Ideology and Power Combine in Bangladesh

As a feminist of Arab-Muslim origin I found that, apart from the strong condemnation of putting people to death for their ideals, the editorial ``Islamist Thought Police,'' July 21, was a bit simplistic and misleading.

Contrary to the assertions of the writer, the particulars of this case are revealing. These highlight both why Taslima Nasreen's life is at stake and what lessons to learn about the way ideology and power are connected. Since no Islamic society completely separates ``church'' (religion) and state, we need to know how religious injunctions are interpreted and applied in Bangladesh to regulate social and gender relations. We also need to know how religious beliefs are manipulated politically there, and why Ms. Nasreen may be a tragic scapegoat for vying political interests: She may well be a convenient trade-off, a writer to be sacrificed by the regime as a form of appeasement to hard-liners or to keep other challengers in check.

This is not to detract from the horror and outrage presented by her case. Indeed, defiant and outspoken women are often on the front line for defamation and abuse. It is necessary to point out, though, that thought police are neither intrinsic to nor limited to Islam, nor are women their sole victims.

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Our own democracy is replete with examples where thought control flourished, perhaps not dressed up in clerical garb but identifiable nonetheless by its confident and arrogant suppression of ``incorrect'' opinions - those that were at odds with the prevailing views of the time. S. Dajani, Yellow Springs, Ohio

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