja. Surprisingly, she's still alive and still breathes fire against all kinds of injustices, and says all the right things about humanism, etc. She also smokes! The perfect role model for our Leftist/liberal darlings in the academia and media. But what she stands for is violently unpardonable in Islam's eyes.

The book ban in Bangladesh and in a few states of India, continual threats to her life, the present attack are examples of this. As much as they admire her, our Left/liberal darlings are careful not to admire/support her too much. Now, these eminences danced jubilantly when Kamala Das aka Suraiya converted to Islam citing "repression of women in Hinduism" as the reason for her conversion.

Then we have intellectual giants like Shabana Azmi who are free from the shackles of religion but do not criticize Islam. They adore non-Islamic practices like Vipassana, and roar against the fascism of Hindu fundamentalists. Atanu hints at a possible reason for Shabana's non-criticism of Islam in this superb post:

...at its core, Islam proclaims that it is the perfect religion and therefore unalterable and is the final word of god. Any change or dilution of the core beliefs is by definition not Islam. Islam’s claim to be the only true and perfect faith automatically relegates all other faiths to be false and evil.

Ultimately, the Indian press is just a little more than a stooge of the government. All talk of free speech/press freedom is to self-reinforce our illusion that everything is okay.

From the same post by Barbar Indians:

Let us remind our readers that Tasleema's repeated appeals for an Indian citizenship are ignored by our government (the same government which was demanding an Australian visa for alleged terrorist Haneef merely a week ago).

Our media plays along with this, doesn't utter a word criticizing the government's refusal to grant her the said citizenship.

In this case, what doesn't get widely reported is Taslima's own statement that:

Controversial Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen says her attackers at a book release function in Hyderabad earlier Thursday were intent on killing her, but she would not be cowed down and would continue to write.

"The Muslim leaders were bent on killing me. They broke open the door of the Hyderabad Press Club and hurled brickbats at me. Had they been armed, they would have killed me," she said after returning to her Rawdon Street home in central Kolkata.

What had me ROTFLing is the charge the cops have framed against her:

IPC Section 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, language etc).

Life is wonderful.

Update: I read this bit after I'd finished composing this post. The link to this Pioneer news item may not work and I've excerpted just the relevant parts.

Akbaruddin Owaisi, the floor leader of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) in the Andhra Assembly on Friday said, "It is legitimate to kill Taslima Nasreen under Islamic law, but unfortunately we could not do it". [...] MIM president and former Member of Parliament Salahuddin Owaisi lauded his party legislators and workers for targeting Taslima stating that she had insulted Islam and Muslims all over the world and she was still continuing her mission enjoying the hospitality of the Left Government in West Bengal. [...] Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT), the rival of MIM, went to the extent of saying that originally it was their plan to implement the fatwa of death issued against Taslima... The fatwas issued to kill Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen should be implemented, he added.

All this said on the floor of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.

Sandeep works as a writer in an IT Services company based in Bangalore. Blogging is his latest and severely active hobby.
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August 11, 2007
06:32 PM

Chak de phatte

August 12, 2007
12:07 AM

I read that bit about the MIM's rivals too, Sandeep - hilarious!

August 12, 2007
12:24 AM

What do you mean by your comment Amrita? Could you be please more transparent.

August 12, 2007
12:49 AM

Hi If anybody abroad like to watch the attack on Taslima, can do so on Youtube.

August 12, 2007
12:58 AM

Spot on!

Where are the Muslim moderates condemning this incident?

August 12, 2007
02:27 AM

Just to let people know - we're having problems with comments and the front page not rebuilding fine - the comments are being saved ok, so just ignore the warnings that get displayed.

August 12, 2007
07:21 AM

Shabana Azmi (or her hubby Javed Akthar) don't criticize Islam not because they think it is perfect, but out of fear.

Unlike Hindus who can openly criticize Hinduism, Muslims will invite a lynch mob if they were to denigrate their own religion.

August 12, 2007
09:01 AM

#7 Ledzius

Look Ledzius there are scores of people in Hyderabad, who had criticized the actions of MIM , nobody were lynched. why are people so much after criticizing Islam. Well shariath is a part and parcel of Islam, and almost all Muslim Girls(atleast in India) are satisfied with it.

Well criticize the mob who burnt the Godhra train, Criticize each and every bomb blast and the riots done by Muslims since Independence committed by Muslims,no body is going to Lynch you.

