Dhaka: Controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has petitioned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to be allowed to return home 15 years after fleeing death threats by Islamic militants. She has not yet received any response.
She is unhappy with all regimes in Dhaka and with India, where she lived for some years, but had to leave
in 2007 following threats from Muslim extremists.
"The problem of all political parties in India is that they tend to appease the Muslim fundamentalists,"
Nasreen, who holds a Swedish passport and lives in Paris, told Blitz, a Dhaka weekly.
"Muslims comprise 25 percent of Indian population, this section generally relies on their religious leaders to choose the politician or party to vote. So, all political parties try to win the hearts of these religious leaders,
who are often fanatics.
Goodbye Taslima, shame on India
"The Indian authorities do not allow me to live in India, because they are afraid of being labelled as anti-Islam. Muslim fundamentalists claimed that I destroyed Islam. The politicians thought they, instead of supporting freedom of speech, should issue fatwa against it because to them supporting me would mean being labelled as anti-Islam which would destroy their Muslim vote-bank," she told the weekly.
Calling herself "truly secular", Nasreen however says she is not against Taliban who seek to enforce an extremist form of Islam. She wants the 'system' that produces Taliban to be destroyed.
She has disputed Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's description of Bangladesh as a 'secular' nation, pointing to numerous religion-based laws in force.
Rather than being 'secular', which is an ideal situation, she would prefer Bangladesh to be a "moderate Muslim state".
Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 to live in exile after death threats over her novel 'Lajja' (Shame) which depicts the life of a Hindu family persecuted in the Muslim-majority country.
Sheikh hasina was the prime minister then.
Her plea to return follows the poll victory of Hasina's Awami League last December. The new government has pledged to crack down on Islamic militancy.
"As there is no true secular political party in the country, it is the only party we have pinned our hopes on.
There is no alternative," Taslima said.
"I hope I would be able to return to my country during Hasina's term. If I can't go back now, I am afraid whether I will ever be able to in future. I hope good sense would prevail," she said.
Taslima was forced to leave her adopted home in India's Kolkata city in November 2007, after receiving fresh death threats from radical Indian Muslims.
After several months in hiding under Indian government's protection, Nasreen fled to Sweden in March last year, where she was offered a two-year safe haven in the town of Uppsala, a monthly allowance and an apartment.
The author said she pined for her own country.
"I have been living in exile for 15 years. They are punishing me for crimes the Muslim fanatics committed against me. I have been to almost all Bangladesh embassies in the West to get my passport renewed," Taslima said.
"I was born in Bangladesh and as a citizen it is my legal right to be able to live in Bangladesh. My right has been violated time and again. They have never given me any reason for imposing the ban," she said.