Taslima Nasrin

On this date in 1962, Taslima Nasrin was born in Mymensingh, Bangladesh. She graduated from Mymensingh Medical College in 1984, and worked as a physician for eight years. Nasrin is a writer, poet and journalist who began writing at 15. Her first book of poetry, Demands, was published in 1986, and she has since published many novels, essay collections and books of poetry, including The Game In Reverse (1995), French Lover (2002) and Getting Even (2002). She has also published seven autobiographical books.

Nasrin’s work contains strong feminist and atheist themes, and she often writes about the harm the Quran exerts on women. Her experience as a gynecological anesthesiologist, where she often dealt with rape and incest survivors, has profoundly influenced her writing. Nasrin is infamous among Islamic fundamentalists for her novel Shame (1993), which was banned in Bangladesh for being sympathetic to the plight of Hindus under Muslim law. She was forced to flee the country in 1994 due to numerous death threats, having three fatwas issued against her, and facing criminal charges for daring to speak out against Islam. Despite fleeing Bangladesh, Nasrin is still persecuted by fundamentalists: In 2007, she was attacked during a booksigning in Hyderabad, India.

Nasrin began to question the Muslim faith as a child, after reading numerous misogynistic passages in the Quran. “I came to suspect that the Quran was not written by Allah but, rather, by some selfish greedy man who wanted only his own comfort,” Nasrin explained in a speech at the 25th Annual FFRF convention. “So I stopped believing in Islam. When I studied other religions, I found they, too, oppressed women.” She is outspoken about the harm of religion, stating in a 1994 interview with The New Yorker: “I want a modern, civilized law where women are given equal rights. I want no religious law that discriminates, none, period—no Hindu law, no Christian law, no Islamic law. Why should a man be entitled to have four wives? Why should a son get two-thirds of his parents’ property when a daughter can inherit only a third?” (via Women Without Superstition). Nasrin was awarded FFRF’s 2002 Freethought Heroine Award, and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1994.

“I’m an atheist, and I believe religion is totally against human rights and women’s rights.” 

—Taslima Nasrin, The Atheist Newsletter, 1995

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo by Ingrid Laas

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