July 23, 2014

Women of Doubt:
Taslima Nasrin fought for women even while exiled, still fights today.



In honor of Woman Crush Wednesday, I am claiming Wednesdays for our Women of Doubt series.

Last week, we talked about Hypatia and her importance for the scholarly world of Alexandria in the early centuries of the first millennia of the Common Era.

This week, we are going to bounce back to our own time to discuss Taslima Nasrin and her contributions to both secular views and feminist ones.

Taslima is a Bangladeshi writer. Currently, she lives in New Delhi, if the internet can be trusted.


Who is Taslima Nasrin?


Taslima Nasrin was born to a Muslim family in Bangladesh in 1962. She was raised in a secular environment.1

In 1984, she obtained her medical degree and she practiced medicine from 1986 until she was forced to quit in 1993.2

Her literary career began in 1975, when she started publishing her poetry in student journals. In 1978, she would begin editing and publishing a student poetry journal. Her first poetry book was published in 1986, and in 1989, she expanded her focus, publishing a book of essays and columns on women's rights. She became a popular columnist.3

In 1990, fundamentalists Muslims broke into the offices of the newspapers that published her columns and filed cases against her calling for charges of blasphemy. This campaign continues to the modern day. In 1992, her book was burned at the national book fair.1

1993 saw the biggest shift in her status in India, one that would lead to her exile--Lajja, or Shame, a "protest against the torture on the minority of Bangladesh" was published. This book was banned by the Bangladeshi government. She was physically attacked at the book fair, and the committee running it asked her not to return again. A price was set on her head.2

In 1994, fundamentalists demanded her execution, and the Bangladeshi filed charges against her. What charges? "Hurting religious feelings". She went into hiding until the government granted her bail, but she was forced to leave the country, taking refuge in Sweden. Bangladeshi publishers stopped publishing her books and columns.3

She was sentenced to a year in prison in 2002, for writing derogatory comments about Islam in several of her books. The first five parts of her autobiography were banned in assorted Indian states between the mid-90s and 2002. In 2010, a column that was published without her permission, which encouraged women not to wear burkas, sparked a protest that resulted in the deaths of two people. The newspaper offices were burnt.1

Taslima Nasrin has received many awards, both in India and internationally.1 Here's a short list:
Kurt Tucholsky prize from the Swedish PEN (1993)
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thoughts by European Parliament (1993)
Human Rights Award, French government (1993)
Edit de Nantes Prize, France (1993)
Honorary Doctorate from Gent University, Belgium (1995)
Anada Literary Award, West Bengal, India (2000)
Harvard University Fellowship, USA (2003)
prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence, UNESCO (2004)
Honorary Doctorate from American University of Paris, France (2005)
Grand Prix International Codorcet-Aron, Belgium (2005)
Simone de Beauvoir Prize, France (2007)
Citizen of Honor, Paris, France (2007)
Prins Global Fellowship, New York University, USA (2008)
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, USA (2009)
Feminist Press Award, USA (2009)

What does Taslima Nasrin say?


I've actually featured Nasrin's thoughts on religion before, but she has so much more to say. Here's a few of my favorites.
I believe in absolute freedom of expression. Everyone has a right to offend and be offended.

In traditional societies, we have a long legacy of men controlling the body and mind of women. Such societies have valorized motherhood and fabricated concepts like chastity. Women have been the victims of these notions for thousands of years.

The fundamentalists are increasing. People, afraid to oppose those fundamentalists, shut their mouths. It is really very difficult to make people move against a sensitive issue like religion, which is the source of fundamentalism.

When I write, I don't allow the fear of consequences to interfere with the writing process. I have in the past paid for my commitment to the truth and the way I live my life. I am prepared to pay more if I have to. 

Those religions that are oppressive to women are also against democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression.  
 Women are oppressed in the east, in the west, in the south, in the north. Women are oppressed inside, outside home, a woman is oppressed in religion, she is oppressed outside religion.

Nature says women are human beings, men have made religions to deny it. Nature say women are human beings, men cry out no! 

Literary Works


Taslima Nasrin has an incredible body of work. Courtesy of Wikipedia4 :

