A Woman of Bangladesh

by EILEEN F. TOPLANSKY March 7, 2018

In her 2004 book titled Selected Columns, Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen

writes that she considers herself "lucky that no one has, as yet, burnt [her] face, or blind[ed] [her] eyes with acid.  [She is] fortunate a gang of men have not raped [her]. [She is] fortunate to be alive, still. The crime for which [she would be] persecute[d]? [She] is a woman."  Thus, in Bangladesh, "no amount of ability can raise a woman to the level of a human being."  She recounts that "once men lived in caves and buried alive their female children.  Since then a long time has passed but [the] mentality has not changed at all."

Nasreen has received several prestigious awards for her 1989 controversial novel Lajja Yet it was banned by the government of Bangladesh, and Nasreen was forced to leave her land and "embark on a life in exile."  Despite multiple fatwas calling for her death and being banned, blacklisted and banished from Bangladesh, Nasreen asserts that she "will never be silenced." 

Nasreen makes a pointed connection between footwear and the lack of women's freedom.  Chinese foot-binding instantly comes to mind. Germaine Greer maintained in The Female Eunuch that "high-heeled slippers were created in order to stop a woman from running away when she is attacked."  In Bangladesh, "it is fashionable for women to wear anklets.  There is a hidden motive in their invention and forcing women to wear them.  The tinkling anklets betray movements, so it is easy to keep track of what she is doing."

One is reminded that the Taliban prohibit women from wearing high heels because "their foot ornaments must not produce a sound" since women are treated worse than animals and are of no importance "unless they are occupied producing children, satisfying male sexual needs or attending to the drudgery of daily housework."  Consequently, "the word 'nashto' or 'fallen' is applicable only to women, never to a man. Nashto also means to turn bad or rotten.  Milk curdles, eggs and coconuts rot, so does a woman; society applies the term to a woman as if she is an object."

Nasreen documents the misogyny that dates back to the Vedic ages in India

(c. 1500 - c. 600 BCE) and has continued with the arrival of Islam. Thus, women "were hardly regarded as humans."  Though a man may take two wives, a women is forbidden two husbands.  Thus, the Vedic scriptures "are well versed in the art of imprisoning women under the control of father, husband and son."

Such attitudes are certainly not confined to Bangladesh. Common expressions "in China are 'They said to me, "You are only a girl. You are spilt water."' This "cold, dismissive expression is universally used about unwanted daughters - and to their faces. These were educated, urban people. Imagine, then, how much coarser and more brutal the attitude is in the villages or among the sweatshops where the poor and uneducated gather. Only a century ago, historians recorded that such sayings as 'There is no thief like a family with five daughters' and 'Daughters are goods which lose you money' were common among Chinese peasants.'"

In similar fashion, Nasreen explains that "the birth of a daughter was considered a curse according to the Aitereya Brahman" [ancient Indian collection of sacred hymns]. She recounts the time when, as an 18-year old , she was deliberately burned on the arm with a cigarette by a teenage boy.  She writes that she still bears "that scar, that mark of oppression on my right arm.  What is the point of blaming that illiterate boy, when even the educated are guilty?  Once a boy pinched the thigh of a friend . . . a stranger pulled the dupatta of my sister and fled; in the crowd, a hundred and one dark hands crouch, waiting to touch a girl's breast or waist.  Many of these hands do not belong to uneducated men.  I know many of them belong to civilized, educated men."

In "Bangladesh, about seventy-five percent of girls between the ages of fifteen and  nineteen are married, whereas in western Europe, the ratio is not even one percent."  The lives of these women consist only of obeying the order of their sahib or husbands.  Yet, the Western world invites this ideology into its borders without making any effort to thwart the trend toward this diminution of women.  Clearly as explained by Zia Haider Rahman ". . . unless policy-makers grasp the nuances of the backgrounds from which our different immigrant communities come, British policy initiatives will founder because they will not engage with that most fundamental causative determinant of social behaviour: culture."  In fact, "[a]ll this comes down to criticising and influencing other people's values, which ought not to raise any hackles but it might, only because these days 'values' appears to have become a rather dirty word [.] We seem to be afraid of asserting our values [.]"  And by the way, as Nasreen asserts, "not only Africa, every home in the Third World is a secret centre of colour prejudice."  Coupled with traditional discrimination, racism, and sexual ignorance, is the belief that men are to be obeyed at all costs.  Thus, whipping, beating and torture are sanctioned and even the worldly Nasreen could not believe it when she was shown the Muslim Hadish and the Trimizi Hadish which states "[i]f a man wishes to be physically united with his wife and calls her, she must come at once, even if she is cooking" or "if your wife does something shameless, banish her from your bed and beat her."  Astonished, Nasreen writes "I could not believe, in this day and age, such injustice, such dishonour could be propagated in print; that society accepted these crimes in letter and spirit; that respectable people of our society follow rules of religious barbarism."

