When Governments Gag Writers

By Anam, Tahmima | New Statesman (1996), August 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

When Governments Gag Writers


Anam, Tahmima, New Statesman (1996)


Taslima Nasreen is in trouble again. The Bangladeshi novelist, essayist and poet, best known for her 1993 novel Lajja and the resultant fatwa issued against her, was recently attacked by audience members at a book launch in Hyderabad, India. The social and political fracas that has ensued has had myriad twists and turns, from Nasreen herself being accused of inciting religious hatred, to those responsible putting a price on her head.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The row over Nasreen asks us pressing questions about the responsibilities of writers and social commentators.

Like many progressive Bangladeshis, I have had mixed feelings about Nasreen. I cringed when, in the wake of the fatwa, the western media dubbed her the "best Bengali writer since Rabindranath Tagore" or "the female Salman Rushdie". Rather than resisting these overblown comparisons, Nasreen has seemingly preferred the role of diva to that of social critic. Her politics appear to stem almost entirely from a sense of her own victim-hood. Thus, because she was the victim of religious hatred, she hates religion. She was exiled from Bangladesh, and therefore claims there is no freedom of expression in Bangladesh. She is a feminist, and therefore argues that there is no effective feminist movement in Bangladesh and that it is simply a country in which "murders are rampant, women are being raped ... [and] are committing suicide".

As a Bangladeshi citizen, as an activist and as a feminist, I have real stakes in resisting Nasreen's trite and reactionary politics. She argues for the complete abolition of religion--Islam in particular--without recognising the historical and social importance of faith, or the risks she takes in adopting a stance that can easily be adopted by anti-Islamic rhetoric the world over. We know that this sort of stereotyping has grave consequences in the current global political climate. Her views on Bangladeshi society are ahistorical and do nothing to index the struggles of the feminist movement, which has campaigned for more than three decades to challenge social and legal strictures on freedoms for women.

Because her books have been banned in Bangladesh, she refuses to acknowledge the valiant struggle against censorship that has been waged by journalists, writers and academics.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

When Governments Gag Writers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?