What good does marriage do?

Why do human beings marry? For sex or for children! But why is marriage necessary for secure and safe sex or for children? Out of all living species it is only humans who feel the need to marry. But don’t all other animals stay together, procreate and bring up offsprings? Marriage is not even essential for trust or loyalty. There are many animals that happily spend entire lives with the same mate, the one they choose in early youth. Never again do they desire for a new mate, never again do they feel the need to start afresh with the new one. They are loyal and monogamous in the most incredulous way! No matter how far they go, how many seas they cross, how old they become, they come back to the old mate of years to kiss and live in love. They never get to know the meaning of adultery, what it means to be polygamous or how does it feel to be betrayed. Albatrosses, swans, black vultures, bald eagles, turtle doves, dik-diks, bonnet-head sharks, gibbons, French angelfish, grey wolf, snow leopards – there are many such animals.

Humans marry to live happily ever after. But how many of them do end up living happily ever after? Most marriages either fail or survive without love. People hold on to loveless marriages for varied reasons – children, financial security or in fear of what the society or people would say. But should such coexistence be called a marriage. Many, who already have a husband or wife, nonchalantly indulge in extra-marital affairs. When one romantic affair ends, they start a new one. Human beings are not bald eagles, or black vultures. Humans are hardly monogamous and often polygamous. But at the same time it cannot be said with utmost certainty that humans are purely polygamous. Humans are much more complex and complicated. They could be monogamous, polygamous, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual – all at the same time and many more things. And there can be no close comparisons to human beings when it comes to embracing the new and abandoning dead, old ways.

Most religions pronounce marriage as a holy union between a man and a woman. Apparently god preselects one’s partner prior to even birth. So come what may, marriages must not be broken – god warns. But as we know even the most loyal devotees of god do not care to follow this advice anymore. They utter the word talaq casually to abandon a partner who supposedly was chosen by god for someone they like. It seems god has failed badly as a ‘matchmaker’. Most religions intrude in matters of matrimony, laying out rules on what ought to be the ideal age, sex, caste, beliefs when two people marry and also the duties of the ideal husband and wife. Though marriage is a thoroughly personal matter, it is largely a social affair. Women, if not men, are certainly the property of a whole society. Did the woman have an affair before marriage? Was she a virgin? Does she have an affair outside of marriage? Who does she hang out with? What time does she return home? Does she have unknown men visit her at home? And it is not just her immediate family but the entire community that takes keen interest and follows her each and every move and action. The fathers and brothers lose honour at the drop of a hat because a woman’s life remains not only her private and personal life but a concern of the entire family, community and the society. Thus fathers and brothers are ready to even kill a woman to protect the cause of family honour.

Marriage is almost becoming extinct in progressive and liberal parts of the world. Some people still marry because marriage as an institution continues to exist and they just follow a much-treaded route without much thought. It is almost like observing the need of climbing Mount Everest because one feels its looming presence. If marriage goes out of practice many will not care to marry. People continue with traditions often out of mere habit. But very few take the initiative to renew traditions and customs that are dead. There are many lovers in liberal countries who live for years together, have children and raise a family outside of marriage. The patriarchal nature of an archaic tradition called marriage is but a joke for many such couples. Marriage is just like religion that lives on despite being proven as something that has no basis in reality. A set of irrational beliefs that have survived in the same way as some superstitions have continued for thousands of years. Yet most superstitions too meet with death. Hundreds of religions and hundreds of gods have died silent deaths. Where is the heroic Apollo now, for example? Where are Jupiter, Zeus and Hermes? Where are Thor and Odin? One day marriage too will go out of fashion just like the gods and religions of bygone eras.

There is another secret reason why some people still choose to marry in countries of northern Europe – in such places one pays less tax when married. The state also bears the expenses of raising children. A lot of people in those countries are reluctant to marry or have children. So the government tries to tempt citizens with benefits of tax rebates lest the institution of marriage completely dismantles and north Europeans become an extinct race altogether. Some actually do marry because of these social benefits but many still prefer to live either alone or with a partner without marrying. Many couples who choose not to marry and yet stay together receive the same kind of state support allotted for married couples. In the West polygyny is uncommon and the practice of polygamy too is less common than in the East. What is common in the West is known as serial monogamy.

