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.