Taslima Nasrin: fundamentalism “destroying” Bangladesh

The current violent unrest in Bangladesh is generally portrayed (when the global media bother to take note of it at all) as a contest between the secular, left-leaning Awami League which governed until July 2001 and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has been ascendant since then in alliance with political Islam. But Taslima Nasrin, the dissident writer whose novels have been repeatedly banned by the government, says both parties have betrayed the country’s founding secular values. From the Malaysia Sun, Jan. 11:

Saying that fundamentalism had destroyed the country, exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslim Nasrin prayed for a new secular leadership in Bangladesh to bring the country out of its present sorry state.

‘We can only hope that people, who are pushed to the brink, would hit back with a revolt. There is a need for a new secular leadership to take the country forward,’ Nasrin told IANS in an exclusive interview Thursday night soon after a state of emergency was declared in Bangladesh in the run-up to a general elections on January 22.

‘Fundamentalism has destroyed the country. And unfortunately you cannot blame the fundamentalists alone. They are supported by the political parties. There is now hardly any difference between the so called secular and non-secular groups,’ Taslima said.

‘Now even the Awami League has joined hands with the fundamentalists. They are talking about bringing blasphemy laws, they are talking about issuing fatwas (religious decrees). So where do we stand?’ asked Taslima, who had to flee her native country in 1994 after her book, ‘Lajja'(or Shame), dealing with the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh, angered Muslim hardliners who threatened to kill her.

‘The country is going to bonkers and nobody cares. There is a need for revolution in Bangladesh. There is a need for a new leadership. But how that will emerge I don’t know because even intellectuals are surviving under political umbrellas,’ Nasrin said.

‘Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries and the disparity between the rich and the poor is huge. But despite corruption and the present state I hope that democratic process would return,’ she said.

‘All I can bank upon now is only hope. It is a glimmer of hope that people will hit back when they would be against the wall,’ Taslima said.

Taslima went into hiding in 1994 and then fled Bangladesh with support from international human rights organisations like PEN and Amnesty International and was given asylum in Sweden. Since then she has lived in Germany, France, the United States and Kolkata in West Bengal.

See our last posts on Bangladesh.