Towards the end of 60s many people came out of the narrow confines of their homes to lead a revolution, challenge the politics of a past era and change society. Old and worn out ideas like women must protect virginity, purity and motherhood to be known as good were defied. The hippies of the era almost altogether stopped marrying. Many cohabited as a group, had multiple sexual partners among themselves and raised children as joint responsibility of everyone in the group. There was no concept of seeing a partner as one’s private property. The commune lives did not last long. Had hippies been successful, the institution of marriage by now would not have remained a living institution of the society but would have found a place in the pages of history.

Intellectuals in different countries have written flamboyantly on how marriage is utterly meaningless. “”A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers.” “One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.” Katherine Hepburn even in her times was not in the favour of a man and woman sharing the same house. “Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.” she said. She also added, “If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.” These are exceptional observations of exceptional personalities. “Marriage is a wonderful invention; but, then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.” “Marriage is a cage. Those outside are desperate to enter and those inside are desperate to leave.” Marriage is good for those who are afraid to sleep alone at night.” There are more. “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” “A husband is what is left of a lover, after the nerve has been extracted.” “Marriage is a bribe to make the housekeeper think she’s a householder.” French author Balzac wrote, ““The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.” However, not that all sayings are against marriage. There are some that argues in favour of it. “I’d marry again if I found a man who had fifteen million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he’d be dead within a year.”

When the West was swayed by a hippie revolution and women’s liberation movements, women in the East wore invisible chastity belt. Many men in the East still continue to marry for primordial reasons because of which the institution of marriage originated. What is needed is a womb, a womb necessary to bear the child born out of a man. The key purpose of marriage is to protect the identity of the father. It is actually women have sustained the tradition of patriarchy for thousands of years by marrying men and protecting men’s interests. The balloon of patriarchy would have burst with a loud bang long back had women revolted.

In Bengali societies I often witness women’s wings of freedom being clipped right after marriage. Women have to leave behind everything, their home, family, friends, the familiar neighbourhood, the city of their youth and childhood, a life and a past to make the husband’s home their own. They have to add the husband’s surname to their names and call home a house that belongs to the in-laws. The husband and his family decide on behalf of adult educated women whether she should hold a job. Once it was very common and even now some people say things like women must not do professional work after marriage. Women must aspire for a life of endless sacrifice and dedication, so they must stay at home, cook, take care of the family and children. Gloria Steinem once famously said, “A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.” In present times the husband and his family do not just expect educated women to look after the household but they also want women to hold a job for some extra money for the family. However, women’s earnings continue to be seen as the “extra” in ordinary Bengali homes even if they earn more than the husband. Being indoctrinated in values of patriarchy, women are happy to deposit their earnings in the hands of the husband and acquire the ‘good girl’ tag. Women in most cases have no authority on how to spend their own earnings and often it is men – no matter how unintelligent – call the shots in money matters. Even if they manage to earn well women – it is assumed – remain clueless on managing finances. Therefore, men take it upon themselves the responsibility of looking after these important matters. Most Bengali women do not know the meaning of freedom.

In Kolkata I often shivered to see married couples living on in cold and loveless marriages. “If the marriage breaks, let it break. Why take so much effort to make it last?” I often asked. I never got satisfactory answers. Women get used to living in unhappy lives. Children for whom couples often linger bad marriages grow up witnessing tensions and pains of a troubled family and that does more harm than good. It is difficult for women to live alone or raise children on their own if they are not economically independent and lack financial security. But does that mean one must compromise with abusive husbands? The thought of sharp rise in instances of violence on and homicide of women is chilling. And all this is such a brutal expression of misogyny that remains at the heart of patriarchy!

Societies that have more of educated, independent and aware women than otherwise tend to witness higher divorce rates and low marriage rates.
However, in the Indian subcontinent even educated and independent women – having imbibed the values of patriarchy – silently tolerate abusive and polygamous husbands and choose to remain married just like those who are not self-sufficient. Marriage in these societies is almost like a conquest for men and sacrifice for women. To some marriage offers a relief from loneliness and ties a heavy shackle of bondage on others. Barbaric acts are rampant in these societies. There exist caste discrimination, dowry, objectification of women, practices of treating the wife as sex object, slave or child-producing machine, want and constant pressure of having a male child, killing of female foetus, murdering or abandoning the girl child, divorcing the wife for not giving birth to a male child and remarriage.

While there are many who follow norms and traditions blindly, there are some others who break the rules. The old norms of marriage are crumbling as more and more people are becoming civilised. It is only a handful – and not teeming millions – that change society, while the majority holds on to archaic customs and traditions.Some daring women in the West no longer abide by rules like women must not work after marriage, must never disobey husbands or that widow remarriage should not be allowed.

