Are we for each other?

Thousands of people are floating on the sea. Water is accepting them but not the land. In fact, there is no objection from the land but the land animals are objecting. Though, the other animals have no objection. The objection is only from the animals called human. Those who are floating towards nowhere in the sea, are also human being.
People are suffering from hunger, thirst. But no country would take them or give them shelter. Bangladesh won’t accept Bangladeshis. Myanmar won’t take back the Myanmar people. They wanted to go to Malaysia. Malaysia said that they won’t accept them. Indonesia said they would not take them, Thailand said the same. No one wants to accept them, because they are poor. In simple terms poor people are outcaste, uncalled for. They have no one, they have nothing. The only thing they have is misery. If rich people were floating instead! Would anyone have stopped them from anchoring their boats in any shore? I don’t think so. Everyone would have welcomed and accepted them in no time.
Human traffickers have illegally floated their boats on the sea. Being trafficked through the waterway, they call it ‘Columbus Visa’ and being trafficked through the woodland is ‘Tarzan Visa’. Even their worst enemies won’t say that the traffickers don’t have any sense of humor. How much do the traffickers charge per head? Ten thousand rupees! Most people sell their homestead or even the last thing to pay those traffickers. They pay not only to the traffickers, after reaching the destination they pay rupees twenty five thousand per head to the owner of the bigger trawlers. People take the decision of leaving their motherland to the other land just to change their destiny a bit. Muslims would go to the Muslim countries. Haven’t they expected a lot for this to happen! Indonesia government ordered, No fisherman should rescue those people to the shore even if they see them downing in the sea. I’ve heard a lot about the slogans of Muslim brotherhood. In Saudi Arabia, In the name of verdict poor Muslims of Bangladesh are sentenced to death by cutting off their throat in one strike. But actually Muslims are leading far better life in non-Muslim countries. In Europe, the United States, Canada. The poor can’t afford to reach that far. That’s why they tend to reach in the neighboring countries. But here again, they have to float with uncertainty. Many have gone to water grave. When the Muslim countries are shooing the Muslims in full trawlers, then a Christian country named Philippines assured them for shelter.
Aung San Suu Kyi got the great Nobel prize in peace! What is she doing in Myanmar! Why there is no message of peace from her for the Rohingya Muslims? She is silent too in the greed of power. Such activities of these great leaders make me really upset.
Bangladesh government doesn’t feel any urgency to stop human trafficking. Human trafficking is extreme through the areas of Teknaph, Ukhiya, Maheshkhali; I’ve heard the Policemen of these areas, take bribe from the traffickers. Bangladesh Government is not going for any bilateral talk with Myanmar to stop human trafficking. Bangladesh Government doesn’t have boats to patrol the sea. People are being trafficked through eighty points of Teknaph and Kocks Market. The security is not enough in these eighty points. The traffickers use small trawlers to traffic people from Bangladesh to Myanmar and then they start their journey towards Thailand or Malaysia using bigger trawlers. Those trawlers move only at night and wait during day time, covered with a blue fishing net the trawlers merge with the color of the sea. So that no one can fathom out any people carrying trawler is floating on the sea. Taking huge risk of their lives they travel on the sea just to survive on nominal food and cloth. I feel my goose bumps when I think. The traffickers say, if you go to Malaysia you might be taken in prison as illegal intruders. However, there will be plenty of good food for them in prison. Malaysian prison is better than motherland. No job, no food, no cloth in the motherland. At least they would be able to get food two times in foreign prisons. At night, with a dream of food for two times a day, enchanting ‘Bismillah’ the poor people gingerly board the unfamiliar trawlers floating in the waves of unfamiliar surging sea. There is no freedom in the prison but to most of the people there is no bigger freedom than the freedom of food for two times. Keep in the prison but they would provide food, they would provide cloths.
I shiver when I see such horrible face of the poverty.
Good minded people want Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand to go for an agreement to prevent human trafficking. I don’t want to call this ‘Human Trafficking’ as human trafficking. Migration from one place to another is one of the major survival strategies of the human beings, this is the strategy that our early men and women had adopted and that’s why we the Homo sapiens survived. The Neanderthal species of human race had become extinct for not adopting this strategy. Where there is good food, where the environment and living is good, the tendency of going there is in our blood. This tendency is not only in our blood but also in all other animals. Those who can go, can survive, those who do not, they die. More we can cope with different environments more our species can survive. This is how the evolution has been going on over the billions of years. We want to prevent natural inclinations of human beings by our misrule. This is our fault.
Wanting to go and stay wherever one wish to, is one of the human rights. Binding human with chain one cannot speak in favor of human rights. Let the agreement between Bangladesh and it’s neighboring countries be like any one from any country can enter and live in any country. Let the system of Passport and visa be abolished. No trace of hatred, disbelief, uncertainty, fear should remain among the mankind. Let the love, respect, sympathy, to flourish for each other.

