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Nov 24 2013

At the European Parliament

Taslima has a post about her trip to Strasburg for the 25th Sakharov Prize anniversary.

I tweeted a lot in the last few days. I was at the European Parliament to celebrate 25th Sakharov Prize anniversary. All the Sakharov Laureates were there except Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Hu Jia, Jafar Panahi and a few others. Shirin Ebadi the Nobel Peace Prize winner came to represent Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian lawyer who received Sakharov Prize last year. We attended many conferences, seminars on Human Rights, official lunch and dinner.

But she didn’t get to talk to Malala Yousafzai.

After she got the Sakharov prize we the Sakharov Laureates took family photos. In the photo below, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament is standing between Malala and me. I congratulated Malala for the prize. She shook my hand with expressionless face. I came from the Indian subcontinent, almost from the same background, fighting religious fundamentalists for women’s rights, but her expression tells me that it means nothing to her. She in her speech expressed that the names of the previous Sakharov laureates that amazed her were Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Kofi Annan. A few days ago I requested the European Parliament to arrange for my meeting with Malala when we both would be at the parliament. But I was told that no bilateral meeting would be possible for Malala. She is now like a big superstar, no one can touch her. I imagine how busy she is with hundreds of different things in the West but I never could imagine she would not talk to any Sakharov Laureate, give no interview to any media after getting the prize and she would not be present in the discussion on children’s right at the European Parliament and would not be present even in the official dinner hosted by the President of the European Parliament for her honor. I heard her father said no to everything. I wish she could be herself. Would she be able to be herself someday in this protective environment? The glamour world and the business world both are dangerous for human rights activists.

That’s perhaps understandable, since she’s a schoolgirl and perhaps still not as strong as she would have been if the Taliban hadn’t shot her in the face…but it’s sad. It seems a great pity she wasn’t even allowed to go to the dinner and talk to her fellow laureates.

I did not expect but was not shocked either when Malala started her official speech in the name of Allah. She said, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim while she was giving a speech at the secular European Parliament. Malala believes in Allah and Islam. She often praises Islam and talks about women’s freedom. I wish she knew ‘religion is not compatible with women’s rights’.

So do I, but at the same time, she can probably do more good as she is. An Irshad Manji as opposed to a Taslima.

Everybody loves Malala. I am afraid she will be able to convince young Muslim girls that Islam is a good religion that respects women and it is good to wear Islamic veils. She talks about changing the world by books and pens. All children need books and pens. But the truth is, in all Muslim countries including Malala’s Pakistan, children are given the book called Quran to be indoctrinated in order to change the world to Darul Islam. The Taliban use pens to write the names whom they plan to kill. I think it is better to mention what kinds of books are needed to make the world a better world. And what should be done with pens.

That is true. It’s not just any books. It’s certainly not memorization and blind submission to one “holy” book.

I asked a politically incorrect question to children rights activists during children’s rights debate at the parliament: ‘You have been talking about children’s right to an adequate standard of living, health care, education and to play and recreation. You have been talking about children’s right to protection from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. But not many activists say that children should not be brainwashed to be superstitious, racists, chauvinists, misogynists, fanatics, terrorists. Why not many activists say that brainwashing children with parents’ religion or with any other religion is against children’s rights. Mutilating or cutting children’s genitals in the name of religion, culture, tradition is also against children’s rights.’

Seriously, no good answer was given to me. A woman said she was fighting against female genital mutilation. I asked ‘what about boys genital mutilation?’

I don’t get surprised easily. European Parliament’s official secretly informed me that there might be a plan to give Sakharov award to Pope.

I love Taslima’s question. And Taslima.

 

 

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    What has the Pope done to deserve the Sakharov Prize?

  2. 2
    Taslima Nasreen

    You are such a nice person! I love you too, dear Ophelia.

  3. 3
    Schlumbumbi

    @Taslima #2

    I wish she could be herself

    How can you be so sure that this wasn’t her actual real self ?

  4. 4
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Schlumbumbi @3, had you quoted more contextually, you’d have as much of a hint as to the basis for Taslima’s yearning as you do to her putative certitude. Here:

    I heard her father said no to everything. I wish she could be herself.

  5. 5
    johnthedrunkard

    Thank you Taslima.

    It is so easy to forget how an outrageous act (e.g. routine circumcision) can be rationalized and ‘normalized’ beyond criticism. That I was mutilated in a secular hospital, as a matter of course with no medical justification and not even religious lunacy for motive….

    Repeating after me: cutting off pieces of children is crazy and wrong.

    Full Stop.

  6. 6
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    Reading this post from Taslima’s first hand recent experience at the EU parliament – as a candidate of the Sakharov Laureate prize is a real eye-opener. I shall always remember what Taslima had to say with reference to Malala when she encountered her at the 25th EU celebrations. I too have also tried to weigh it up, as OB has done, and tried to see it from the perspective of a very traumatised frail young person. Even still, it’s mind- boggling to get one’s head around the cold welcome that Taslima received from those in charge of Malala.
    Sadly Malala has now become an untouchable iconic figure. I read somewhere that her desire was to return to her homeland in Pakistan. Will she be also seen as a demigod there?

    To think that the pope too will become a recipient of the Sakharov Laureate prize. Blimey, I can’t even begin to go there.

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