India grants lifetime visa to Taslima Nasreen, A Bangladeshi woman under threat after decree by Islamic clerics on her liberal writings.


India; February 22, 2007. Millions of Indians must have been relieved to hear that Taslima Nasreen`s visa which was due to expire in a week has been extended to her life-time so that she can become a citizen of India. A fatwa pronounced by some Bangladeshi bigots --- for her turning a free thinker --- has put her life in jeopardy in Bangladesh. Thousands of Bangladeshis have been illegally sneaking in from their country to India, finding means of livelihood, getting ration cards and voting rights. We have not been able to do anything about them. Here we have a case of an eminent novelist who came to India legally and is threatened with expulsion. Her only crime is that in her novel Lajja she exposed rampant corruption and religious skulduggery in her homeland and reneged from her faith. She has every right to do so. Mullahs pronounced the sentence of death on her. It is our sacred duty to protect her from harm. We gave refuge to the Dalai Lama and thousands of his Tibetan followers. They proved to be law-abiding and hard-working citizens. Though the Chinese government has often upbraided us for granting them asylum, the rest of the world has applauded our extending hospitality to them. One can understand our government`s reluctance to act in haste lest it offend the government of Bangladesh but some kind of assurance should be given to Taslima Nasreen that she need not worry. She can stay in India for as long as she likes. In an article published in The Outlook, Taslima exhorted Muslim women to "burn their burqas". It created an uproar in orthodox Muslim circles. The Koran and the Hadith were quoted in support of as well as against women wearing burqas. It is assumed that it is a matter which concerns Muslims only. This is not so: it concerns all of us because Muslims are an integral part of our society. Non-Muslims would like to be closer to Muslims, their families visit Muslim homes and receive them in theirs. This is not possible if bigoted Muslims persist in segregating women folk and bullying them to wear burqas when they step out. Segregating women is a relic of the medieval past and should be discarded in the interests of the Muslim community. I fully support Taslima`s call to burn burqas. Other Muslims nations are fast getting rid of them. Pakistan and Bangladesh have had women prime ministers and ambassadors. Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya and many other Muslim countries have women soldiers. Who are these mullahs and their female counterparts to tell us that wearing a burqa is a religious obligation? It is not; it has become an emblem of jehalat --- ignorance and backwardness. (Hindustan Times)

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