15 October, 2019

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Taslima Nasreen – Diary Of An Exile

By Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty –

Taslima Nasreen just made a public appearance in Delhi four years after she was attacked in Hyderabad. The firebrand writer speaks to Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty about why she will continue to fight

Her point of view: Taslima Nasreen. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

“It is a difficult life I am living,” says firebrand Bangla writer Taslima Nasreen. Living in exile for 18 years now, after her bestselling novel Lajja caught the ire of fundamentalist forces eventually leading the Bangladesh Government to banish her out of the country. After moving from one European country to another for 10 years, she finally landed up in West Bengal, where, she could “get a taste of home.”

Not for ever though. After the attack on her at the Hyderabad Press Club in 2007, Taslima had to leave West Bengal. In fact, she says, “India Government suggested I leave the country”. She returned in 2008 though.

Now in Delhi, she made a public appearance just the other day, four years after the Hyderabad attack. It was to launch the Hindi translation of her Bengali poems titled Mujhe Dena Aur Prem. Though Taslima says she does not avoid meeting people in Delhi, her publisher is more keen on email interviews rather than face-to-face interactions, presumably to avoid disclosing her exact location in the city. Here, Taslima tells The Hindu Metro Plus reader why she continues her fight. Excerpts:

How is life in Delhi? How often do you make public appearances? Do you feel lonely in your fight against free speech?

After a long struggle, I am allowed to live in India. But West Bengal is still forbidden for me. Since the attack in Hyderabad, I do not appear in public in India. After more than four years, I first attended a public meeting in Delhi the other day. I do not get the opportunity to meet people in Delhi. Delhi is not Kolkata. I terribly miss a social life in Delhi.

I want to feel safe in India. I get sympathy, solidarity and love from the people who believe in freedom of expression and women’s rights.

I often travel on invitation of Western organisations to give lectures on human rights, women’s rights, secularism, humanism, etc. Sometimes I feel lonely in the fight for freedom of expression in the Indian subcontinent. I have no right to live in Bangladesh and West Bengal, the lands where fellow Bengalis live. I am not only banished from those lands, I am also blacklisted. Publishers do not dare to print my books and editors of newspapers and magazines do not have the courage to publish my articles. So I have started writing blogs in English, my second language. (http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima)

Why is your fight important?

The reasons are: first, the insistence of fundamentalists on divine justification for human laws; second, their insistence on the superior authority of faith, as opposed to reason; third, their insistence that the individual is immaterial. Fundamentalists want to put everybody in their straitjacket and dictate what an individual should eat, wear and live. They do not believe in liberty of personal choice or plurality of thought. However, as they are believers in a particular faith, they believe in propagating only their own ideas. They deny others the right to express their views freely, and cannot tolerate anything which they perceive as going against their faith. They proclaim themselves a moral force but their language is hatred and violence.

Humankind is facing an uncertain future; the probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large, in particular, the conflict between two different ideas — secularism and fundamentalism. I do not agree that the conflict is simply between two religions — Christianity and Islam or Hinduism and Islam or Judaism and Islam. There are fundamentalists in every religious community…

How do you miss Bangladesh, your house there?

My house in Dhaka is has long been occupied by people I do not have contact with. After my parents’ death, my relatives have changed completely. To them, I am dead. They did not let me have anything that I inherited.

I do not know how I would feel if I ever get the permission to live in my country. Many times I felt that I was living in exile in my own country. Now, I believe that I have a home, which consists of a family of people – men as well as women – who bravely oppose the forces of darkness and ignorance. The hearts of people are my home and my country, my safe haven, my refuge.

Tell us about your new book translated into Hindi?

Mujhe Dena Aur Prem (Vani Prakashan) is a book of my select poems. The translator has chosen the poems written on mostly on love and freedom. Love should not be used as a shackle. Love should rather set you free.

