Islamist Thought Police

Article excerpt

OF all the applications of the death penalty, none seems less defensible than the sentence invoked on the Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen. She has been accused of criticizing the Koran in her novel "Shame" (like the India-born writer Salman Rushdie five years ago in his novel "Satanic Verses"), and for this a Muslim cleric has said: "If she doesn't come back to the faith, the punishment is clear. She should be executed." No trial. No appeal.

Other writers have risen to her defense, including Czech novelist Milan Kundera, Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, and Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (all of whom have experienced exile), plus the writers' organization International PEN.

Nevertheless, like Mr. Rushdie, Ms. Nasreen has been forced to go underground, marked for assassination.

The character assassination has already begun. Nasreen has been defamed as a pornographer. Much has been made of her three marriages. She has been faulted for her flamboyance, even by other Muslim feminists.

True or false, the particulars of the case should not be allowed to obscure the main issue. This is a direct challenge to freedom of thought, posed in the most brutish terms. …

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