Hyderabad: Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen is someone who often comes under fire for her controversial statements against Muslims. Nasreen, who currently lives in India, was once again in the news for her offensive tweets against England cricketer Moeen Ali, who she said would have joined the global terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) if he wasn’t playing cricket.
Even though she deleted her tweet after facing flak, this was however not the first time that she passed crass comments, especially against Muslims. The writer who is currently living in exile in India has a history of passing offensive and even borderline bigoted comments against Muslims, indirectly supporting the right-wing politics of the BJP.
While it is understandable that Nasrin was a victim of majoritarianism in her home country, especially due to her initial works such as Lajja, it certainly does not give her the license to spew hatred or mock Muslims. In fact, as a person who herself faced persecution from her country, she should ideally empathize with Muslims living in India, who often face blatant and even institutional discrimination. So who is she anyway?
Born in Bangladesh, exiled due to her works
Born in 1962, in Mymensingh, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Nasreen had studied medicine and became a physician. She gained global attention in the beginning of the 1990s because of her controversial essays and novels that promoted feminism or ‘blasphemy’, according to her critics.
Nasreen was also criticized after she had called for a revision of the Quran and abolition of the Sharia (Islamic Law) in May 1994 when she was interviewed by the Kolkata edition of The Statesman. She was accused of being an apostate appointed by imperial forces to vilify Islam and there was a demand for her execution.
In 2003, she earned the wrath of progressive writers too, from both her native land and West Bengal, India, who had earlier supported her freedom of expression, after she published her third autobiography titled Ka or Dwikhondito. She escaped to Sweden in 1994 and even had to live in Germany, France, USA for 10 years after facing opposition from Bangladesh.
She eventually came to India in 2004 after being granted a temporary residence permit by the Indian government and moved to Kolkata. Her criticism of Islam has often been met with opposition from Muslims in India too. In June 2006, Syed Noorur Rehaman Barkati, the Imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Masjid admitted offering money to anyone who “blackened” her face.
In March 2007, All India Personal Board (Jadeed) offered Rs 5 lakh for “beheading” her. The group’s president, Tauqeer Raza Khan, said that the bounty would be lifted only if Nasreen apologizes. In the same year, while she was in Hyderabad releasing Telugu translation of her works, Nasreen was attacked by party members, led by 3 MLAs of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), who were later arrested.
In America, Taslima Nasreen tried to read an anti-war poem titled “America” to a large Bengali crowd in 2005 and was booed off the stage at the North American Bengali Conference at Madison Square Garden, New York City. Nasreen was also criticized after she had supported Sri Lanka’s ‘Burqa ban’ and she even called the Burqas “mobile prisons” in 2019.
Before mocking Moeen Ali, she had earlier mocked a photo of Niqabi women on 3rd April saying “Why do they want to take pictures? They are so eager to take pictures, but why?”. After her latest tweet against the cricketer, Nasrin posted another tweet claiming that she was being sarcastic. However, most people were not ready to buy it, given her history.