For heavens sake live Shariath, there may be some incidents were Indian women have problems with Shariath, that can also be civil laws ,overall they are very much in support of it.

And please stop to be sarcastic, even Hindus are not going to be behave when their religious figures are denigrated, do not forgot the vandalism done at the sets of Water( it was never completed India), do not forgot M.F.Hussain episode, did not Shiv Sena stopped Fire, did not they attacked Shabana Azmis House. And which Hindu actor or actress protested against it? And what can Javed Akhtar do, tomorrow you will ask what Sharukh Khan has done.

As far as what MIM has done, there are scores of Muslim who protested, there was a rally by reporters and no body was Lynched.

August 12, 2007
09:26 AM

Comments are fine again, as you can see.

August 12, 2007
12:24 PM

#8, Irfan:
For heavens sake live Shariath

Are you serious?

August 12, 2007
01:04 PM

sujai and irfan:

(i posted this on another board for you guys yesterday)

re: exchange between irfan and sujai:
sharia is a way of devising laws for muslims...it is based on qur'an, sunnah (the actions of the prophet), hadith (the oral traditions and sayings of the prophet...later codified) and ijma (consensus - tracing its origin in the prophet's saying 'My community will never agree upon an error')...and qiyas (analogical reasoning)

all together one can use ijtihad (same root as jihad!...meaning arriving at an independent interpretaion taking into consideration all above sources of law to proffer a legal decision affecting muslims) to emphatically insist that sharia cannot be touched is an alien assumption and irfan is out of his league here:)


some more thoughts on rushdi wannabees...(taslima, wafa, aayan hirsa, manji, mr. rajkotwala etc.) their scholarship is shallow and limited...they play the gallery...and love being attention-whore or attention-gigolo for islamophobes apolgise for this harsh asessment


one final thought:
there are over one billion muslims and over five billion non-muslims who are experts on islam


Albert Pinto
August 12, 2007
08:41 PM

The same old idiotic numbers argument -- x billion Muslims are such and such. Well, I am impressed. Not just x billion, but x billion mostly poor, ignorant, powerless muslims. Y billion non-muslims seem to be doing better than the x billion muslims, don't they.

India has a billion people. US is 0.3 billion. Yet the US beats India.

Numbers mean shit when they are used illogically.

August 13, 2007
06:01 AM

I am with MIM, they did 100% right.

Owaisi saab aage badho
Hum tumhare sath hai.

August 13, 2007
09:36 AM


Except that the tradition of ijtihad had been thrown in the dustbin long ago and shows no signs of coming back.

Regarding "rushdi wannabes" playing to the gallery and being "attention-whore or attention-gigolo for islamophobes" and their scholarship being shallow and limited:

These people are not scholars. They are not wannabe PhDs trying to write research papers on Islam. They are just outcasts from Islamic society - hated, disowned and despised by Muslims - who are speaking out against the rather peaceful treatment they are getting from the followers of the religion of peace. They're lucky they are still alive :)

And we kafirs are lucky we get a different perspective to evaluate Islamic society than the usual high-on-political-correctness-but-low-on-intellectual-value perspective we get from the MSM, Muslims, the Left and the "intellectuals."

August 13, 2007
10:10 AM


will make two points:

Except that the tradition of ijtihad had been thrown in the dustbin long ago and shows no signs of coming back.

not true... it is being used 'selectively' by the ulema... selectively butnot substantively...their is a need to highlight its importance and the role it can play in long overdue 'reformation'

and re: outcasts

they became one by choice... as for the (wannabees') scholarship...the doting media lovers refrain from pointing it out... instead they play up their half baked assertions because it suits them


August 13, 2007
12:13 PM

My feeling is that it is the people - that is common Muslims - who should revive the tradition of ijtihad. The ulema is unlikely to encourage ijtihad as it takes away their position in Muslim society. Once ijtihad is encouraged, some people might realize that the institution of ulema is rather unnecessary as people may find ways to interpret the Quran on their own. These days, there are a lot of "courses" out there which can drill the Bible into a man's head in a month.

To say that all those Rushdie types became outcasts by choice sounds very rude. It's factually incorrect too. Taslima Nasreen didnt come to India to have fun and taste Hyderabadi biryani.

