[Reader-list] CM Naim on Attack on Taslima Nasreen

Yogi Sikand ysikand at gmail.com
Sun Aug 12 09:50:49 IST 2007


 C.M. Naim [cmnaim at sbcglobal.net]

On August 9, 2007, the Centre for Enquiry, Hyderabad, held a meeting at the
local press club, to celebrate the publication of two Telugu books, both
translations, one from the Bengali of Taslima Nasrin, and the other from the
Chinese (via English) of Jung Chang. Since the two authors are victims of
persecution in their home countries, the meeting was also a celebration of
the fundamental human right of free expression and political dissent. The
guest of honour was the Bangladeshi writer herself, who had flown in from
Kolkota where she presently lives in a perilous and uncertain exile.

As the meeting was coming to a close, it was disrupted by a small mob. This
is how *The Hindu*, under the heading -- 'Taslima Roughed Up in Hyderabad,'
reported the main events the following day:

'Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin was roughed up by legislators of the
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and a mob led by them in the Press Club
of Hyderabad on Thursday…. She had just completed her engagement when about
20 MIM activists, led by MLAs Syed Ahmed Pasha Qadri, Afsar Khan and Moazzam
Khan, barged into the conference hall.

She looked in disbelief as they hurled abuses against her. Demanding to know
"who had mustered the guts to invite her to Hyderabad, they wanted Ms.
Nasrin to be handed over to them.

Without further warning, they began throwing books, bouquets, chairs, and
whatever they could lay their hands on at her. Some persons in the mob
almost got hold of her but Narisetti Innaiah, rationalist and chairman of
the Center for Inquiry, who was her host, shielded her. He was injured in
his face. A couple of journalists who went to their rescue also sustained
injuries in the scuffle.

Ms. Nasrin escaped unhurt though she was badly shaken by the sudden attack
that came minutes after she made a categorical statement that she would
continue to fight against evil "till my death".'

I then looked up the same news on the websites of Hyderabad's two most
widely read Urdu newspapers, *Siasat* and *Munsif*, and also the English
language website of the former. What I found on August 10 did not come as a
surprise at all. In fact, it was as I had expected on the basis of my
experience of Urdu newspapers in Lucknow and Delhi. But what I read today
(August 11) on the English language website indeed surprised me. It made me
aware that things have changed more radically than I had thought.

What I read on August 10 were two fiery, rabble-rousing statements in Urdu,
but a more professional news report in English, no different from what I
quoted above from *The Hindu*. Below I give in translation portions of the
two Urdu reports. (But first an explanation of a phrase used below. *
Gustakh-e-Rasul*, lit. one who insults the prophet. I abbreviate it as *GR*

1. In *Siasat*, dated August 10, under two headings:

'*GR* Authoress Taslima Nasrin Attacked with Bouquets of Flowers'

'An Observance of What the Shari'at Commands or Merely a Political Ruse?'

'. . . *GR* Taslima Nasrin succeeded in safely going back from Hyderabad,
despite the fact that three MLAs, with some fifty supporters, threw flowers
at her in the name of a protest. The shameless *GR* authoress, who stands
next to Salman Rushdie, was taking part in a function organized by the
Center for Enquiry at the Press Club, Somaji Goda, when three members of the
Legislative Assembly, Muqtada Khan Afsar, Ahmad Pasha Qadiri, and Muazzam
Khan, together with more than fifty of their supporters, arrived and, while
using abusive language, did no more than cause a ruckus and some vandalism.
All of them were unable to harm in the slightest a *GR*, not even a woman *
GR*. A person despised in the Muslim world, against whom fatwas to kill have
been issued, on such a person they threw [merely] bouquets that had been
placed near the stage, when [in fact] there were not too many people present
there to protect her….

Neither the police nor the Intelligence Service knew about the presence of
Taslima Nasrin. That is why the MLAs had a fine opportunity to disrupt her
pro*gr*am. However, a most opportune moment to enforce the law of Shari'a on
that *GR* was wasted, what they did was only for political opportunism. The
political ambitions of the protesters was also made evident by the fact that
they dared not throw shoes or chappal at the *GR* who was only three or four
feet away from them, but instead kept throwing bouquets. The Muslim Millat
can tolerate every tyranny, injustice, and humiliation but it can never
tolerate any disrespect to the Last of the Prophets (pbuh). Whenever anyone
has shown such disrespect, Muslims have in turn shown no fear in bringing
that person to his deserved end. It is a fact of history that the Faithful
have never worried about consequences when it comes to punishing a person
who defames the Prophet (pbuh).'

2. In *Munsif*, dated August 10, under three headings:

'An Attempt to Attack the *GR* and "Notorious in Time" Taslima Nasrin'

'The Bangladeshi Authoress Didn't Get Even a Scratch.'

'People say: 'The confused author should have been taught a severe lesson.'

'Three members of the legislative assembly, with some fifteen supporters,
disrupted the meeting. They raised slogans and threw a bouquet of flowers
and a ladies' handbag toward Taslima Nasrin. Taslima Nasrin hid in a panic
behind her hosts and was not at all hurt. She was trembling in fear even
though no protesters came near her or lay a hand on her….

