Sunday, March 18, 2007

Indian Muslim group calls for beheading of writer Taslima Nasreen

LUCKNOW: Nearly seven months after UP minister Haji Yakoob Qureshi raised a storm by announcing a reward on the heads of two Danish cartoonists for lampooning the Prophet, a little-known conservative Muslim group offered a 500,000 rupee (US $11,319) bounty for the beheading of controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen.

Khan said he had declared a reward of Rs 5 lakh for anyone who killed the "notorious woman". He claimed a core body of the board comprising 150 ulema, lawyers, retired IPS officers, doctors and professors had already passed a resolution to oust Nasreen from India. Khan enjoys wide support among the Barelvi sect and the issue is likely to generate heat in coming days, especially with assembly elections round the corner, observers said.

The president of the All India Ibtehad Council, Taqi Raza Khan, said he had declared the reward for anyone who carried out the "quatal" or "extermination" of the "notorious woman."

"Taslima has put Muslims to shame in her writing. She should be killed and beheaded and anyone who does this will get a reward from the council," he said in a statement received in Lucknow, capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state.

The council, based in the Uttar Pradesh town of Bareilly, is a splinter group of the influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Khan said the only way the bounty would be lifted was if Nasreen "apologises, burns her books and leaves."

The bounty was not a fatwa as Khan, while a cleric, is not senior enough to issue Islamic decrees.

But it drew swift condemnation from one of south Asia's most powerful Muslim seminaries.

The clergy of the Sunni seminary Dar-ul Uloom in Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a large Muslim population, said the call to behead Nasreen was "un-Islamic" and that clergy should not issue such "fatwas."

"Unnecessary edicts increase friction in society and people of other religions start treating Islam as a barbaric religion," Mufti Arif, who sits on the board of the fatwa committee of Dar-ul Uloom, told AFP by telephone.

At the same time Arif backed Khan's call for 45-year-old Nasreen's expulsion from India, where she is seeking permanent residence or citizenship.

What has Nasreen done to ruffle this body? "Yeh aurat behad badzuban hai, aur Shariat par hamla karti rahi hai (this woman has a vicious tongue and has been attacking the Shariat)," said Khan.

Nasreen has incensed conservative Muslims for writing a novel "Lajja" or "Shame" depicting the life of a Hindu family facing the ire of Muslims in Bangladesh. The book is banned in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Would the decision be reconsidered? Only if "woh mafi mangey, apni sari kitabein jalaye, aur tauba kare (she apologises, burns her books and leaves)," Khan said.

The author was forced to flee her homeland in 1994 after radical Muslims decried her writings as blasphemous and demanded her execution.

There was no immediate comment available from Nasreen, who is also a doctor, who has lived in self-exile in Europe and the United States but who has lately been living in India."We have been hearing that the Indian government is thinking of granting her citizenship. The idea is repugnant to all God-fearing Muslims. #

Reports: Times of India and AFP, Mar 17, 2007