I am happy that finally my publisher has found one in Prayag Shukla, a Hindi poet. Those who translated my books in Hindi earlier knew Hindi language. But knowing the language is not enough. In the past, writers translated the works of other writers. Nowadays, we hardly see this phenomenon. Take French poet Charles Baudelaire who translated Edgar Allen Poe, leading some bilinguals to prefer Baudelaire over Poe. Ezra Pound edited Eliot’s “The Waste land”, the work that got him the 1948 Nobel Prize in literature. Or, Edward FitzGerald who translated the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam. Yeats worked on Tagore’s translation and drew Westerners’ attention that helped Tagore to get the Nobel.

Some filmmakers wanted to make films on your novels and also on your cat. What happened?

No filmmaker in West Bengal is allowed to make a film based on my novel or on my life or on my cat’s life. My book launch in the Kolkata Book Fair last year was cancelled by the Government. I am a social and political outlaw. But I can assure you, come what may, I will never be silenced. I will continue my fight for justice and equality until my death.

Courtesy The Hindu

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    These Fanatical Muslims takes up issue with Taslima Nasreen because she is outspoken. So where is the Liberty under Islam? For them it is blashphemy. If so why has God Allah not punished her but these fanatics want to kill her? These fanatics want their women folk to wear the Hijab. Why should Taslima hide her beauty? The funny thing is when that Grand Father Figure of Prophet Mohamed seduced a fourteen or fifteen year old girl, having other women as his wives to satisfy his lust, these fanatics had no issue. What Hypocrisy? Anyway it is nice to hear Taslima is safe and sound as Salmon Rushidie. Long live Taslima Nasreen who has seen light of the day and the rest of the 1.6 billion Muslims are in the dark still.

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      gamini:

      The recent history of political asylum in India is an affair puzzling to many.

      India was willing to provide sanctuary to Somawansa, Varatharajaperumal, Prabaharan, other Tamil Eelam groups and Udugampola yet it is reluctant to provide protection to champion of free speech.

      I am worried about Dalai Lama’s asylum status. He is seen as an obstacle to China’s peaceful rise. When India makes a comprehensive settlement with China, Dalai Lama is the price worth paying to improve Indo China relation.

      I won’t like it but for all intents and purposes that is the best India could do to appease China.

      • 0
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        Native, yes absolutely. India’s duplicity in her political interest is well displayed by her behaviour. It is nothing but disgusting and disgraceful. We should be glad to have forums as CT to discuss these issues freely without inhibitions, otherwise we too will have to live in exile or depart at the hands of these do gooders. I am certain that what has been discussed on these columns might be distasteful for many. If any attempt to accuse me, of Islam bashing it is wrong. What I have done is show everyone the fallacies of all Religions and the bigotry practised. Like this author Taslima Nasreen paying the price of loosing her inheritance and the right to live in her place of birth being denied is testimony how Tyranical societies are, for speaking out on Corrupt Organised Religion, which are not different to Corrupt Governments. Those who complain are the villains of evil unable to see reason preventing others from freeing themselves from Religious Bondage.

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    As it is ones liberty or freedom of expression to speak or write what he or she thinks it is also the liberty or freedom of the other to expect that the former does not insult his or her (the latter’s) beliefs and feelings. So the latter can challenge the former. But agreed any threat of harm is not acceptable. Islam too does not advocate harm to such persons. Such thinking sometimes emerge from individuals caused by true emotion and some do it for other reasons, sometimes for political advantage. If Taslima Nasreen has desecrated Allah’s words, He alone could punish her when That Day comes. Muslim women are expected to protect themselves from becoming vulnerable to lust men because of their physical form by covering themselves suitably. Islam’s code of conduct for women safeguards them from lust men but also from becoming sexy commercial objects as used to market anything from pins to other including men’s underwear. About the Holy Prophet’s (Peace be upon Him) please read the comment produced for the article on ‘Forced Marriages’ for your better knowledge. Also you are kindly requested not to use harsh and insulting words in your exchanges which reflects your angry and revengeful mind that is in you due to some reason that is, perhaps, only known to you.

    Lanka Muslim, UK – August 30, 2012
    12:56 pm
    Reply

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      Lanka Muslim, does the freedom exist you describe, one to express his or herself? You state, ‘If Taslima Nasreen has desecrated Allah’s words, He alone could punish her when That Day comes’. Then why is it that she has to live in exile to save her life, forgoing her inheritance? There have been many others who have not been so lucky as Taslima and Rushidie and had paid with their lives. If nothing happens to Taslima and Rushidie till they eventually die one day as natural to all living beings, then your concept of God being effended does not arise, possibly because he is not offended or is it because he is non existant? Imagine if both were killed at the hands of the fanatics? How wrong it is.