August 13, 2007
12:41 PM

@Irfan - How could you draw parallel between Hindu deities denigration by MF Hussain and Tasleema Nasreen, Salman Rushdie episode?
First difference is Tasleema, Salman are criticizing abnormality in their OWN religion; in contrast MF Hussain is doing denigration of deities of OTHER religion.
Secondly denigration of deities is huge crime as opposed to pointing out shortfalls in the religion.
Probably one parallel to mf hussain episode could be Danish Cartoon Episode and every one is aware how violent was the reaction after that.

August 13, 2007
02:05 PM

@Historian @Irfan
The incident in hyderabad is politically motivated which is a pretty common thing in India. BJP and RSS have successfully used this formula for many days, now MIM is trying the same thing.
An apt comparison would be political parties using religion to gain publicity and attract vote bank rather than a muslim criticizing Islam or Hindu criticizing Hinduism

August 13, 2007
03:24 PM

(a+b)^2=a^2+b # 18:

Your statement is right, I know that MIM is all not serious about this issue, it is a political party trying to gain political benefits , it is not uncommon anywhere.

But these Rushdie and company (Nasreen, hirsi ali) are themselves no good, they are fame seekers, look nasreen, if she was abused as a child and molested by her family members(as she claims) what has Islam to do with it. Hirsi Ali is another lie, she needed Asylum in European country,and made stories.

Historian #17
If their is any abnormality in Islam let the Islamic scholars sought it, who has given authority to Tasleema or Rushdie,Hirsi Ali(All are no more Muslims, they are self-proclaimed Atheist). I have seen hundreds of Women in my family or relatives , not even one is unhappy with shariath type of marriage or Inheritance etc, no body is abused. Majority of Indian Muslim Women are happy and supportive of Shariath( the way it is in India)
I have drawn parallel to M.F.Hussain and Tasleema :
M.F.Hussain painted hindu Goddess in the way he looked at them, similarly Taslima wrote the way she saw Islam to be, neither of them were right, so the protest against them was right. In fact I support the Hindus who protested against the screening of 'Water', I support those who protested against M.F.Hussain. The only thing is the violent protests should be avoided as much as possible.

August 13, 2007
03:27 PM

MIM was right, MIM Zindabad,

Musalmanaon ka Nara hai
MIM ka Sahara hai.

August 13, 2007
03:35 PM


>> First difference is Tasleema, Salman are criticizing abnormality in their OWN religion; in contrast MF Hussain is doing denigration of deities of OTHER religion.

How does it matter if one criticizes "own" religion or "other". I am not a muslim but I criticize Islam. Am I not allowed? You cannot have it both ways - if you support driving out of MF Hussain into exile, you cannot oppose a similar thing done to Rushdie or Taslima.

August 13, 2007
03:56 PM


>> But these Rushdie and company (Nasreen, hirsi ali) are themselves no good, they are fame seekers ...

If they are fame seekers (which I do not agree), do they deserve to be beheaded? We have been told by several Islamic leaders that Rushdie (and several others like that including the names you mentioned) must be beheaded based on Islamic theology/history. What is your take on this? What does it tell about the faith?

>> Majority of Indian Muslim Women are happy and supportive of Shariath ...

Both men and women are usually supportive of the religion they are born into. But the question is, how much of it is due to brain-washing from childhood? Many of the things like sati, untouchability, caste system, dowry system etc were/are supported by women too (even though women are the worst sufferers of these). If a 12 year boy in Afghanistan could behead a captive without an apparent prick of conscience, one can imagine the power of brain-washing.

August 13, 2007
04:44 PM

Hello Kumar,#22
Yes many Mullahs and Qazis argue that they should be beheaded, their are lot of arguments over that.
If you ask my stand, I am not for their beheading, and I think so is the majority of Muslims.

I am for banning these Mentalities,similar to the NAZI supportive authors who are banned,isolated and in some cases jailed in Western countries.

The writers who support the NAZIS, are indirectly supporting the Holocaust that happened and the writers who are writing against Islam are directly or indirectly supporting the Islamophobia, which GOD forbid, may take shape of pogrom or Holocaust against Muslim.

August 13, 2007
05:42 PM


perhaps i did not express it well or you misunderstood:)

To say that all those Rushdie types became outcasts by choice sounds very rude.

i wrote by choice because prior to writing they knew the hue/cry/support/fatwa etc. it would cause after publication

so when they decide to go ahead (let us say for genuine and or ulterior personal motives) and publish, they have made a choice

August 13, 2007
10:57 PM

It is high time that such legislators who have been elected purely on the basis of a religious majority in their constituencies (though claiming to be a minority in the State) are disqualified and if they feel that Islam is in danger on account of freedom of speech, be deported to Pakistan to have the taste of democracy there.