Translated from original Bengali by Avijit Das @66OV99

Let the world watch us love

There’s no gesture as miraculous as a kiss. Kissing in full daylight, with people watching, may be a hundred of them — a movement of the kind that states, ‘My kiss is mine to kiss, wherever and however it is,’ is underway in India. The youth is taking to the streets for the ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign, and university students are marching with slogans of ‘My body, my emotions/Go away institutions’ on the streets.

In Kerala, the police remanded a young couple for kissing in public, in Kolkata, a girl wasn’t allowed to enter Star theatre because she was wearing a mini skirt. Evidently, policemen frequently harass couples whenever they come across any display of intimacy in public, on streets, river sides, lake sides, parks. As if loving were an unpardonable crime. Publicly holding hands, hugging, kissing — apparently these are all immoral and vulgar. Sexuality is vulgar! Is violence vulgar? I don’t think anyone seriously believes that violence is vulgar.

Humiliating others in public, using abusive language, sexual harassment, beatings, lynching of petty thieves — these are not scenes, on the other hand, that appear vulgar to a majority of us. People spitting betel juice, or phlegm, on the streets, urinating or defecating in the open — no one in particular is protesting against these. People dying of hunger, of starvation, of untreated illnesses on the roadside — these scenes do not violate our sense of morality. And yet, it’s improper when people in love touch each other’s hands, kiss each other’s lips. Loving is a crime. And since loving is a crime, hatred wins such glorious victories everywhere.

Remember how The Beatles’ John Lennon protested against the Vietnam war? He posed nude with his wife Yoko Ono, and declared to the whole wide world, “Make love, not war.” Believers in the politics of hatred and violence would obviously find war preferable to sexual intercourse. It is strange to think that intellectuals and writers of the 21st century still believe that people should not kiss outside of their homes.

Renowned author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay said, “This is not an appropriate language for a protest. It is in extremely bad taste. Just because students are kissing to protest in Kerala does not mean the same has to happen in Kolkata.” The state minister and well-known theatre practitioner, Bratya Basu stated, “If their guardians start kissing openly, will the students accept it?” Moral policing abounds everywhere. Even in intellectual circles.

I always insist that sexual intercourse is something that should never be restricted to the four walls of a bedroom. Go to the very heart of nature, explore the quietness of forests on moonlit nights, enjoy the silence of sandy beaches, place a loving kiss on your beloved’s lips, make your bodies mingle. We are nature’s children. Let the world watch us love. Let the skies peek, let the flowers peep.

Even though my friends from the west are used to this, my friends from the orient are not. For them, the body itself, especially the female body, is a sight of vulgarity. Sexuality is still indecent and offensive. When I went to Europe for the first time, I watched in disbelief as semi-nude or fully naked men and women sunbathed on the beaches. This is perhaps the first time I discovered that bodies are things of beauty, not symbols of crudity or impropriety.

When I look at two lovers immersed in the moment of their passionate kiss, I understand that a walled fortress isn’t necessary for intimacy. A kiss is as beautiful under the open sky, as delicious. It tastes exactly the same inside and outside your doors. When one wants to lovingly kiss another human being, to be forced to repress that desire for fear of social strictures results in a pain more terrible than anything.