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    In today’s world, characterised by amazing developments in technology,
    you cannot keep an entire population of several billions of people of a particular religion, under wraps for long. There are far too many contradictions in that sector – which are gradually crumbling. Rulers of these people deliberately keep them in ignorance and exploit them under the name of religion. The message is “we rule in the name of the Almighty. Anyone or anything that challenge this will come to harm”
    But this will not succeed. More secular Islamic societies like in
    Turkey are fighting back. The more educated in Pakistan refuse to yield to Islamic Fundamentalism – of which the respected newspaper
    “Dawn” is a good example. Scholars in Egypt and countries in the area
    see through the deception. The Arab Spring will spread to other Islamic countries – whose people will demand more education and the right for the freedom of speech and the right to education both for men and women. Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen risked their lives and future spoke out in line with their conscience. The civilised and tolerant world went to their defence against intolerant Mullahs who insisted on preaching what is right and wrong.

    It is ironic Taslima who comes from a country that broke away from India and thence from their chosen Pakistan on the basis of religion found safety and freedom in Hindu-dominated West Bengal. She had to flee W. Bengal and Hyderabad recently not because of the Hindus but because of violent and intolerant people of her own religion. I hope she will soon write the real and true story of Hindus in Bangladesh. In the years after partition in 1947, it is known Hindus formed over 20% of the population in East Pakistan/Bangladesh. Today it is less than about 3% according to official Govt figures there. What happened to the millions of Hindus not accounted for, who refused to change to Islam? These are not features of a religion that hoarsely claims to be
    tolerant and compassionate invoking the name of the Almight 24×7.

    Senguttuvan

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      If it is to be understood that the society is civilized devoid of divine and religious guidance then the human race would have lived as before in the stone age when man ate another man. The freedom or liberty that Salman Rushdie and Thaslima Nasreen are said to be enjoying cannot be true as these would know in within their own minds the suffer in isolation being away from their relatives, their community and their countries of birth although they will be endowed with all the material benefits they are provided in the countries they have sought refuge. They will certainly be praying to themselves ‘Allah why is this suffering to us. Bear with us for taking the wrong path. Redeem us from our sins’.

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        Lanka Muslim, please do not betray your Ignorance for the whole world to see. For your information it is not all races that practised Canibalism. Further it is not Religion or Devine help that steered Civilisation. It was a natural process where different Religions found to appeace the ignorant in society.

        You admit that Salmon Rushidie and Taslima Nasreen must be suffering within to be away from relatives and friends. Who is at Fault? It is all because of you Fanatics and not due to your imaginary God Allah. Leave them alone and they will come home, but how to, you mad hatters are waiting to kill them. This being the mind set of all Fanatical Muslims, are expecting us to keep quiet and even blame media bodies as CT for highlighting the Mockery as these Muslims are living in the Dark Ages still, as Canibals. They feel offended when reason and rationale is pointed to them. It is sad although Muslims have integrated with the rest of Society, they still have the mind set of Bedouins of old. Bad enough we have the Sinhalese who believe they are descendants of Lions and the Muslims, are they descendants of Camels? I Wonder!

  • 0
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    gamini says:

    “Bad enough we have the Sinhalese who believe they are descendants of Lions and the Muslims, are they descendants of Camels? I Wonder!”

    Tamils are descendants of Lord Siva?

    Sri Lankan Tamils are descendants of Ravana?

