[Reader-list] Firiz Bakht Ahmed on Attack on Taslima Nasreen

Yogi Sikand ysikand at gmail.com
Sun Aug 12 10:25:53 IST 2007

 Shame on you hoodlums!

Firoz Bakht Ahmed

I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to death, your
right to say it — Voltaire
August 10 happened to be the blackest day for Indian democracy as that
lunatic fringe of cowardly, undemocratic and waspish legislatures of
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen made a travesty of law. While the country is on
the verge of its 60th Independence Day achieved as a result of interfaith
concord, the barbaric hoodlums have again proved what havoc organized
religion can create. Owing to that, the image of India has been tarnished in
the world. The attack by the lawmakers is a shame on the values of
democracy. As elected MLAs, they are expected to respect and protect the
freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution.

These legislatures have brought shame to the nation. How do they justify the
attack on a woman? What precedent are they setting for the Muslim youth?
Their statement after the attack shows that they have no respect for the law
let alone the women.

The loony MIM activists and their ilk represent the intolerant sections that
do not believe in values of amnesty and mutual co-existence. They are in a
minority now but if they go unpunished, the malaise of violence against
voices of dissent will spread like a weed very rapidly.

Their leader Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, went a step further patting on the
back of the three vandalizing legislatures and threatening that if she would
ever step in Hyderabad, she would be killed by them, a similar comment that
was uttered by Alia Andarabi in her burqa-clad appearance on the CNN-IBN

Before the ghastly act of terror is faded out of public memory and anything
else becomes the "breaking news", the MLAs must be tried under law. Another
problem with the community and the media is that no platform is given to the
voices of sanity in the community and only patented brands representing (who
actually never represent) Muslims are encouraged in television debates.

Targeting writers and artists by the fundamentalist fringe is not new but
the horrendous attack on Taslima is a first on several counts. Till now, the
orthodox clerics only had stopped short of violence against celebrities like
Shabana Azmi, Sania Mirza etc and their ire was directed against the police,
innocent civilians and public property, now the trend has become a really
dangerous one after the entry of the educated ones  like Glasgow famed
doctor suicide bombers and now legislatures. Muslim community today has been
like a rudderless ship.

It is true that Taslima did write some derogatory remarks against the
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) but Muslims must realize that respect for him can
never be reduced by people who do not realize that the freedom of expression
and press is applied equally on both sides and with it also comes the
responsibility of not hurting the religious sensibilities of others.

For a law abiding Muslim like me, it was so embarrassing to see a lone woman
in a foreign country being manhandled by the so called custodians of Law and
Islam as well! I have felt let down these co-religionists of mine who turned
into savages assaulting the author with files, bags, chairs, flowerpots or
any anything that came lying handy and that too sarcastically at the Press
Club of Hyderabad. Eminent Muslim lawyer M Atyab Siddiqui states that true,
her lifestyle statements may not be in line with Islamic injunctions on
women, but she is well within her rights to do so.

Dr Aziz Burney, the learned Muslim scholar and editor Rashtriya Sahara Urdu
daily opines that the best treatment to works like Lajja or Satanic
denouncing religion is to ignore them and leave the matter between the
writer and God rather than taking law in hands. Such protests actually
render popularity to otherwise sub-standard literary work. He said that
Prophet Mohammed actually invited dissent rather than punishing those who
spoke against him or Islam. He believed in convincing.

Muslims have been put to shame by this remark of Akbaruddin Owaisi, MIM,
legilature when he said, "We are least concerned about our MLA, "We are
Muslims first and it is our responsibility to punish all those in any manner
who have said anything against Islam." Certainly such acts do not help
Islam. What authority or which Hadith asks for the murder of dissenters, the
Owaisis should explain as we all know that Islam was not spread by the likes
of Owaisis but by the Sufi saints whose life was generous like a river. The
honourable Owaisis overlooked the fact that ours is not a totalitarian but
secular country. Truth is whether it is Gujarat, Hyderabad or Mumbai,
legislatures of all parties, have been known for violent expressions
regarding religious and ethnic loyalties and they know how to get out of it.