Marriage too has evolved as an institution. The purpose of marriage has changed in some societies and so has the nature of marriage. In the West marriage is no longer seen as a way for men to have a line of descendants or to have women toil hard to raise children and a family in the West – in societies in the West there exist a long history of struggle for women’s liberation and women have come to enjoy equal rights and opportunities to a large degree. In those places it is hardly a matter of concern if there are no children in a marriage. And people realise that what is needed most for a healthy relationship and happy family life is not marriage – but mutual love and respect.

If there is love and mutual respect two people can remain faithful to each other. If marriage could ensure loyalty then adultery would not be so rampant. The couples who live together without marriage also remain faithful to each other by the same bond of love and respect.

But it is not that all couples want monogamy or commitment. Sometimes, to beat the monotony of monogamy or to add some variety to the relationship some couples – even though they love each other – invite other men or women to join them in sex. There are no hush secrets, no hide and seek – one more person or more than one, two or three can join a couple in their very own bedroom and in the very nuptial bed. Such orgy- many couples believe – add some flavour and variety to the relationship and recharge the married life. Some sociologists vociferously support the concept of group marriage. Rather than have an ugly divorce it is much more practical apparently to be in a group marriage and not disturb the lives of children. Group marriage basically means a communal relationship of some men and women who could be married to each other. There is something called group love or polyamory – the love of many. This means the love of some men and women who are each other’s lover. Polygamy has been common in many societies from time immemorial and it mostly means a man having multiple wives. And in some societies there exists a different kind of polygamy, when a woman takes many husbands – polyandry. Many such combinations have happened in the world and they continue to happen. Yet it is monogamous marriage that has remained the most common and dominant form. Of course! Because monogamous marriage offers the best form of leverage by one on the other.

Marriage is basically a license for sexual relationship – a social license that is acquired with much fanfare and hue and cry. It is merely a tradition that is archaic, patriarchal and illogical and serve no practical purpose. There are many customs that are already dead or in the process of dying – like sati or witch-burning. Many such meaningless traditions are allowed to live on by making people either too fearful or irrational so they fail to act with reason. But even then customs and traditions will have to die when they become out of practice among large communities. It has been proven over centuries that marriage has no role in making relationships last, to bring happiness in families or to help children to excel – therefore the future of marriage too does not look very bright. Our forefathers lost an extra tail to evolution because it no longer had any value. So, will evolution not banish a practice as worthless as marriage from our societies? Philosophers of the past – Nietzsche, Kant and Hegel for instance – were known to be extremely anti-women in their views. The intellectual practice of philosophy has evolved and those with extreme hateful attitude towards women would no longer be acknowledged as a philosopher.

Patriarchy was born out of extreme misogyny. Patriarchy has given rise to many anti-women traditions; marriage is one such custom. The more patriarchy is subjugated and won over, the more women will regain their independence and confidence. The more women will drive away misogynist religions and beliefs from the society. The more society will defeat barbarisms. The more society will enlightened. The more men will reform. Then more and more patriarchal traditions will perish slowly. We are already witnessing marriage becoming less and less common in liberal societies. It may still remain a prevalent practice in societies that are not enough enlightened. But even those societies will not remain uncouth forever. And what are the signs that a society has progressed? When women are no longer raped and abused, when women enjoy equal rights and opportunities, when women do not have to end up as sex slaves or menial slaves of men. But they are free to love, be in tumultuous romance and live in with a loved one and yet do not think of marriage. When marriage becomes extinct, a remnant of the past.

Marriage is nothing but a social sanction to dominate and subjugate women. Many feminist writers have been vocal against it. Andrea Dworkin thought of marriage as the other name of rape. And someone once beautifully said that marriage is but an ‘intimate colonisation.’ Many agree that women can never be liberated in the true sense in presence of a barrier like marriage. Most feminists at one point saw it as an extraordinary means of perpetuating the norms of patriarchy and some still think on those lines. Some even see heterosexual love as a form of political conspiracy, a conspiracy for which women fall and willingly agree to get married or surrender to the enemy. Had marriage not turned women into slaves, feminists would not have such objections.
At a time when educated heterosexual people in progressive societies are rejecting this institution, many homosexual groups are fighting for rights to marry. Many liberal countries have begun to recognise the marriage of same sex couples. Many progressive individuals, who otherwise do not believe in marriage, support same sex couples’ demand of rights of marriage because the majority in society does not accept and are against such rights. Supporting same sex couples’ rights of marriage translates to disobeying and challenging the rule of religion and the moral policing of conservative societies. But it also true that the possibility of equality of both partners is better in same sex marriages than in heterosexual marriages because there is no gender discrimination in the former. However, when marriage becomes a mundane and commonplace affair even in homosexual societies, then the ones who today clamour for rights of marriage will see it as unnecessary and oppose it.