  • 0
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    Gamini.. we have seen many others of your ilk, come and go throughout history. But, Islam nor the character image of its leader has ever crumbled under pressure of change, to accommodate others views touted on freedom of expression. If Islam had succumbed, then it would have had only a face value with lip service, and reduced to much fragmentation amongst its adherents. Dynamism and motivation will be gone, with no one having the courage to stand up and defend it through sacrifice in its many forms, the final of which is ‘jihad’ martyrdom. Case in point, Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting against foreign occupation. Even in the US (so called champions of democracy), managed to muzzle in world governments to form a coalition with the famous words ‘Either you are with us, or you are with the enemy’. Nothing in between. They passed legislation and enacted laws which controlled their media to such an extent, that people got fed up and started reacting. But the American government didn’t have it any other way, and succeeded through persistency. But on the face of it, it is still a free country having democratic values. There is a lot that can be said on their approach to dealing with situation at the time, but serves only academic interest and value. In hindsight, they too adopted the Islamic way, although will never admit to it. Being a Muslim means having Islamic core values which must be strictly adhered to in accordance with established Sharia Laws. Either you are on the inside – as Muslim, or you are not. Nothing in between. Islam has set its boundaries, in order for Muslims to know its limits. This is where discipline and respect to the laws established comes in. Innovation (Arabic term Bidha) is not allowed, since this breeds novelty and modernization. As true good Muslims, no one will ever override or challenge what the Prophet did or said, or try to change it for convenience sake. If such changes in practice were permitted to suit the changing times, Islamic practices would never be in its purest form whilst maintaining its originality to this day and age. Acts like praying 5 times a day, fasting during whole of the month of Ramazan, performing the Hadj at least once in one’s lifetime, reserving 2.5 percent of your net income to be given away as compulsory charity – known as Zakath. Reciting the Quran and understanding its messages, and making best effort to memorizing it, are all just some of the basic acts which every true Muslim must practice and adhere to. There are many, many more acts, which when spelled out will take volumes of space, and there are enough reference material out there (on the internet) for anyone interested. Islam is not only a pure religion to guide mankind through his journey in this world and into and beyond the hereafter, but a whole way of life, from the time of birth, (duties of parents on newly born infant) until burial after death. Duties towards God Almighty, accepting His existence, believing in all of His Prophets including His Angels and His Book – The Quran, Social responsibilities (looking after the poor, sick and needy), duties towards parents, upbringing of children with Islamic core values, duties towards fellow Muslims, neighbors, relations, orphans, wives, husbands etc., it is all embodied in Islamic teachings. There are even established Islamic Criminal Laws (although it may be harsh for some, but effective deterrents for crime control), laws on animal slaughter for food, marriage laws, divorce laws, laws on inheritance, adoption, financial instruments with zero interest factor, but mutually agreeable profit sharing basis etc. Muslims even have their own calendar starting from Al Hijra 1 (the year the Prophet left Mecca and migrated with his followers to Medina, his final resting place). It is based on the Lunar cycle or Lunar phase. Those interested can check it out on Wikipedia. In terms of personal hygiene and cleanliness, there is none who can match those of the Muslims. Circumcision at very tender age, which prevents urine stagnation under foreskin, shaving armpits and private parts every 40 days, cutting nails (both feet and hands) every Friday before compulsory bath for Friday congregational prayers. Taking ablution before 5 times daily prayers amounts to washing off minor sins committed unknowingly between prayers. So there is a lot going on in the life of a Muslim (males, females including children). There are learned Ulamas (students of religious knowledge) capable of quoting from Quran and interpreting the message as God intended it to be, and as taught and trained at their Madrassas (Arabic teaching institutions). There are so many Hafiz and Hafizas (Male and female students who have committed the whole Quran to memory) out there in the world today, and competitions are held in mostly Arab countries to richly reward them, based on fluency in recitation, and skills in reciting starting from any Sura (chapter) or Ayath (line) the judges decide. In trying to belittle Islam and its practices, you are only exposing your ignorance and your haughty character, arousing curiosity for others to investigate the truthfulness of what you exhort. Which is in a way, doing service towards the Muslim cause. The same as the effect of 9/11 attack has done to America. Woken up to discover invasion, by whom? Muslims. What Muslims? Where do they exist? Why did they do it? What do they want? Lets get to the bottom of it. And so started inquisitive investigation, which has caused many reverts to Islam (I repeat reverts, not converts, since everyone is born a natural Muslim, and then converts through parents influence) and have now built up many Mosques around the country (450 most recent estimates), including the famous one only two blocks from Ground Zero, right in the neighborhood of their most hallowed site, by those who caused it to be so. They are all new Muslims, and a joy to be called ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in Islam. Have you heard of Father Estes (a parish Priest who reverted to Islam, now known as Yusoof Estes doing Islamic propagation as only he knows how – like a Preacher. Watch him on Youtube. My friend, the wheels are slowly turning to fulfill the prophecy that all the ‘isms’ in the world will get defeated , (I mean is Atheism, Christianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Communism whatever) and Islam will be the only religion left in the world, which will unite everyone under one banner, and pay obeisance to Almighty God Allahu wa Subhanahu wa Ta’la, and accept Him as our Creator. Our return will be to Him. So don’t be left out in the cold.

