While I was in Bangladesh, a handful of us writers raised our voices against the fatwa issued by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. It was as early as 1989. Bangladesh is a Muslim country. Standing in support of Rushdie wasn’t as easy at the time, especially when in most Muslim countries thousands were out on the streets in favour of the fatwa. Only a few of us didn’t care about the safety of our lives.
To fight for the right to expression, you almost have to sacrifice your safety too.
Then came 1993 when a price was set on my head for critically scrutinising Islam and advocating for women’s rights. The price kept increasing every day.
Fatwas are really contagious!
If one radical group issues a fatwa, another immediately follows. In Bangladesh and India combined, at least 10 fatwas have been issued against me up until now. Although fatwas are legally prohibited in both countries, the fundamentalists have such a huge number of followers that there’s never a dearth of people carrying out those. They don’t care about the law of the land; they only follow Allah’s laws.
Allah’s law says if anyone dares to criticise Islam, first, their right arm and left leg should be chopped off from behind, and later, their left arm and right leg. Even if not exactly the same way, critics of Islam are being killed in different ways these days. They were killed in the seventh century — and they are executed even today in the 21st century.
These self-claimed Prophet Muhammad’s ‘soldiers’ are still carrying out the orders of Allah who is revered as the Almighty, all-knowing, most beneficent, most gracious, and most merciful. They are still doing it because Islam hasn’t reformed whereas other religious communities have.
Islam has been exempted from the critical scrutiny that applies to other religions. The latter could rectify their errors and mistakes, eliminate barbarity and discrimination, and stop the oppression and violence against women only because they were subjected to critical scrutiny by governments and progressive thinkers. But in Islam, all forms of brutality, atrocities, and discrimination against women still continue to exist.
Terrorism is way more prevalent in Islam than in other religions. Not only progressive and free-thinking Muslims but many people from every part of the world, every religion, culture, and language have been suffering or worrying because of this today. The world fears these barbaric terrorists and hates them.
Even ordinary Muslims are being victimised due to this hatred.
The problem is, whether Muslims live in Muslim-dominated countries like Afghanistan, which practice rampant oppression, or in countries where they are in minority, even those that hold the highest ideals of secularism like in Europe and North America, some Muslims are constantly emerging as terrorists.
To stop this trend, Islam needs to undergo reformation — it has to start believing in free thinking, ban violence, dismantle the breeding ground for fundamentalism, and shut those terrorist-churning factories forever. The problem is, Muslim hardliners don’t want to see any change or evolution in society. They are against all forms of progress and free thinking. They want the law of Allah in the whole world. They wish to convert the entire world into Dar al-Islam — the land of Islam — a land in which women will not have equal rights, where non-Muslims and those who are critical of Islam will have no right to live.
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A lopsided view
Whenever there’s a discussion on Islamic terrorism, some people in India immediately drag the names of Narendra Dabholkar and Gauri Lankesh into the conversation. They want to compare Hindu extremists with Muslim fundamentalists and term both as equally dangerous. This attempt is absolutely ridiculous. The whole world has been infested by hundreds of Islamic terrorist groups today that are relentlessly carrying out terrorist activities in many countries. Suicide bombers are blowing up so many institutions and hundreds are losing their lives every now and then. They can’t be compared with a few Hindu extremists trying to terrorise people within India. By doing so, they are practically denying the gruesomeness of Islamic terrorism.
No religious scripture is sacred. All religious texts have been created by human beings. Till today, we couldn’t get hold of any proof of something we can call ‘God’. Scientific discoveries have, time and again, proved that religions are nothing but fairytales. Believing in such fairytales, humans have killed and harmed others enough. They need to stop now.
Let these barbarians who are anti-democracy, anti-individual autonomy and anti-free speech be identified, marked and called out. Let the world, its progress, the future, and above all, humanity, be saved from them.
I know America has killed more people than Islamic terrorists have. I know Israel has brought more destruction than they have. I know that these terrorists don’t have as many advanced weapons as those big nations do. But do we need to support them because of this? They are born in every era, every age. This evil has been slowly destroying the intelligence of the youth for a long time.
Today, many Hindu fundamentalists are getting influenced by Muslim extremists and becoming desperate to turn liberal Hinduism into a religion of fundamentalists. This trend is really disappointing.
There’s no other way left for us but to free the world from terror and make the world a better place to live. There’s no option left for us but to uphold every human being’s right to expression and protect the safety of each and every life. If we don’t do it today, we’ll all sink into the darkness of an uncertain future.
Governments of all countries have to stop using religion for their political interests. All religious institutions, prayer halls, and faith schools need to be shut down. Religion should go away from public places for the sake of humanity. The strict separation between State and religion is urgently necessary.
Fairytales don’t save human beings, science does.
The author is a writer and commentator. She tweets @taslimanasreen. Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)