New Delhi : Bangladeshi writer-activist Taslima Nasreen Tuesday said she “had never written” an article on the Islamic veil that triggered widespread rioting and arson in Karnataka, killing two, and suspected it was an attempt to malign her.
“I learned that the rioting and violence in Karnataka were provoked by an article written by me that appeared in a Karnataka newspaper. But I have never written any article for any Karnataka newspaper in my life. The appearance of the article in a Kannada daily is atrocious and horrifying. I was shocked by the incident,” Nasreen told IANS in a written statement from her residence in a south Delhi neighbourhood.
“In any of my writings, I have never mentioned that Prophet Muhammad was against ‘burqa (veil)’. Therefore, this is a distorted story. I suspect it is a deliberate attempt to malign me and misuse my writings to create disturbance in society. I want peace and communal amity to prevail,” she said.
Nasreen, a physician-turned-writer, is the author of several essays, anthologies, collections of short stories, and novels like ‘Lajja’ (Shame), ‘Amar Meyebela’ (My Bengali Girlhood) and ‘Phera’ (Return).
She was hounded out of Bangladesh by Muslim fundamentalists. Nasreen, who is currently in India, had earlier been granted asylum in Europe and North America. The 47-year-old Bangladeshi writer has been living in exile since 1994.
On Monday, thousands of Muslims took to the streets in the Shimoga and Hassan towns of Karnataka after an article “Pardah Hain Pardah”, purportedly written by her, was published in a local Kannada daily. Nasreen reportedly wrote that Prophet Mohammed did not believe in the tradition of the veil because it stifled women’s freedom.
The article fanned minority fire. Muslim protesters poured out into the streets, set fire to vehicles, damaged shops and clashed with police. A youth was killed in police firing, while another died of stab wounds.
The English transcript of the article, copies of which have been circulated to the media and has been posted on the web, reads more like a “recollection of the writer’s mother wearing the veil”.
“My mother used purdah. She wore a burqa with a net cover in front of the face. It reminded me of the meatsafes in my grandmother’s home. One had a net door of cloth, the other of metal. But the objective was the same: keeping the meat safe. My mother was put under the burqa by her conservative family,” the transcript said.
“They told her that wearing the burqa would mean obeying the Allah,” Nasreen apparently wrote in that article. The writer, who was presented a burqa at 16, threw it away.
The intelligentsia was reluctant to react to the controversy.
“I haven’t read the article yet. I cannot comment on it unless I go through it. Don’t ask me anything about such sensitive issues,” CPI-IM MP Brinda Karat told IANS.
Professor Shamim Hanafi, who teaches history at the Jamia Millia Islamia, refused to comment on the controversy. “But I have read Nasreen’s work. Frankly speaking, she is not a very remarkable writer. I have not been very impressed by her.”