  • 0
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    Gamini.. we have seen many others of your ilk, come and go throughout history. But, Islam nor the character image of its leader has ever crumbled under pressure of change, to accommodate others views touted on freedom of expression. If Islam had succumbed, then in present day context, it would have had only a face value with lip service, and reduced to much fragmentation amongst its adherents. Dynamism and motivation will be gone, with no one having the courage to stand up and defend it through sacrifice in its many forms, the final of which is ‘jihad’ martyrdom. Case in point, Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting against foreign occupation, to preserve and protect their identity as Muslims. Even in the US (so called champions of democracy), managed to muzzle in world governments to form a coalition with the famous words ‘Either you are with us, or you are with the enemy’. Nothing in between. They passed legislation and enacted laws which controlled their media to such an extent, that people got fed up and started reacting. But the American government didn’t have it any other way, and succeeded through subtlety and persistency. But on the face of it, it still remained a free country enjoying democratic values. There is a lot that can be said on their approach to dealing with situation at the time, but serves only academic value. In hindsight, they too adopted the Islamic approach, although will never admit to it. Being a Muslim means having Islamic core values which must be strictly adhered to in accordance with established Sharia Laws. Either you are on the inside – as Muslim, or you are not. Nothing in between. Islam has set its boundaries, in order for Muslims to know its limits. This is where discipline and respect to the laws established comes in. Innovation (Arabic term Bidha) is not allowed, since this breeds new thinking and modernization. As true good Muslims, no one will ever override or challenge what the Prophet did or said, or try to introduce changes for convenience sake. If such changes in practice were permitted to suit the changing times, these practices would never be in its purest form whilst maintaining its originality to this day and age. Acts like praying 5 times a day, fasting during whole of the month of Ramazan, performing the Hadj at least once in one’s lifetime, reserving 2.5 percent of your net income to be given away as compulsory charity – known as Zakath. Reciting the Quran and understanding its messages, and making best effort to memorizing it, are all just some of the basic acts which every good and true Muslim must practice and adhere to. There are many, many more acts, which when spelled out will take volumes of space, and there are enough reference material out there (on the internet) for anyone interested. Islam is not only a pure religion to guide mankind through his journey in this world and into the hereafter and beyond, but a whole way of life, from the time of birth, (duties of parents on newly born infant) until burial after death. Duties towards God Almighty, accepting His existence, believing in all of His Prophets including His Angels and His Book – The Quran, Social responsibilities (looking after the poor, sick and needy), duties towards parents, upbringing of children with Islamic core values, duties towards fellow Muslims, neighbors, relations, orphans, wives, husbands etc., it is all embodied in Islamic teachings. There are even established Islamic Criminal Laws (although it may be harsh for some, but effective deterrents for crime control), laws on animal slaughter for food, marriage laws, divorce laws, laws on inheritance, adoption, financial instruments with zero interest factor, but mutually agreeable profit sharing basis etc. Muslims even have their own calendar starting from Al Hijra 1 (the year the Prophet left Mecca and migrated with his followers to Medina, his final resting place). It is based on the Lunar cycle or Lunar phase. Those interested can check it out on Wikipedia. In terms of personal hygiene and cleanliness, there is none who can match those of the Muslims. Circumcision at very tender age, which prevents urine stagnation under foreskin, shaving armpits and private parts every 40 days, cutting nails (both finger and toe nails) every Friday before obligatory (Sunnath) bath for Friday congregational prayers. Taking ablution before 5 times daily prayers amounts to washing off minor sins committed unknowingly between prayers. So there is a lot going on in the life of a Muslim (males, females including children). There are learned Ulamas (students of religious knowledge) capable of quoting from Quran and interpreting the message as God intended it to be, and as taught and trained at their Madrassas (Arabic teaching institutions). There are so many Hafiz and Hafizas (Male and female students who have committed the whole Quran to memory) out there in the world today, and competitions are held in mostly Arab countries to richly award them, based on fluency in recitation, and skills in reciting starting from any Sura (chapter) or Ayath (line) the judges decide. In trying to belittle Islam and its practices, you are only exposing your ignorance and your haughty character, arousing curiosity for others to investigate the truthfulness of what you exhort. Which in a way is doing service for the Muslim cause. The same as the effect of 9/11 attack has done to America. Woken up to discover invasion, by whom? Muslims. What Muslims? Where do they exist? Why did they do it? What do they want? Lets get to the bottom of it. And so started inquisitive investigation, which has caused many reverts to Islam (I repeat reverts, not converts, since everyone is born a natural Muslim, and then converts to other religions through parents influence) and have now built up many Mosques around the country (450 most recent estimates), including the famous one a few blocks from Ground Zero. They are all new Muslims, and a joy to be called ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in Islam. Have you heard of Father Estes (a parish Priest who reverted to Islam) now known as Yusoof Estes doing Islamic propagation as only he knows how – like a Preacher. Watch him on Youtube. My friend, the wheels are slowly turning to fulfill the prophecy that all the ‘isms’ will get defeated, (I mean is Atheism, Christianism, judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Communism whatever) and Islam will be the only religion left in the world, which will unite everyone under one banner, and pay obeisance to Almighty God Allahu wa Subhanahu wa Ta’la, and accept Him as our Creator. Our return will be to Him. So don’t be left out alone in the cold.