I never had a lot of lovers. But one of them I kissed in the city of Paris every now and then — in gardens, alleyways, cars, cinemas, cafes — whenever I wanted to. I am not talking about those dry, mechanical pecks on the cheek. I am talking about tongue-teeth-mouth mingling into those deep, passionate kisses. I always felt life was too dry without those wet kisses.

It is a wonderful feeling to watch one person loving another. Cynics cannot stand people in love. They feel comforted to see hatred between men. Those who support intimacy in public, and those who are against it, both sides blame patriarchy. Publicly kissing women is objectifying them, so it must be a patriarchal conspiracy. On the other hand, disallowing public display of affection to women is part of the plan to keep women home-bound, undercut their independence and identity, so this must be a patriarchal crusade as well. I don’t want to discuss patriarchy, I am taking sides in favour of the body. In favour of love.

Heteronormative or otherwise, all kinds of love between men and women, men and men, women and women, must be acknowledged. And I congratulate the expressions of these different kinds of love. I don’t want to see people ailing or dying on the streets, people beating, screaming, harassing, raping each other on the roads. I’d much rather see people kiss each other. I’d probably be happier if they made love on the streets. Because love is a blessed, pure, beautiful scene. And it sure trumps morbid scenes of war, famine and death.

Kiss of love.

In many parts of the world, you will not be arrested even if you kill, abuse, and sexually harass people in the streets. You will not be arrested if you curse people, beat poor pickpockets to death. But you will be arrested if you kiss your loved ones in India. A few days ago some people involved in ‘kiss of love’ movement were arrested.

In protest some students from Kolkata universities kissed each other in front of Kolkata public. Those brave students are now criticized by politicians, writers and intellectuals. Shame on them! They grew up watching people hating, stabbing, shooting, and slaughtering. They don’t get shocked anymore when they see blood, chopped off limbs, and severed heads laying on the streets. But they get shocked when they see young people loving and kissing. Violence is not obscene but kiss of love is obscene for most people in India.
Kiss of love

Turn skin cells into stem cells!

Our scientists can turn skin cells into stem cells.

Don’t call it a miracle. It has no relation with supernatural stuff.
Call it an amazing fact.

Human skin cells have been turned into stem cells which have the potential to develop into fully-formed embryos, simply by bathing them in weak citric acid for half an hour.

I may not get the benefit of it in my lifetime, but I am so bloody excited for being one of the witnesses of such an incredible scientific achievement.

Although there is no intention to create human embryos from skin cells, scientists believe that it could, theoretically, be possible to do so given that entire mouse embryos have already been effectively created from the re-engineered blood cells of laboratory mice.

Creating the mouse embryos was the final proof the scientists needed to demonstrate that the stem cells were “pluripotent”, and so capable of developing into any specialised tissue of an adult animal, including the “germ cells” that make sperm and eggs.

What else do we really need?

A team of Japanese and American scientists converted human skin cells into stem cells using the same simple approach that had astonished scientists around the world last month when they announced that they had converted blood cells of mice into stem cells by bathing them in a weak solution of citric acid for 30 minutes.

The scientist who instigated the research programme more than a decade ago said that he now has overwhelming evidence that the same technique can be used to create embryonic-like stem cells from human skin cells.

We can prevent our degenerations and deaths if we want. Why don’t we try to live as long as we like? I don’t like the idea to stop cloning because some bad people may misuse cloning, and to stop using stem cells because some bad people may use stem cells to live forever.

The letter.

200 authors from 30 countries wrote a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Authors have condemned Russia’s anti-gay and blasphemy laws as a “chokehold” on creativity.

Here is the letter:

The story of modern Russia is the story of dramatic, almost seismic change. Russian voices, both literary and journalistic, have always striven to make themselves heard above the clamour of their nation’s unfolding story – commenting on it, shaping it and, in doing so, contributing to the political and intellectual shape of the world far beyond their country’s borders. But during the last 18 months, Russian lawmakers have passed a number of laws that place a chokehold on the right to express oneself freely in Russia. As writers and artists, we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts.