August 14, 2007
12:30 AM

Hi Radhakrishnan, #25

Forget that, such high time is never ever going to come.
One thing is but sure while writing your response you were in hightimes.

August 14, 2007
08:22 AM

Irfan (#23)

>> I am for banning these Mentalities,similar to the NAZI supportive authors who are banned,isolated and in some cases jailed in Western countries.

Criticism of religion is not the same as supporting Nazism. Actually it may be the exact opposite in these cases. If the fascist aspects of religion are condemned, it is more similar to condemning Nazism rather than supporting Nazism. Your analogy is a faulty analogy (in fact exact opposite).

If some writers support freedom of speech, humane treatment of women, human rights, abolishing religious persecution, support democracy based on secular humanism etc and criticize Islam on that basis, that is more like condemning Nazism/Fascism rather than supporting Nazism.
Even in case of Nazi supporting writers, there is a due sane legal procedure to follow.

August 17, 2007
10:34 AM

Latest update on this episode:-
### Imam in Kolkata puts 'unlimited reward' on Taslima's head


August 17, 2007
02:52 PM

This is clear and actionable threat. Police should arrest this lunatic for this crime.

August 17, 2007
07:42 PM

#Kumar 21,22

The incident in hyderabad is politically motivated which is a pretty common thing in India. BJP and RSS have successfully used this formula for many days, now MIM is trying the same thing.
An apt comparison would be political parties using religion to gain publicity and attract vote bank rather than a muslim criticizing Islam or Hindu criticizing Hinduism

August 18, 2007
10:53 AM

So is this article defending the free speech of Taslima? Is it condemning the acts of violence by Muslim fundoos against her? If the answers are yes, then it is a great thing and India has hope.

It would be great to know the stance of the author when it comes to the free speech and expression of MF Hussain who is now living in exile.

I have noticed that one of India's leading political parties which supported the harrassment of MF Hussain on religious grounds and forced him to go in exile, is today demanding justice for Tasleema. Also the voice of the rightwing - the Pioneer, was silent on the MF Hussain issue but is weeping over Tasleema.

So it is not that leftist media or intellectuals or parties alone have double standards or are hypocritical. The same applies for the right wing media and intellectuals and parties.

August 18, 2007
11:13 AM

Wanted to ad some more..

Anyway those in the blogosphere who are not aware of this, the current controvery about Tasleema is not about religion but about the politics of votes. So what is new?

The "fundamentalist" party MIM which attacked her is a strong ally of "secular" Congress party. The MIM is afraid that the Left Parties are making indorads into old Hyderabad, a ghetto over which the MIM has dominance today. Minority voters tired of MIM's antics and fundamentalism are voting for the Left. This has become worrisome for the tyrannical MIM and its ally the Congress. So they picked Tasleema as a poster child of the Left and attacked her. In fact they are preaching that if Tasleema is allowed to stay in India by the Left, then the Left is against their religion.

So the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh has been pretty mum about the attacks and even made the police register a case against Tasleema. This has made Hyderabad and India a laughing stock in the world. It has also exposed the double standards of the Congress.

Now as for the "Natioanlist" BJP party, it has come out in strong defense of Taslima. Now wait, where was this party when MF Hussain was repeatedly attacked and forced into exile? Did it protest against the torture of MF Hussain at the hand of Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, VHP and the other fundamentalist parties? It's protestations were as feeble as the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. After all they didn't want to upset their Bajrangi allies. So this incident also exposes the double standards of the BJP.

Now the Left is also accused of double standards. That is also very true. Haven't seen any Left leader condemning the Fatwa issued in Kolkata today. They will probably condemn after deciding the vote bank impact! But the same people were quick to criticize the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The Left is still smarting in West Bengal at the grand alliance of Congress-Naxalites-BJP-Jamaat-Trinamool (now what is the BJP doing with Jamaat and Naxalites?) under Mamata's leadership - another double standards and hypocritical leader!

Thankfully most intellectuals and right thinking common people in Kolkata (as in Hyderabad) have condemned both the Hussain and the Tasleema incidents. So there is still hope for India because a majority of common people are intelligent enough to differentiate between right and wrong.

Jai Hind!

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