A dangerous woman

Taslima Nasreen is a dangerous woman. She must be. Why else would a group of men attack her in the middle of a poetry reading?

According to her Web site, she “was born [in 1962] in a Muslin family but brought up in a secular environment”. By 1985 she had begun a medical practice in villages in Bangladesh. By 1993 she was “forced to quit her job, as the Government confiscated her passport and asked her to stop writings.

Clearly a dangerous woman. Her writings on the oppression of women could not be countenanced. By 1993 “Islamic fundamentalists issued fatwa against her and set a price on her head.”

That was the first fatwa issued against her. Others were to follow. While prizes rained in from around the world, at home she was blacklisted and imprisoned. In 1994 she began her life in exile. Controversy and violence followed her throughout her years in Sweden, German, the U.S., and India.

Today, sixteen years into her exile, Nasrin continues to risk her life to speak out for women’s equality, freedom of thought, and human rights.

A quote from her Web site resonates for me:

“Humankind is facing an uncertain future. The probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large. In particular, the conflict is between two ideas, secularism and fundamentalism. I don’t agree with those who think the conflict is between religions or between the East and the West. To me, this conflict is basically between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith. To me, this is a conflict between modernity and anti-modernism. While some strive to go forward, others strive to go backward. This is a conflict between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.”

Those of us whose cultural heritage lies outside the Islamic world can acknowledge the excesses within our own. In my case, that heritage is Christianity.

Recently I read a book I found both repugnant and terrifying, Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundmentalism at the Heart of American Power. The Christian fundamentalists he writes about would never publicly call for the death of a heretic nor attack someone at a book reading.

Their tactics are covert but equally sinister. They are “the chosen”, an elite group that has quietly worked the halls of power so effectively they are the major force behind the globalization wreaking such havoc in countries around the world. They will stop at nothing, including assassination, to ensure the success of their agenda.

They are not alone in twisting Christianity to their own ends. They have allies in David Duke, The Army of God, the Traditional Values Coalition, Creation Ministries International, and the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

So what it is a quiet moderate to do, when faced with so many examples of what Nasrin calls the conflict “between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith”? Most of us will not face the hatred and violence Nasrin does. Few of us are as uncompromising and gutsy. But we can name injustice, and we can make our lives a statement for tolerance, openness, and joy.

Below are a few of the sites that regularly give me inspiration. What are yours?

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