Three of these laws specifically put writers at risk: the so-called gay “propaganda” and “blasphemy” laws, prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality and “religious insult” respectively, and the recriminalisation of defamation. A healthy democracy must hear the independent voices of all its citizens; the global community needs to hear, and be enriched by, the diversity of Russian opinion. We therefore urge the Russian authorities to repeal these laws that strangle free speech, to recognise Russia’s obligations under the international covenant on civil and political rights to respect freedom of opinion, expression and belief – including the right not to believe – and to commit itself to creating an environment in which all citizens can experience the benefit of the free exchange of opinion.

Putin abolishes blasphemy and anti-gay laws or not, this is a very important letter. Every injustice should be opposed. I hope authors also should write an open letter like this one to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and other countries that have been using blasphemy laws to violate people’s freedom of expression and anti-gay laws to threaten Human Rights.

Is anyone listening?

It is an interview.

It’s hard to miss her in Calcutta these days. She beams at passers-by from king-size hoardings at several busy junctions, anxiously marking her “return” to Bengal after six years.

But Taslima Nasreen is not returning to the city. Not in person, certainly — thanks to embargoes on her travelling and living in India. And not on television either, which had been promoting her as the writer of a mega serial that was to have been aired from December 19.

Despite the grand announcements, the show has been stalled. And Nasreen is furious. “Hating Taslima is an essential part of politics in the subcontinent. I feel pity for those who need to violate a writer’s rights to get votes,” she tweeted. “Whatever I write is hated by ignorant anti-women, anti-human rights bigots. Because they are afraid of the truth and the power of the pen,” said another tweet.

She walks into the drawing room-cum-study of her apartment located in an upmarket area of Delhi, where she has been living since 2008, full of misgivings. Just days before the serial was called off, she’d heard that the Calcutta police had met the producers of the serial.

“Some bigoted individuals asked for a ban and the state acquiesced — I don’t think this will happen even in Saudi Arabia,” she says. “But fundamentalists are anti-women and anti-freedom of expression, and for political reasons the government might side with them. But why are the people in Bengal silent,” she asks.

Dressed in grey winter pants, a black sweater and a blue embroidered stole, the maverick writer looks younger than her 51 years with her bright eyes and dishevelled short crop. She sinks into a reclining chair with a blue iPad in her hand. All around her are bookshelves, all packed with books. Stickers screaming messages such as “Atheism cures religious terrorism” are pasted on the shelves. Honorary certificates bestowed by foreign institutions, framed beautifully, adorn a whole wall in the study.

It has been almost 20 years since she was exiled from Bangladesh for “anti-Islam” writings and six years since she was ousted from West Bengal following communal disturbances in Calcutta’s Ripon Street. It was thought that she would return — in the shape of the serial called Dusahobas or unbearable co-existence, which was to be aired on Aakash Aath and promoted as a serial radically different from the regular saas-bahu stories.

This is the second time the soap has been stalled. She began writing it in 2006, when several episodes were also shot. “But then the 2007 drama happened and I was summarily thrown out of the city on November 22 that year,” she says, referring to the Ripon street violence. “That brought the production to a standstill.”

She had then urged her producers not to give up on the series merely because she had been ousted by the Bengal government, which cited her as a problem for law and order. “Why should the producers, or any creative person for that matter, be afraid of negative forces? These are just fringe elements who would oppose anyone who talks about gender equality and social change because they are misogynists.”

She cites the treatment meted out to reformists Vidyasagar and Raja Rammohan Roy by “anti-progress groups” for their pro-women measures. “The same thing is happening to me — I speak about new ideas, changing society, gender equality and humanism.”

What riles her more is the lack of protest in Calcutta. “This is a dangerous sign — if writers, intellectuals and other creative people keep quiet after this, something is wrong with society. Society is on the path of decline — this is what the silence signifies.