'Eyewitnesses say that the way this protest was conducted made it look like
a welcoming ceremony with flowers instead. The MLAs and other protesters
threw only flowers at Nasrin. They took flowers out of the bouquets set up
in the hall, and threw them at her. Not one of the protesters had the
courage to take off his shoes or chappals and hit Taslima with them, throw
them at her, or at least point the same at her. It was perfectly legitimate
[*ja'iz*] to attack Taslima Nasrin, to humiliate her, or to insult and mock
her in any fashion. However, the MLAs and workers of a political party threw
flowers, which had people's minds ringing with the old song, *'Baharo phul
barsao, mera mahbub aayaa hai*.'

'What should have been done instead? Taslima Nasrin should have been
dishonoured in such a manner that henceforth she'd never dare to return to
Hyderabad. But that was not done. There was no police officer present there.
Only two persons were trying to protect Taslima. The protesting MLAs made a
lot of noise but showed no willingness to charge forward. Those who saw the
whole thing call it a "drama." The leaders of this political party had
thrown a pot of filth upon the editor of an Urdu newspaper in Mahdi Patnam,
but now they showered only flowers on a *GR*. Today all was possible to
teach a *GR* and a disparager of Islam what her end could be, but a
political party of the city wasted the opportunity by seeking only cheap
publicity. The leaders of this party drew revolvers in their tussle over one
hundred yards of Waqf land, but cast only flowers at Taslima today….'

Long accustomed to reading such blatantly rabble-rousing statements in the
Urdu press of North India, I was not surprised to find the same in the
Hyderabadi Urdu press. And the more professional report published on the
English language website of *Siasat*, reflective of a kind of hypocrisy also
found in North Indian Muslim circles, came not as a surprise either. One is
always on one's best behaviour in English in India. Or so was the case, I
thought. But today's web-edition of the English language *Siasat* carries an
unsigned statement concerning the incident that tells me that things have
indeed changed radically. The statement is headlined, 'Barking dogs never
bite!', and reads as follows:

'It is said that 30 minutes are enough either to make or break anybody's
career, reputation or life. In the wake of the incident of attack on
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreeen [sic] at press club on Thursday, it is
indeed unbelievable that MIM MLAs got more than thirty minutes and instead
of using this time to its maximum damage, they simply wasted it in chanting
useless slogans and hurling flower bouquets knowing fully that they would
get badly needed political mileage.

'They could not lift even a chair lying near by to attack her with strong
impact though only a few persons were present there. It is nothing but a
political gimmick played on her.

'The suicide bombers in Iraq are the best example to eliminate not only
their targets but also themselves. And they are doing so with an eye
blinker. Imagine, what could they have done if they had 30 minutes.
Religious sentiments are totally different from the political ambitions.

'If you are religiously hurt, no might on this earth be able to prevent you
to eliminate a person or organization that is involved in blasphemy of
prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It clearly indicates that whatever MIM people have
on their tongue, it is missing from their hearts as the proverb goes that
barking dogs never bite.

'Now, according to Times of India and The Hindu, they are trying to add one
more 'feather' to their cap by showing an intention to organize a campaign
against Taslima to oust her from the country.

'When they could not utilize those thirty minutes to oust her from this
world itself, what is the use to organize a campaign now? It is just like an
embarrassed cat is scratching the pole. Religion is second to none to Mr.

To my knowledge, the *Munsif* does not have an English language edition. Its
issue today, however, carries an editorial, which deserves some notice.
Titled, 'The Accursed *Gustakh-e-Rasul* Taslima Nasrin,' it begins by
raising a question: 'What would a true Muslim do if he came face to face
with a *GR* woman and there is no "security" to protect her?' While it
explicitly recommends 'beating with shoes' and 'blackening the face,' it
also uses innuendo and 'historical' references to suggest more severe
actions. For *Munsif,* any 'protest' must be 'punitive.' It further points
out that if the protesters were hesitant to attack a woman, they could have
brought some of their own women with them—the MIM has its own 'women force'
and women 'corporators'—and the latter could have made Taslima a target of
their wrath.

*Munsif*, incidentally, is owned and edited by someone who long lived in
Chicago, made his money here, and might still be an American citizen. That
may explain why *Munsif* has no English website—it could get its owner in
trouble with the American security hotheads. *Siasat*, on the other hand,
seems to have some ambitions to reach out to both Urdu and non-Urdu readers
on the web. As one reads the reports and editorials in the two newspapers
one understands the true significance of the incident and its deep links to
local political rivalries. One also sees how violently radical the so-called
Muslim-Urdu opinion-makers have now become, and how blatantly they go about
radicalizing the public discourse in the worst way. As Barkha Dutt, in a
passionate and hard-hitting analysis in the *Hindustan Times* (August 10),
points out, the incident at Hyderabad must be taken most seriously by every
Indian. The MIM MLAs are indeed as reprehensible as any Pravin Togadia or
Bal Thackeray. They should indeed be condemned equally forcefully and
widely. In addition to public condemnations of the incident at Hyderabad and
its perpetrators, it is most urgent for the state and press authorities
themselves to examine the reports and editorials mentioned above and
determine if any violation of India's secular laws has also occurred.
Similarly, Urdu intellectuals in Hyderabad and elsewhere should undertake a
more active role in exposing and challenging the violent and extremist views
that are seemingly becoming more acceptable in Urdu journals and newspapers
with every passing day. The first attack on Taslima Nasrin ended when the
police arrived at the Press Club and rescued her, but the other attack
continues and its target, howsoever unwittingly, is not her alone but the
always fragile democracy in India. Any diminution of it will hurt India's
minorities more than its majority community.

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