'Secular' Muslims want Taslima back

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 14, 2008 19:19 hrs

Kolkata: A section of secular Muslims on Monday spearheaded a move to bring controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen back to the city from where she was shunted out by West Bengal's ruling communists following street riots late last year.

Ostensibly for her own security, Taslima Nasreen has been kept virtually in seclusion by the central government at a 'safe house' somewhere in New Delhi.

The Dharmamukto Manabbadi Mancha (DMM) (Secular Humanist Forum), an organization of "secular" Muslims, Monday demanded that Taslima be allowed to return to the city.

"Taslima should not be kept under house arrest like now. She should get back her normal life and immediately allowed to return to Kolkata," said Giyasuddin, president, DMM. The meeting was attended by eminent writer Mahasweta Devi.

"A wrong campaign is doing the rounds. Everywhere it is being circulated that the Muslims want her out of the city. But those who took part in the street riots on Nov 21 that triggered her ouster from the city were hired rowdies. Not every Muslim locality of Kolkata had taken to the streets," he said.

"It is an insult to the Muslim society when it is said that the Muslims want her out of Kolkata or India. Some self-declared representatives of the Muslims should not have the last word," he said.

"Maulana Bukhari, the imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, had gone to Nandigram as an envoy of the West Bengal chief minister, but he was rejected by the Muslims of Nandigram. Imams alone do not represent the Muslims," Giyasuddin said.

"We also demand that besides adequate security arrangements for her, she should also be allowed to visit the Kolkata Book Fair beginning Jan 30 and action taken against those clerics who issued a fatwa (decree) to kill her," Giyasuddin said.

As Giyasuddin spoke at the city's Press Club, Idris Ali, leader of the the nondescript All India Minority Forum (AIMF) whose protest march to demand Taslima's ouster from India went out of control on November 21, 2007 and triggered unprecedented street riots, loitered around to catch what a new section of city Muslims have to say.

A Muslim organisation has earlier demanded from the organizers of the book fair that no books of Taslima Nasreen be allowed to be sold at the fair.

The 45-year-old writer is being kept by the Intelligence Bureau in a 'safe house' within the National Security Guards complex in New Delhi.

In a delicate balancing act, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has promised to "shelter" Taslima but urged her to "refrain from activities and expressions" that may hurt the sentiments of Indian people and harm relations with friendly countries.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had said in the city that Taslima should apologise to the Muslims with folded hands for hurting their religious sentiments with her writings.

On November 30, 2007, Nasreen agreed to expunge the controversial portions from her biography Dwikhandita (Split in Two) .

Artistes, writers and rights activists of Kolkata continue to mobilise support for the writer whose fearless expressions on the state of women in Islam and the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh antagonised the clerics and governments, forcing her to live in exile and under heavy security.