“But intellectuals do not keep their mouths shut when Hindu fanatics attack writers or artistes, or even when Muslim fanatics attack male writers such as Salman Rushdie. Misogynistic society shows solidarity towards victims, provided the victims are male, macho or anti-feminist,” she says.

Nasreen alleges that her ouster from Calcutta was premeditated. “Few people know that I was actually put under house arrest for about four months before the November incident,” she says, adding that she had to leave her 7 Rawdon Street residence in Calcutta with just her laptop and a one-way ticket to Rajasthan.

“From August that year, I was repeatedly asked by the Left Front government to leave the country. They even used to send the then police commissioner to coax me; he asked me to go to the jungles of Madhya Pradesh.” Nirbasan (Exile), the seventh part of her autobiography, documents her ouster from the city where she lived from 2004 to 2007.

She stresses that the Ripon Street incident was not a “Muslim uprising” against her. “The original plan was to agitate against the violence in Nandigram,” she says, referring to the 2007 police firing in which several villagers were killed. “The outburst was actually against the government for doing little for the community. The CPI(M) was losing popularity at that time — so they wanted to use me to score some political brownie points.”

She says she was “deeply hurt” by the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s behaviour. “I tried to meet him at that time, but he didn’t meet me. But Jyotibabu (ex-chief minister) supported me right through the end. He was also against banning my books in Bengal,” she adds.

Nasreen believes that the present state government is also following in the footsteps of the Leftists. “It never criticised the way the Left Front government wronged me.”

The author believes that her “persecution” in West Bengal began in 2003 when her book Dwikhandito (Split into Two) was banned by the state government. The book, it was alleged, was “anti-Islamic”, which was the brush that she was tarred with in Bangladesh.

Nasreen — who fled Bangladesh in 1994 after threats to her life — is, however, happy to have found a platform for her views in her motherland. She has been writing for a daily called Bangladesh Pratidin.

“I write a bimonthly column for the paper. I write generally on women’s issues, politics, etc. But I have been requested by editors not to write anything on religion,” she says. “For 20 years or so, they were afraid to touch me. But now I can reach out to my fans in Bangladesh.”

However, Nasreen is worried about Pan- Islamists, believers in Muslim brotherhood, who, she says, have been “growing at an alarming rate” in Bangladesh. “They are far more radical than what they were in 1971,” she says. At the same time, she is concerned about the path being taken by the “secularists” of Bangladesh.

“They are rejoicing at Abdul Kader Mullah’s death,” she says, referring to a Bangladeshi Islamist leader who was hanged earlier this month for war crimes in 1971. “But my point is that death penalty to such people won’t solve anything unless a forceful attempt is made to secularise society.”

Her “secularist fans” in Bangladesh, she adds, are “shocked” by her opposition to the death penalty. “They say these are the same kind of people who drove you out of your homeland. So how could I write against the death penalty,” she says. “But I forgive these fundamentalists — I want them to change and be better human beings. I want jails to be classrooms where such people could learn humanism.”

She, however, is in favour of banning the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party because she feels it works “exactly like a terrorist organisation” in Bangladesh. “They kill people — take blogger Rajib Haider’s death,” she says. Haider was a Bangladeshi anti-fundamentalist who was allegedly killed by a group associated with the Jamaat.

She is critical of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s “so-called anti-Islamist” stance. “If Hasina was truly anti-fundamentalist, she should have first brought Taslima Nasreen back to Bangladesh,” she says.

These days, Nasreen has found new a forum for her views — the Internet. “I rely on Twitter to update myself on developments around the world. You see, I don’t really have many platforms to express myself these days,” she rues.

She also blogs on topics that range from violence and politics to science. She has been spearheading an atheist movement in Calcutta. “It’s called Dharmamukto Manabbadi Mancha and it’s unique because all its atheist members — 400 or so — are Muslims working for gender equality and other issues,” she says, adding that her blogs sometimes attract 1-2 lakh readers a day.