Such people fail to understand that these blatantly violent and
anti-democratic expressions are the worst possible publicity of their faith
and owing to their zealous misdeed, a common Muslim who is in majority, has
to pay dividends. As reaction to this, without ado, the media will brand the
entire Muslim fraternity as a lot of extremists.

The legislatures turned goons from the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)
defied not only all democratic norms but even the Islamic ones as the
religion doesn't allow such cowardly attacks on women and other people. We
may like or dislike what Taslima Nasreen writes but when on Indian soil —
world's largest democracy — no one has the right to attack her.

Such people neither read nor understand the humane attitude of the Prophet
Muhammad, who did not attack those who insulted him, and there were many in
Mecca at the time, who did. He returned the insults with visits to the sick
with kind words. When he returned triumphant to Mecca, he did not punish any
one who had not been guilty of cruel violence.

I ask one question, Is it left to the MIM fiefdom of honourable Owaisi and
sons to decide for us Indians as to who should be allowed a visa and who
should not — depending on their understanding of blasphemy and heresy. The
Owaisi family has been running the MIM as its private business which is
deplorable. It recalls the ghetto mindset of the Gujarat BJP that banned
Parzania from being filmed in the state or that of Yaqoob Qureshi, Mulayam's
minister who announced Rs 51 crore prize for Danish cartoonist's head.

It seems that the kind of attacks in one of which Taslima Nasrin had been
subjected to in the Press Club of Hyderabad by the Majlis-e-Ittehadul
Muslimin legislators turned extremists, will never let Islam and Muslims
have a peaceful existence. It is time that all right thinking Muslims
condemn the attack on Taslima that actually is an attack on amnesty, humane
attitude and the basic democratic and secular foundations of the Indian

Quite interestingly, the attack wasn't planned by the clerics but by the
legislative members sworn to uphold the Indian constitution. The
machinations behind the heinous act smack of attaining cheap political
publicity at the cost of Islam and Muslims who both felt embarrassed by
these annihilators of law and order. These zealots proved more dastardly
that even the clergy of Lal Masjid in Islamabad. These legislators should
thank their stars that India has no Musharrafs to crush such attackers.

No doubt that people like Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushdie with their third
rate literary works have been hurting the sentiments of the Muslims all over
the world yet in a democratic set up and an independent and secular society,
it is of paramount importance that we accept freedom of expression and

We all Indians, Hindus and Muslims and all the others know that our culture
and ethos is based on the foundations of a unique secularism based on the
concept of Sarva Dharma Samabhava, globally unique and locally practicable

Well, the tragedy with Taslima is that she had been exploited by some people
who were Muslims in name and resultantly she took up cudgels Islam. Her
experiences in Bangladesh had been unpleasant and rather than following the
right track since her Lajja in 1993, she has been found wayward. But the
fact is that the best advocates of the religion are the acts by its
followers. In case of Islam she had come into contact with drastically
morally depraved Muslims. The solution is not in casting allegations against
the Prpohet or being vitriolic regarding Islam but in interpreting the
religion the Sufi way.

True that these legislatures are no ones to do moral policing but Taslima
herself is accused doing of what others are accusing the MLAs. The Muslim
community best be advised to see through the manipulative designs and ignore
such minor and insignificant issues. The only democratic and civilized way
to deal with Taslima is to either ignore her or answer her with pen as
violence at any cost is inhuman and Un-Islamic.

The attackers have rather done a great favour to Taslima that she might have
been noted for female Knighthood by Britain or may be another attack like
this can help her being nominated for the Noble prize for literature! This
is what some actors do by way of their kisses — perfect fundas to remain in
limelight! Now she will have 'Z' category security at our coast! (The author
is a commentator on social, religious and political matters) ***

FIROZ BAKHT AHMED, A-202 Adeeba Market and Apartments, Near Rehmani Masjid,
Main Road, Zakir Nagar, Oklhla, New Delhi 110 025. Ph.: 26984238, 26984517,
98109-33050 E-mail: firozbakht at rediffmail.com

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