Sarkozy wants Bangladeshi writer honoured in Paris: Embassy

25th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Nicolas Sarkozy wants to present Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, in hiding in India after death threats, with an award in Paris

  NEW DELHI, January 24, 2008 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to
present Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, in hiding in India after death
threats, with an award in Paris, the French Embassy in India said Thursday.
   The statement came amid reports that India had turned down France's
proposal to honour the writer in New Delhi during a visit this week by
Sarkozy, fearing a backlash from radical Islamists who have accused her of
   "France is grateful to the Indian authorities for all measures that they
may kindly take to facilitate Ms. Nasreen's journey to France," the French
Embassy said, announcing the Simone de Beauvoir award for Nasreen.
   Nasreen, who fled her Muslim-majority homeland after receiving death
threats from Islamic extremists, told AFP earlier that she was waiting to hear
from the Embassy about plans for the award, named after the feminist icon.
   "They (the French Embassy) contacted me two-three days ago and told me
about this," the writer told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location in the
Indian capital where she has been living since November.
   "But I have not heard anything from them after that and I don't know
whether the ceremony will take place," Nasreen, who had said she wanted to be
given the award in New Delhi, told AFP ahead of Sarkozy's visit starting
   The Indian government poured cold water on the plans fearing protests from
radical Islamists outraged by her writings, the Press Trust of India news
agency said Wednesday.
   An Indian foreign ministry official Thursday, however, denied that New
Delhi had expressed "any views at all" on the subject.
   Extremist Muslims accuse the 45-year-old author of blasphemy over her 1994
novel "Lajja" or "Shame", which depicts the life of a Hindu family persecuted
by Muslims in Bangladesh.
   Exiled from her home country in 1994, Nasreen was evacuated from the east
Indian city of Kolkata in November following violent Muslim protests over her
writings, and is now in a New Delhi house under government protection.
   Sarkozy is expected to raise the author's plight with his Indian hosts.
   The Indian government has pledged to protect the author but has warned her
not to make any statements that might "hurt the sentiments of our people", an
apparent reference to India's 140-million-plus Muslims.
   Meanwhile, a women's rights group said in Paris that France must support
the controversial writer.
   "We have to help Taslima however we can," said Sihem Habchi of the Neither
Whores Nor Submissive (Ni Putes Ni Soumises) group following a meeting with
   "We needed a strong message from France, the country of human rights,
towards Taslima and the Indian government. That will be done in France, very
soon," she said.


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