Her tweets too have landed her in legal wrangles. Two cases — one in Uttar Pradesh and the other in Bihar — have been lodged against her. “The complaint from UP was against a tweet saying those who issue fatwas and rewards on beheading were anti-Constitution, anti-women and anti-freedom of expression,” says Nasreen, who has had three fatwas issued against her in Bangladesh and five in India so far.

“What have I said wrong? These people who issue fatwas are roaming scot-free while I am the one who is confined to one place,” she says, adding India’s home ministry has helped her with the cases.

She hasn’t stopped tweeting, though. “I will write more tweets. Let me see how people can stop me.”

Does she ever feel like giving it all up in India and settling down in the West? “I travel to Europe and America frequently. But I want to stay in India for the sake of this country,” she says. “I want to tell the world I can stay in India because this country is a true pillar of secularism and a standard bearer of freedom of expression in the subcontinent.”

Is anyone listening?

Bangladesh’s new secular generation celebrating the killing of a war criminal

bangladesh-war-crimes

I got abused by the secular people of Bangladesh on social network sites because I opposed the death penalty of Kader Mullah the war criminal. Many boys and girls of the new generation are confused people. They call themselves secular without knowing the meaning of the word. Many of them are against war criminals, but not against Islamism or Islamists. They hate feminism and are very fond of the death penalty. They do not know the reasons why a person is against the death penalty. They do not understand even the differences between the Islamic terrorists who are against the death penalty of a fellow Islamic terrorist and the anti-Islamists-anti-war criminals who are for the abolition of the death penalty. To the hangwarcriminal-generations, both are bad and both should be cursed.

The truth is if you want to solve problems wickedly, you would use violence against violence. If you want to make your society violence free, you would try to build a secular classless casteless equal society and give proper education to every child so no one becomes a religious fanatic. If you really believe death penalty deters crime then I don’t understand why you do not behead criminals in public like Saudi Arabia! Don’t you think it would make the death penalty more effective?

Nobody was born as a war criminal or as an Islamist. Bad teaching makes them bad people. But everybody has the right to life no matter what crimes they have committed.

The new generation read books, watch movies, theater plays, listen to poetry and music about 1971 war while growing up in Bangladesh, so their conviction against the war criminals is strong. Almost all of them believe that Islam is a religion of peace. They believe it because they haven’t learned from anywhere that Islam like other religions is not a religion of peace.

All war criminals were Islamists. They killed people during the war in 1971 in the name of Islam. They did not want to be separated from Pakistan, the Muslim nation. They believed in Muslim unity and pan-Islamism.

The number of Islamists increased today because of Islamization that started in 80’s. These new Islamists brutally slaughter secularists, atheists, anti-Islamists. These Islamic terrorists are not any less dangerous and murderous than the 71’s war criminals. Jamaat-e-Islami is a political party full of Islamic terrorists. They have been terrorizing the country since they got the opportunity to re-run their political party in late 70’s. Numerous charity organisations like Islamic banks, Islamic schools-colleges-universities, Islamic NGOs, clinics & hospitals, Islamic radios,tvs,newspapers etc. have been created by the Islamists. One of the agendas of Jamaat-e-Islami is to indoctrinate children with Islam. They follow Maududi the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami who dreamt of making the world Darul Islam. Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was inspired by Maududi. Jamaat-e-Islami as a party is far more undemocratic and violent than Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamist war criminals have been trying to kill me since 1993. But I don’t want them to get killed. I want them to be better people. There are other kinds of punishment they can get. What about imprisonment? I do not believe in prison system. Prisons should be like rehabs. The cells can be like classrooms and prisons can be like universities. Hundreds of thousands of Kader Mullahs were born in Bangladesh through Islamization. How many Kader Mullahs would Bangladesh kill? It is better to stop Islamization. It is always better to secularize the state and society.

Jamaat-e-Islami has been slaughtering people after Kader Mullah was hanged. If you agree to ban terrorist organizations, you should agree to ban Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. Let the country survive.

On the day of children’s rights

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.

