The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

‘I will not say sorry for my writing’: Taslima Nasreen spoke about freedom of expression

Wandering: Nasreen said that she had consistently critiqued all forms of religious fundamentalism.   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Taslima Nasreen, author and poet from Bangladesh, has lived in exile for decades after facing death threats in her homeland for her literary works. She said, “I will not say sorry for my writing,” in a stout defence of her commentary on misogyny within religious institutions and practices.

Speaking to an auditorium packed to the rafters at The Hindu Lit for Life festival, “mystery speaker” Nasreen said that freedom of expression is necessary for democracy and she is hurt by the fact that under the “so-called democracy” in Bangladesh not only has she lived in exile for 24 years but her books, notably Lajja, had been banned.

In a conversation with Suhasini Haidar, The Hindu’s Diplomatic Affairs Editor, Nasreen argued that the freedom of expression wouldn’t exist unless “everybody had the right to offend others.” However, she drew the line at speech that is intended to incite violence or promote attacks on others, noting that this would apply to Zakir Naik, an Indian Islamic preacher, whose words, she said, had inspired the terrorists who attacked Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhakain July 2016, killing at least 20 people.

Nasreen said that she had consistently critiqued all forms of religious fundamentalism, not just Islamic. Nevertheless, when she was attacked for her views, it was not Indian leftists and secularists who supported her but “ unfortunately, the right-wingers.”

Reflecting on childhood encounters with religious texts that had propelled her toward atheism and a firm belief that only science can give the true explanation for all observed phenomena in the universe, Nasreen said that the conflict was not between various religions but between “secularism and fundamentalism... the rational illogical mind and the irrational minefield… innovation and tradition and between the people who value freedom and who do not.”

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 8:31:01 AM |

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