  • 0
    0

    Ruzaik, even before the dust could settle, which I thought I’ll allow it for Peace sake, you fire a voluminous salvo to kindle it once again. You commence saying that there have been many of my ilk who have come and gone throughout History but Islam had withstood all and yet remain strong among the adherents. The thing is that you are talking of an era where the media was not developed as today for communication and in isolated cases if any raised a voice against Islam Jihad would have been performed, but not today as the whole world could be addressed and there is very little that the devout adherents could do. You take my word, as we have seen already there are many who do not blindly believe in a Religion but questions the belief. As a result not only Islam every other Religion is up for question. Islam is no exception. By killing some one who questioned Islam, which happened in the past will not be possible in the future although the Immams have declared Jihad in the case of Salmon Rushidie and Taslima Nisreen. Even here in this forum there were a couple of Muslims who were not willing to take up what is said in the Quoran for face value. This is human nature although you have lofty ideas that all other Religions will perish and only Islam would survive and continue for ever. Even this discourse would have not been possible in the past. That was the rigidity in Islam to keep the adherents under control. I have heard and read the Quoran a little and that was sufficient to judge the rest as I found a lot of imaginative narrations like in other Religions with miraculous events that are hardly possible, even stretching the imagination to maximum. As for the controversy of Ayeshas age of betrothal to consumation varied from six years to fifteen years amongst the very adherents more than eight in number who argued quoting the Quoran.

    You further exhibit your ignorance that Muslims are the cleanest because they are circumcised. Why do you think others are dirty? For your information most males do wash themselves pulling the prepuse back and it is no big job. Further I have found in public the offensive odour of sweat smell amongst those who cover themselves totally is more than those who are losely attired. You know what I mean lest another controvesy erupts reference the Hijab.

    To conclude, there will be more issues regards Religion that will take centre stage in the future, in forums as these that will lead to larger groupings questioning to disagree. Are you going to threaten and kill all? As for your pipe dream that one day all ‘isms’ will be defeated and Islam will be the only Religion left in the world, which will unite everyone under one banner, may I ask where that unity is in the Middle Eastern Arab world before you think of the whole world? Please do not worry about me as I would love to wonder alone in the cold as I am tired of bigotry.

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