One chapter from Nasreen's book could have been taken directly from the heinous events in Cologne, Germany during New Year's Eve 2016.  Nasreen writes that "every year on the 21st February at the gate of Bangla Academy awful incidents continue to take place -- silently.  The Director of the Academy is well aware of these happenings but nothing has been done to prevent them."  Thus, "[e]very year, the crowd swells with a purpose. If a woman is trapped within the crowd, numerous hands clutch at her buttocks, squeeze her breast, waist and thighs. The obscene pawing is enough to make a woman sick.

Is it any wonder that "Algerian Hassan T whooped and cheered as he walked free from court after receiving . . . a suspended sentence for his part in the Cologne sex attacks?"  He is a descendant of this cultural behavior and will exercise his will wherever and whenever he can while the authorities do nothing. 

Whether in Bangladesh, Great Britain, India or Germany "religion, society and the state have not given women [their] due honour."  Whether predicated on religion or based on political correctness the stench remains and "inequality is increasing because there is inequality in religion, in . . . society and in the state.  If a wrong is perpetuated, it flourishes like the green bay tree."

I have often wondered why American feminists are silent when it comes to the issue of rape of women in Muslim-based countries.  In Pakistan "adultery, pre-marital sex, rape and prostitution are called 'zena." "Zena' is committed whenever a man and a woman, not married to each other indulge in sex."  The greatest punishment for 'zena' is 'hud.' For married couples, this entails stoning to death, and for unmarried ones, a hundred blows of the whip."  Women and those of other faiths are not permitted to give any testimony.  So allowing only male testimony in a rape case essentially shields "the culprit and prevents the victim from obtaining justice."

The sharia law as promulgated by the Pakistani government is yet another example of laws that are inherently unjust and inhumane, e.g., Jim Crow law, Nuremburg law.  And yet, as Nasreen writes "We see, we hear, we spit with contempt -- but does it matter? Those who pass laws and ordinances are so powerful they do not care a fig for people's protest." 

And, finally, while American law enforcement agencies dither about the true purposes of many mosques in this country, Nasreen reminds us that "if religious shrines destroy love and compassion between people, then let all temples, mosques, churches and pagodas be erased from the face of the earth."  To those who would avert their eyes to the vile condemnations of Jews and other alleged infidels that are weekly fodder in mosques, take heed.  Muslim clerics are "threatening the lives of Jews from the pulpits of American mosques, and they are doing it with virtual impunity. In fact, ". . . at least five prominent US imams have been caught on tape preaching violence against Jews in sermons at mosques across America."

Taslima Nasreen, like many others, fears both the leaders who "want to establish an Islamic state and [the] freedom-hating people [who give] them every kind of support." 

How then could such a thinker write in 2014 that she oppose[s] Israel exactly for the same reason [she] opposes Hamas, Al Qaeda, ISIS, LeT, Taliban, Boko Haram, Jamate Islami etc. Bcz [she] is against terrorism."  Has she no discernment and understanding that Israel is against the very terrorism she despises? Why does anti-Semitism always creep into the work of so many artists, authors and musicians?  Terribly disheartening and disappointing.  

Eileen has been a medical librarian, an Emergency Medical Technician and a Hebrew School teacher.  She is currently an adjunct college instructor of English composition and literature.  Active in the 1970's Soviet Jewry Refusenik movement, she continues to speak out against tyranny.  Eileen is also a regular contributor to American Thinker. She can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

blog comments powered by Disqus

FSM Archives

10 year FSM Anniversary