One day marriage will become extinct. Archaeologists in days to come would discover the fossil of marriage, a social practice long dead and forgotten, in the relics of history and narrate the story of the past to an enlightened generation. “There was once a dark age in this world. In those days there used to be a tradition that lasted over generations. The tradition was known as marriage.” To explain the why and what of marriage, the subject of patriarchy would of course be raised. And human beings in such an unseen future would shudder imagining a horrific society of a long gone past – a horrific society that is our present.
Utopia? But, what’s wrong in utopia?
( My Bengali article translated by Suruchi Mazumdar)

Good news from Egypt.

Egypt’s new constitution limits the role of Islam.

Where the new constitution differs most significantly from the old one is on issues of Islam’s role in governance and law. The 2012 constitution included three articles that broadly defined and significantly expanded the role of Islamic jurisprudence.

Article 2, which dates back to the 1971 constitution, establishes the Sunni branch of Islamic jurisprudence as the basic guideline for legislation. The 2012 constitution added two others: Article 4, which stated that Al Azhar, Egypt’s highest institution of Islamic learning, should be consulted on how to define Islamic law, and Article 219, which effectively includes all Sunni jurisprudence since Islam’s founding as relevant to Egyptian legislation. Secular activists and constitutional experts have harshly criticized Article 219, saying it was open to overly broad interpretation and could effectively be used to affect every aspect of Egyptian law.

In the new draft constitution, Articles 4 and 219 have essentially been deleted.

This is not the best draft constitution but much better than Mr Morsi’s constitution. The new draft prevents people from their right to freedom of expression. Among 50 members who are working to draft the new constitution, only four are women.

I hope good sense will prevail and they will learn how to respect everyone’s human rights and treat women as equal human beings. In the meantime, it would be wonderful if Islamism died a natural death.

An atheist and anti-superstition activist was shot dead in religious and superstitious India.

Anti-Superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar is shot dead in superstitious India. He was killed because he committed a crime, his crime was he fought against superstitions and he wanted to eradicate deep rooted superstitions in India.

Narendra Dabholkar, leading anti-superstition campaigner, social worker and journalist, was gunned down in Pune by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants, police said.

The attack took place around 7.30 a.m. near Omkareshwar Temple, when Dabholkar, in his 60s, was on his morning walk.The two gunmen fired indiscriminately at Dabholkar and sped away, leaving him in a pool of blood.The victim was rushed by other co-walkers to Sassoon Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Dabholkar, a doctor, was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the Maharashtra Government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill called the anti-JaduTona bill. Right wing Hindu groups, including certain sections of the Warkari Sect and political parties had been opposing to the bill.


A rationalist known for his bold views and sustained campaign against superstitions for over three decades, Dabholkar had rubbed many people the wrong way.In his 60s, he was largely instrumental in pushing the state government to frame an anti-superstition law which is in the final stages of legislative approval.

In 1989, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS)– the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith –, along with a few like-minded people and raised cudgels against all types of superstitions, irrational practices, blind faith and beliefs, confronting dubious tantriks and babas who preyed on the gullible masses.

He also led agitations against superstitions, animal sacrifices and even water pollution, wrote columns and articles on his favourite topics and was editor of a couple of journals dedicated to the cause.

A look at the website antisuperstition.org showed how passionate he was about the cause and showcased the depth of his research about the topic. The site explains many superstitions like ghosts, black magic, witchcraft and provides scientific arguments against them.It also lists down many activities that one can undertake to dispel such superstitions and support the cause.

Dabholkar, known for his campaigns to promote progressive and scientific thought, had for several years been lobbying for Maharashtra state’s parliament to pass legislation banning superstition and black magic.

Two years ago, in an interview with AFP, he rejected critics’ charges that the bill was anti-religion.

“In the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away,” he said.

“This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices,” he said.

Over the years, Dabholkar had also challenged some of India’s “godmen,” self-styled Hindu ascetics who have huge followings, over their claims of “miracles” performed. He has also campaigned against animal sacrifices sometimes used during religious rituals.