Poetry
• Shikore Bipul Khudha (Hunger in the Roots), 1982
• Nirbashito Bahire Ontore (Banished Without and Within), 1989
• Amar Kichu Jay Ashe Ne (I Couldn’t Care Less), 1990
• Atole Ontorin (Captive in the Abyss), 1991
• Balikar Gollachut (Game of the Girls), 1992
• Behula Eka Bhashiyechilo Bhela (Behula Floated the Raft Alone), 1993
• Ay Kosto Jhepe, Jibon Debo Mepe (Pain Come Roaring Down, I’ll Measure Out My Life for You), 1994
• Nirbashito Narir Kobita (Poems From Exile), 1996
• Jolpodyo (Waterlilies), 2000
• Khali Khali Lage (Feeling Empty), 2004
• Kicchukhan Thako (Stay for a While), 2005
• Bhalobaso? Cchai baso (It's your love! or a heap of trash!), 2007
• Bondini (Prisoner), 2008
Essay collections
• Nirbachito Column (Selected Columns), 1990
• Jabo na keno? jabo (I will go; why won't I?), 1991
• Noshto meyer noshto goddo (Fallen prose of a fallen girl), 1992
• ChoTo choTo dukkho kotha (Tale of trivial sorrows), 1994
• Narir Kono Desh Nei (Women have no country), 2007
Novels
• Oporpokkho (The Opponent), 1992.
• Shodh, 1992. ISBN 978-81-88575-05-3. Trans. in English as Getting Even.
• Nimontron (Invitation), 1993.
• Phera (Return), 1993.
• Lajja, 1993. ISBN 978-0-14-024051-1. Trans. in English as Shame.
• Bhromor Koio Gia (Tell Him The Secret), 1994.
• Forashi Premik (French Lover), 2002.
• Shorom (Shame Again), 2009.
Short stories
• Dukkhoboty meye (Sad girls), 1994
• Minu, 2007
Autobiography
• Utal Hawa (Wild Wind), 2002
• Ka (Speak Up), 2003; published in West Bengal as Dwikhondito (Split-up in Two), 2003
• Sei Sob Andhokar (Those Dark Days), 2004
• Ami Bhalo Nei, Tumi Bhalo Theko Priyo Desh ("I am not okay, but you stay well my beloved homeland"), 2006.
• Nei, Kichu Nei ( Nothing is there), 2010
• Nirbasan ( Exile), 2012
Titles in English


• Nāsarina, Tasalimā (2005). All About Women. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. ISBN 81-291-0630-2.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Kabir Chowdhury (trans.) (1997). 100 poems of Taslima Nasreen. Dhaka: Ananya. ISBN 984-412-043-8.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Carolyne Wright (trans.) (c. 1995). The Game in Reverse: Poems. New York: George Braziller.ISBN 0-8076-1391-6.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Rani Ray (trans.) (2005). Homecoming. New Delhi: Srishti Publishers. ISBN 81-88575-55-0.Trans. of Phera.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā (1994). Shame. New Delhi: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-024051-9. Trans. of Lajja.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Carolyne Wright (trans.) (1992). Light Up at Midnight: Selected Poems. Dhaka: Biddyaprakash.ISBN 984-422-008-4.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Ashim Chowdhury (trans.) (c. 2005). Love poems of Taslima Nasreen. New Delhi: Rupa & Co.ISBN 81-291-0628-0.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Gopa Majumdar (trans.) (2002). My Bengali Girlhood. South Royalton: Steerforth Press. ISBN 1-58642-051-8. Trans. of Meyebela
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Gopa Majumdar (trans.) (2001). My Girlhood: An Autobiography. New Delhi: Kali for Women.ISBN 81-86706-33-X.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Debjani Sengupta (trans.) (2004). Selected Columns. New Delhi: Srishti Publishers. ISBN 81-88575-28-3. Trans. of Tasalimā Nāsarinera nirācita kalāma.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Kankabati Datta (trans.) (1997). Shame: A Novel. Amherst: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-165-3.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Rani Ray (trans.) (2003). Shodh: Getting Even. New Delhi: Srishti Publishers. ISBN 81-88575-05-4.
• Nāsarina, Tasalimā; Nandini Guh (trans.) (2006). Wild Wind: My Stormy Youth, an Autobiography. New Delhi: Srishti Publishers. ISBN 81-88575-85-2.
Secondary works
• Garzilli, Enrica (1997). "A Non-Conventional Woman: Two Evenings with Taslima Nasrin. A Report". Journal of South Asia Women Studies (Milan: Asiatica Association) 3 (1). ISSN 1085-7478. Includes an interview with and two unpublished poems by Nasrin.
• Zafar, Manmay (2005). "Under the gaze of the state: policing literature and the case of Taslima Nasrin". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 6 (3): 410–21. doi:10.1080/14649370500170035. ISSN 1469-8447.

Taslima's Influence


Taslima is an outspoken opponent of fundamentalism, but also of religion as whole to an extent. Her plight was one of a handful of such cases of persecution in the mid-1990s that brought to light the growing fundamentalism within Islam. Her literary work raises significant and meaningful questions on the misogyny inherent in most religions.

Taslima maintains that religion as a whole threatens women, freedom, and democratic values, and this makes her somewhat unique--an outspoke woman from a Muslim world, fighting the burden of religion.

Resources


1Taslima's Journey. Taslima Nasrin Online, <http://taslimanasrin.com/Taslima.pdf> (July 21, 2014)

2Arthi Devarjan. Taslima Nasrin, Postcolonial Studies at Emory, 
<http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/taslima-nasrin/ > (July 21, 2014).

3Biography of Taslima Nasrin, PoemHunter. <http://www.poemhunter.com/taslima-nasrin/biography/> (July 21, 2014).

4Taslima Nasrin, Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taslima_Nasrin> (July 21, 2014)

Additional Reference


Not cited, but Taslima also maintains a blog called "No Country for Women". You can access it here.

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