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On November 20, the Children’s Rights Day, Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai was given Sakharov prize for freedom of thought by the president of the European Parliament. Malala is a brave girl. Talibans wanted her to be dead. But she survived. Thanks to the medical science and skilled physicians. Malala has been talking about the children’s rights to education in the region where talibans burnt down girls schools. She was shot in her head for ignoring the taliban’s rules. She deserves to be awarded and to be encouraged to continue her advocacy to promote children’s rights to education. Malala has already become the symbol of resistance to the fanaticism.

Malala is not alone. The whole world is supporting her. Many agencies and film, fashion, music, publication etc. industries are now behind her. This is probably good for her. Her story is getting known to many more. Though sometimes I get disturbed by some questions and comments like whether girls education was always forbidden in Pakistan or it was Malala who started education for girls. I told them that girls education started in Pakistan centuries ago, girls schools were already there, so that the taliban could burnt them down.

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 dats 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.

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’.

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 lace. And what should be done with pens.

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 you are not saying for once that children should not be brainwashed to be superstitious, racists, chauvinists, misogynists, fanatics, terrorists. Why don’t the activists say that brainwashing children with parents’ religion or with any other religion is against children’s rights and 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?’ She wrinkled her forehead as if she never heard that boys got also mutilated.

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

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FYI, the Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 in honour of Russian nuclear scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute to human rights endeavors the European Union accords. It gives recognition and moral support to the Laureates, who are strengthened and empowered in their fight for their causes. Sakharov Laureates are seen in a group photo on November 20, 2013 at the European Parliament. They are from Bosnia, Bangladesh, Turkey, China, Algeria, East Timor, Spain, Israel,Angola, Cuba,Belarus, Nigeria, France, Russia,Sudan, Libya, Iran and now Pakistan.

A big applause to Nordic countries for taking historic steps to ban circumcision.

Nordic countries are going to ban circumcision. Wow, what a good news!

Yesterday, during a meeting in Oslo, Nordic ombudsmen for children, Nordic paediatricians, and paediatric surgeons agreed a resolution urging their national governments to work for a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.
The the children’s ombudsmen from the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland), along with the Chair of the Danish Children’s Council and the Children’s spokesperson for Greenland passed a resolution to: “Let boys decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised.”

The ombudsmen concluded that: “Circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics.” They found the procedure “to be in conflict with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, articles 12, and 24 (3) which say that children should have the right to express their own views and must be protected from traditional rituals that may be harmful to their health.”

Dr Antony Lempert, a GP and spokesperson for the UK Secular Medical Forum (SMF) applauded this historic resolution and urged the UK and devolved Governments to work towards protecting all UK children at risk of forced genital cutting.
He said: “This important statement by the Nordic child protection experts is grounded in common sense. Children’s basic rights to bodily integrity and to form their own beliefs should not be overridden because of their parents’ religious or cultural practices.”

Dr Lempert argued that, “with an increasing awareness of serious irreversible harm caused to boys and girls from forced genital cutting it is time for the genitals of all children to be protected from people with knives and strong religious or cultural beliefs. There can be no justification for healthy children to be forcibly cut. All children deserve society’s protection from serious harm.

The world should learn from the Nordic countries how to ban non-therapeutic, nonsense circumcision of underage boys. Children’s rights must be protected. We adults do not have the right to impose our superstitions, religious belief and madness on our children and abuse, or mutilate them. It is a nasty crime against children.

Many societies banned and attempted to ban circumcision since ancient times. Doctors have been opposing circumcision. A ban on circumcision is urgently necessary to protect children’s right. By the way, there is no doubt that all forms of female genital mutilation must be banned everywhere.

The human right to bodily integrity is more important than the human right to freedom of religion. Religious tradition is a poor excuse to subject a baby to circumcision. People started practicing circumcision long before the birth of monotheistic religions. The risks of circumcision are many, infection, necrosis, gangrene, BXO, urinary tract infection, urinary retention, meatal ulceration or stenosis, urethral fistula, hypospadias or epispadias, lymphedema etc. Circumcision also affects sexual function and desensitizes the penis. Seriously, how many diseases do we need to ban circumcision?

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