Dabholkar, who Indian media said was aged 71, was editor of a magazine called “Sadhana” or spiritual practice, devoted to the propagation of progressive thought.

Dabholkar’s killing has been widely condemned by people from all sections of society and political parties alike. But if our netas truly want to honour his life, they should give the Anti-Superstition bill, for which he fought so fervently, a serious thought , rather than engaging in mere lip service.

What a loss!
Let’s all shed tears for this loss. Let’s salute brave Narendra Dabholkar for his great struggle. Let’s bow to him.

Someone told me today, ‘you should be careful’. I was asked to be careful because I have been doing the same work Narendra Dabholkar was doing. I am fighting against religion and superstitions and trying to encourage people to have scientific outlook. I would probably be killed one day exactly the same way Dabholkar was killed today. He got four bullets. I would get ten bullets. Two bullets for fighting religion, two bullets for fighting superstitions, and six bullets for fighting misogyny. Indian society is not only superstitious, it is a very misogynistic.
No, I am not worried for myself. I am sad today for losing a great man. India needs people like Narendra Dabholkar more than India needs anything.

Happy Independence Day!

Today is August 15. . 66 years ago India got independence from British rule. Let’s celebrate the day.

I was asked by The Hindu, one of he leading newspapers of India to write about my own experience of this country.

Here is what I wrote.

‘When I first visited India in the late ‘80s, I did not for an instant think I was in another country. I felt I belonged here and that it was, in some fundamental way, inseparable from the land I called my own. The reason for this was not my Hindu forebear. The reason was not that one of India’s many cultures is my own or that I speak one of her many languages or the fact that I look Indian. It is because the values and traditions that define India are embedded deeply within me. These values and traditions are a manifestation of the history of the subcontinent; I have been enriched and enlivened by it. I am also a victim of its poverty, colonial legacy, communalism, violence, bloodshed, partition, migrations, exodus, riots, wars and even theories of nationhood. I have been hardened further by my life and experiences in a poverty- and famine-stricken, ill-governed country called Bangladesh.

The intolerance, fanaticism and bigotry of Islamist fundamentalists forced me to leave Bangladesh. I was forced to go into exile; the doors of my own country slammed shut on my face for good. Since then I have sought refuge in India. When I was finally allowed entry, again, not for an instant did I feel out of place. Even after spending decades in Europe, it never felt like home. However, I felt a deep connection with India; I felt I knew the people; I had grown up somewhere very similar, almost indistinguishable. I felt the need to do something for this country and its people. There was a burning desire within me to see that women become educated and independent, that they stand up for, and demand their rights and freedom. I wanted my writing to invigorate and contribute in some way to the empowerment of these women who had always been oppressed and suppressed. Moreover, I wanted to do everything possible to make people aware of the need for secular education to become enlightened, tolerant, rational, and peace loving.

Not many people understand why I, as a European citizen and a permanent resident of the U.S., am so eager to live in India! I know it is not easy to live here; my book was banned in this country, five fatwas were issued against me, prices were set on my head, religious fanatics physically assaulted me. I was bundled out of West Bengal, I was thrown out of Rajasthan, I was put under confinement in a “safe house” in Delhi, I was forced to leave the country — but I did not give up. I came back again and again to live in the land that abandoned me and humiliated me.

I asked why the world’s largest democracy, a secular state, could not shelter a person whose entire life has been spent for the cause of secular humanism, a person without a country to call her own, someone who regarded India as her home. I have been struggling to settle in my beloved country; it has now become a challenge. I want India to prove that a secular state can honour a secular writer. I want India to honour the nation’s tradition of great hospitality and its democratic principle.

India is a land of plurality, with people from different religions, ethnicities, languages and cultures coexisting together. I want her neighbouring countries to learn from India how to secularise the state and how not to violate anyone’s right to freedom of expression. I believe that India, unlike Bangladesh, will triumph over all kinds of fundamentalism. The love and respect I get from Indians makes me feel this is my true home. I still believe that for a sincere, honest, secular writer in the subcontinent, India is the safest refuge, the only refuge.’

Stop going to mosques!

Mosques are dangerous. It is better not to go to mosques for prayers. Mosques are now the biggest target for Islamic terrorist attacks. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Sunni mosque in central Iraq, killing at least 20 people in the middle of a sermon on Friday.

mosque blasts

Don’t forget about the other mosque blasts.

