I’ll wait to return to Bengal, my home: Taslima (Lead)

January 5th, 2009 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Taslima NasreenLondon, Jan 5 (IANS) Noted Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has defended her reported decision to move to Paris, saying repeated denials of shelter by New Delhi and Dhaka mean she has to find some other place to live in.”I have to settle somewhere if I am repeatedly denied by the Bangladesh government as well as Indian government to live in Bangladesh or India where I belong,” Nasreen said in written comments to IANS.

But wherever she lives, Bengal will remain her home, said the writer who had to leave Bangladesh and then India because of protests by Islamic fundamentalists over her feminist writings.

“I am grateful to those countries who have offered shelter when I am homeless everywhere. But wherever I live, I will always wait to return home. Bengal is my home,” said the writer, who has seen successive governments in Dhaka, Kolkata and New Delhi buckle under pressure from Islamic fundamentalists to move against her. She left India in March last year.

Nasreen, who has always found a warm welcome in Paris, temporarily moved to Sweden. The Paris mayor’s office Saturday said it has decided to provide her with a rent free apartment in the French capital. A spokesman said the writer asked the city for help after being made an honorary citizen, adding she will move into a former convent-turned-artists’ residence in February.

The writer said recently that she felt safe in Paris because she could walk in the streets without having to be escorted by bodyguards.

Nasreen still faces death threats from Islamic fundamentalist groups which were incensed by the depiction in her novel “Lajja” (Shame) of the persecution of a Hindu family in Bangladesh.

Fundamentalists - mostly South Asian men - are also angered by her feminist writings, underpinned by her strong opposition to Sharia law.

But Nasreen said recently her idea was not to criticise Islam per se, but to defend women’s rights and freedom.

“My aim is to raise consciousness, to struggle for justice for women, so I have no alternative but to criticise Islam because Islam oppresses women.”

“I know millions of women have been suffering because of religion, tradition, culture and customs, and I feel a responsibility to do something,” she was quoted as saying.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has described her as a freedom fighter, saying: “You have been chased out of your home because you raised your voice against the inhumanity of fanaticism. You are at home here, in this city where men are born and live free and equal.”

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