Muslim-born Women’s Rights Advocate Taslima Nasrin Appears at Brenau

Aug 25, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Dr. Taslima Nasrin, the Muslim-born Bengali ex-doctor, author, feminist and self-proclaimed secular humanist will spend time on the Brenau University campus Oct. 4-8 and will give a public presentation Wednesday, Oct. 6, from 7-9 p.m. in Thurmond McRae auditorium on the university’s Gainesville campus.

Nasrin, a political refugee from her native Bangladesh since 1994 who was expelled from India two years ago, is continually attacked by Muslim clergy and has received death threats from Islamic fundamentalists because of her work supporting freedom of thought, equality for women and human rights in writings, lectures and campaigns.

She has written more than 30 books of poetry, essays, novels and short stories, and her works have been translated into at least 20 languages. However, she not only has had numerous appeals denied for her to return to her home, but other nations as well have pulled the welcome mat from underneath her. Ironically, just as she was receiving some of her biggest accolades internationally, the Indian government, after keeping her under house arrest for close to eight months, kicked her out of the country.

She appears at Brenau as part of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program of the Council of Independent Colleges. For more than 35 years, the Woodrow Wilson program has brought prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders, and other nonacademic professionals to campuses across the United States for week-long residencies of teaching and dialogue with students and faculty members.

“This program helps us fulfill our commitment to students to provide them with a broader view of the world,” said Jim Southerland, Brenau provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Brenau students will get to spend a week in an intensive program of classes, seminars, workshops, lectures, and informal discussions with this remarkable, courageous individual.”

Nasrin grew up with a fondness for both science and literature – and managed to work successfully in both disciplines. After graduating from medical school in 1984, she worked in public hospitals for eight years. She published her first book of poetry in 1986.

Early in her literary career, she wrote mainly poetry, and published half a dozen collections of poetry between 1986 and 1993, often with female oppression as a theme, and often containing very graphic language. She published her first prose in the early 1990s and produced three collections of essays and four novels before the publication of her 1993 novel “Lajja,” or “Shame,” in which a Hindu family is persecuted by Muslims. This publication changed her life and career dramatically.

Following the publication of “Lajja,” Nasrin suffered a number of physical and other attacks. In October 1993 an Islamic fundamentalist group, the Council of Islamic Soldiers, offered a bounty for her death.

According to Nasrin, religious scriptures are out of time and out of place. Instead of religious laws, she encourages uniform civil codes that accord women equality and justice.

Nasrin has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing on women’s rights, includiing citations of her childhood memoir “My Girlhood” as the best nonfiction book of 2002 by both the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Globe and Mail. She has also received the Ananda literary award from India, Kurt Tucholsky Prize from Swedish PEN, Feminist of the year (1994) from the Feminist Majority Foundation in USA, the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence, a fellowship as a research scholar at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights, the Human Rights Award from the Government of France, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament, and the Simone de Beauvoir Prize from France. The recipient of two honorary doctoral degrees from Ghent University and American University of Paris, she has spoken in many different countries and in different universities such as Oxford, Edinburgh, Harvard, Yale, and the Sorbonne.

Originally published on 10/01/10