1. Mecca Mosque bombing.

2. Jama mosque attack.

3. Jama mosque explosion.

4. Malegaon bombings.

5. Walsal bomb blast.

6. Ajmer Dargah attack.

7. Red mosque event.

8. Red mosque suicide attack.

9. Bombings in Pakistani mosques.

10. Damascus mosque suicide bomb blast.

These are just a few of the hundreds of mosque blasts.

Mosques are called Allah’s houses. Allah’s houses are not safe. Non-Muslims or non-believers rarely attack mosques. Most of the times Mosques are bombed by believers of Allah to kill believers of Allah.

Free Femen

Caroline Fourest, the courageous French writer and journalist and I have joined a Tunisian secularists’ demonstration held in Paris day before yesterday.

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We showed our solidarity towards Tunisian secularists and Amina as well.

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We have been campaigning for Amina,the Tunisian Femen activist.

Francois Hollande, the President of France is going to visit Tunisia in July. We ask him to remember four names, Amina, Pauline, Josephine and Marguerite. A Tunisian, a German and two French women. Four FEMEN. They are now in prison. Three of them, including two French activists, just scoop four months in prison for protesting topless in front of the courthouse. An act considered “indecent assault, indecent and disturbing public order”. It was a peaceful protest, demanding the release of Amina, the first Tunisian Femen, which is even arbitrarily detained for several weeks.
Her crime? She wrote a word on a wall. Femen. A word on the wall made 40,000 Salafists angry on May 19. Amina has been accused of “indecency”, “grave desecration” and “conspiracy.” Amina would be sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison. Amina, Pauline, Josephine and Marguerite are political prisoners. They are not the only ones to endure this kind of repression since the revolution. Ghazi Beji and Jabeur Mejri, two bloggers were sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for blasphemy. One in absentia. He had to take refuge in France. The other is serving his sentence in terrible condition. The Franco-Tunisian journalist, Hind Meddeb continued for denouncing the severity of the sentence of rapper Weld el 15: two years in prison for singing an irreverent song to the police.
The filmmaker Nadia El Fani can not return to the country of her childhood, where she faces up to six years in prison for having made a film about secularism ”Secularism Inshallah”! Her lawyer has also recently been persecuted for “sodomy”. Through these highly political judgments, the Tunisian justice shows a terrible face: nice with terrorists and hard with free spirits.
We are not asking the president not to go to Tunisia. Rather, he should go there for the release of these political prisoners. Undaunted by those who cry to interference or convene the past. Nothing, not the “stability” of Franco-Tunisian relationship or economic interests that justify overlook these unjust laws and how they are applied. François Mitterrand, at the time, was able to forget the diplomatic modesty to defend the cause of dissidents during his trip to Moscow.
Today, dissidents are in Tunis, Cairo, Algiers, Doha, Riyadh, wherever international theocratic attempts to gain ground on democracy and universal values.
On behalf of its voiceless dissidents, we ask the president to challenge his counterpart, the Tunisian president who claims to be a former activist of Human Rights, who had taken refuge in France when he was even persecuted under the former regime, but is silent about violations of the basic right to freedom of expression by its own government.
When President Hollande will be in Tunis, he should demand the release of Amina (18), Pauline (27), Josephine (age 19) and Marguerite (22 years), not because both of these political prisoners are French nationals, but because women’s rights and the right to freedom of expression are universal. This trip will be a challenge for the French president, whether these words have at all any meaning.

At Caroline’s house in the evening, Femen leader Inna Shevchenko came. Inna had to leave Ukraine because Christian fundamentalists were threatening her for cutting down the holy cross. Franco-Tunisian film maker Nadia El Fani also came. We all raised our voices to free Amina who is now in a prison in Tunisia.

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Freedom of expression is still a distant dream.

Islam should be scrutinized critically

Qatar jailed a Nepali teacher on charges of insulting Islam.

A Nepali teacher who taught chemistry at Qatar Academy has been jailed in Doha on felony charges for insulting Islam. Dorje Gurung, who has taught chemistry to middle and high school students in the United States, Britain and Australia, appeared in a Doha court on Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

Gurung was fired from Qatar Academy after arguments with students on April 22 and 23. Although he was set to leave the country, he was summoned by the police and has been jailed since last Wednesday.

Gurung has been accused of comparing all Muslims to terrorists.

Islam doesn’t feel insulted. Islam is not a human, it is just an ideology. Ideologies have no hearts and minds. Islamists may feel insulted when we critically scrutinize Islam. The truth is, whoever scrutinizes Islam gets killed, jailed or exiled. All other religions can be scrutinized except Islam. This is so ridiculously weird. Who gives Muslims the right to constantly violate our human rights? The barbaric and brutal blasphemy law must be abolished. Muslims must not have the right to terrorize the whole world in the 21st century with their 7th century’s laws that are against democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

Ignorant insane humans!

