So the rioters have driven Taslima Nasreen away from Kolkata, just as they drove her away from Hyderabad in August. Why are the politically orthodox Muslims so afraid of this woman? What has she said that has offended them so much? Evidently, she has criticized the manner in which Islamic clerics (and clerics of other religions) treat women. What followers of the revealed religions fail to understand is that although they might believe they are upholding the word of God, those who have to suffer through their interpretation of revelation also have a right to speak up and be heard. However, Islam today, as Christianity as late as the early twentieth century and Hinduism not so long ago, has to learn to listen, not just to the voice of God as embodied in its holy book and other traditional sources, but also to the voice of its followers, which include women. So let Nasreen and others like her speak up and be heard. And why has the Communist government of West Bengal chosen to ban Nasreen’s books? I thought communists were atheists--why this concern for other people’s religious feelings when they have no concern for another person’s right to life?
Which brings me to the other story that caught my eye--that of the Saudi rape victim, who has vowed to fight the verdict handed out to her (six months in jail and 200 lashes) despite being the victim of a gang rape. The Saudi government is embarrassed because her story has caught the attention of the media. Well, if they’re that embarrassed, why not do something to change the law, such as reserving punishments for the perpetrators (not the victims) of rape?
It seems women and their views are just an excuse for the orthodox to riot or to punish women--they cannot come up with a rational argument against Nasreen or this 19-year-old girl. Evidently, the Saudi court felt the girl, who was 18 when she was raped, was committing a criminal act because she was with a man who was not a relative and she was trying to get back some pictures he’d taken of her. When will the Saudis change?