We take care of our fellow ignorant humans. We defend their right to be insane.They use that right to violate our right to be sane.

A bunch of ignorant insane humans have been occupying Bangladesh and demanding the execution of atheist bloggers. They want laws against blasphemy. They want no one’s freedom of expression except their own.

Hifazat-e-Islam occupied Bangladesh today.

At least 50 vehicles were set on fire in Dhaka by Hifazat-e-Islam.

Three people were killed.

Death toll tops 600 in Bangladesh garment-factory-building collapse. Islamists do not think it is enough. They have killed some people today and asked the government to kill some more.



They may not be good in English, but they are very good at killing.

The brain!

”Researchers have developed a process that renders an intact mouse brain transparent. By replacing the opaque fatty components in the brain with a transparent hydrogel, the wiring and molecular structure of the brain become clear to see with visible light and chemicals. The research opens a door to new imaging techniques that could potentially be applied to human organs.”

Brains are now as clear as Jell-O.

Aren’t we curious to learn more about the brain, the most interesting and fascinating complex thing in the universe!

If you have encouraged barbarism once, you are done for.

Salman Rushdie was barred from entering Kolkata. The news, though unfortunate, was hardly surprising. Been there, done that. For the past 25 years, my freedom of speech has been trampled upon. I have been living the unsavory life of an exile; despite writing in Bangla, I am persona non grata in both sides of Bengal. I have been physically assaulted, and there are at least seven or eight separate prices on my head. How on earth can anything like this ever surprise me again?

Today the atmosphere is rife with loud, grief-stricken wails and funerary dirges from certain quarters because Rushdie was prevented from entering Kolkata. Those who are crying a river now were mostly silent or supporting ban in 2003, when my autobiographical book, “Dwikhandito”, was banned by the West Bengal government. At that time, Muslims had not taken to the streets, or demanded any restriction on the book. Rather, the-then Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, instituted the ban proactively; the odious idea of the ban had its genesis in his mind. Ostensibly, he did mention that a group of about 25 intellectuals importuned him with the task of banning – but he should have realized that those who whine in favor of the censorship of an author, are anything but intellectuals. The reasons presented to bolster the idea of the ban were baseless and ridiculous, a fact that was borne out when, in just a couple of years thereafter, the Honorable Kolkata High Court made the same observation, lifting the ban. I was (and still am) at a loss to understand why Mr. Bhattacharya felt so obliged to come down heavily against freedom of expression, which is the cornerstone of democracy.

It was a time when I’ve been living in the city of Kolkata. Following the ban, Mr. Bhattacharya, an erstwhile friend of mine, had started to maintain a safe distance from me – a sad situation which didn’t change even after the ban was lifted. I naively thought perhaps he had realized the error of his ways, but I was grossly mistaken. Immediately after the Islamic fundamentalists assaulted me in Hyderabad, he was finalizing his new designs. I don’t know how many of the so-called intellectuals were complicit in that. I am a harmless, harassed, and homeless author; I never had a clue about political machinations. In August 2007, Islamic fundamentalist leaders of Kolkata banded together with the fundamentalists from Hyderabad to hold a large rally at the center of the city – a rally with the express purpose of putting a price on my head. If someone beheads me, he will be awarded an ‘unlimited amount’ of money. High officials of the Police were present there, and yet, that day, no one was arrested on charge of issuing an illegal Fatwa; rather, the fundamentalists were felicitated. But under this pretext, Mr. Bhattacharya started sending high-ranking Police officials to my residence, with the idea of intimidating me into leaving Kolkata, or West Bengal, or perhaps even the country. Why did I have to leave? Apparently, if I stayed back at Kolkata, the government said, it would hurt the feelings of the faithful Muslims of the city.

Meanwhile, around this particular time, the state government was in a royal mess regarding the affairs in Nandigram and Singur, and the case of Rizwanur. The ruling Communist Party had earned the wrath of the Muslim community. On the 21st of November, a few people emerged from a Park Circus alleyway and started setting vehicles on fire and pelting stones at the police. Their anger was about the political murders of Muslims in Nandigram and Singur, and the myserious death of Rizwanur Rehman. At the end of the day, someone lifted up a piece of paper for the benefit of the media: on it was written, “Taslima go back.” That was the excuse the government was looking for. I was picked up from home and sent to Jaipur, on the other side of the country. The ticket was already purchased by Mr. Bhattacharya – a one way ticket. I haven’t been able to set foot on West Bengal since, even though my home, cat, friends were all left back in Kolkata. I was thrown out of Bangladesh, too. But my eviction from West Bengal was even more heartless and painful. Mamata Bandyopadhyay, the current Chief Minister, may well not see eye to eye with her predecessor, Mr. Bhattacharya, on any issue, but she sure agrees with him that Taslima has no place in West Bengal. In this regard, she has faithfully followed the footsteps of Mr. Bhattacharya. Last year, in the prestigious and tradition-rich Kolkata Book Fair, the release ceremony for my book “Nirbasan” (Exile) was canceled by her government.

While Rushdie’s unceremonious exclusion didn’t surprise me, I am putting my outrage and protest on record against this. I have protested against the unlawful abridgement of the freedom of expression of creative people such as Maqbool Fida Hussain, A K Ramanujan, James Lein, Rohinton Mistry, and Kamal Hassan. When fundamentalists make a demand to the government, however unjust or plain wrong, the government has a propensity for buckling down. The proffered reason is mostly a variation of “not to offend” them or “preventing a communal disturbance” by them; the same or similar reasons have been used time and again to justify unreasonable and undemocratic decisions taken by the government. This were the reasons given for banning my book – the same reasons advanced to prevent Rushdie from visiting Kolkata for half a day. Clearly, the state has gone to pot, and the sole responsibility lies with Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya. Had he not banned my book that day in a cowardly manner, had he not thrown me out for life, Rushdie could have set foot in Kolkata without a hitch.

Mr. Bhattacharya has given strength and encouragement to the fundamentalists. Now they can reach all the way to the airport, and hold up the another piece of paper saying ‘Rushdie go back’. And why not? They have been given to understand that they would be furnished with whatever they desire, sometimes even before they ask for it. Today, Mr. Bhattacharya claims that had he been in power, he would have facilitated Rushdie’s visit. That’s a lie. Even if he had been willing, the fundamentalist Frankenstein that he helped create would have brought its considerable weight to bear against it; it would have rioted. Evicting Taslima did not ultimately win Mr. Bhattacharya and his party a single extra vote; the same Frankenstein had defeated him in the elections. The outcome, in any event, would not have been different.

Not only in West Bengal, I have encountered intolerance in the rest of India, too. Mufti of Kashmir brought out a fatwa banning young women from singing. Kamal Hasan’s movie was not allowed to be screened in Tamil Nadu. Art galleries cannot display nudes. Continued indulgence to intolerance has raised it to impunity. Once you have mollycoddled intolerance, once you have made nice with barbarism, that is how it is going to be for the rest of your life. The problem is not with barbarism, it is your fault; you have invited it in. You have drunk from the poisoned chalice. Now, when death is nigh, at least confess to your sins, would you not?

Meanwhile, the question remains: for how long would this situation be allowed to continue? How much longer will the government display this cowardice in facing the fundamentalists? How much longer will it accede to unwarranted, unfair and irrational demands from these groups? Unlike Bangladesh or Pakistan, India is a democracy – the largest democracy in the world. India’s democracy doesn’t have the shaky, nominal pretensions to democracy of the flavor practised by its neighbors. India now stands alongside the developed countries in technology, power, education and stability. Why is such a great country lending itself to abuse by regressive fundamentalists? Intimidated by the fear of a handful few, the elected representatives have not hesitated to dishonor the Indian Constitution (Article 19A), or objected to pushing the nation back a thousand years. Worst of all, these fearful actions and disgusting pusillanimity of people in position of authority have had a terrible unintended consequence; they have been instrumental in painting a whole community, a whole religion as an intolerant, barbaric one. Who would bear that responsibility?

The only visible concern seems to be winning elections. Let the country rot, let the nation’s future go to hell – I must win the elections. Acceding pathetically to the unjust demands made by some immature, illiterate, uncouth, crazy, misogynistic extremists, the undemocratic enemies of progress, some people in power have been taking away the fundamental freedoms of civilized, educated, enlightened and progressive littérateurs and intellectuals. This can only result in the enhancement of power and prestige of the fundamentalists, encouraging them towards further atrocities. I can say unequivocally that such people are the enemies of the state. My life is at risk, but I shall not be silenced.

Translated from Bengali to English by Kausik Datta (@kausikdatta22)