Nasreen Is Not a Victim of `Thought Police'

Regarding the editorial ``Islamist Thought Police,'' July 21: No court of law has tried, far less sentenced, Taslima Nasreen to the death penalty, as the editorial seems to suggest. Such a demand, made by a private group or individual, should not be given disproportionate attention that could lead to a distorted perception of Bangladeshi society.

Ms. Nasreen did not criticize the Koran in her novel ``Shame.'' It was May 9, in an interview with The Statesman, that she said that ``the Koran should be revised thoroughly.'' When there was an adverse reaction, Nasreen issued a statement denying having made that remark, but added, ``My view on the issue is clear and categorical. I hold the Koran, the Vedas, the Bible, and all such religious texts as out of place and out of time.''

Following meetings and protests, the government of Bangladesh felt obliged to act under section 295 (A) of the Bangladesh penal code, which provides for action against anyone who deliberately and with malicious intent outrages the religious feelings of any citizen, group, or community. If Nasreen is found guilty, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment or a fine.

Following reports that someone had offered a reward for her death, a relative of Nasreen filed a lawsuit against the suspect. In this case, too, the law will take its course, and ironically, if proven guilty, this offense carries the death penalty. Also, a warning was issued that the government would take legal action against anyone making such threats.

While upholding freedom of expression, one must acknowledge that rights have to be exercised within the bounds of law and cultural sensitivities of a society. While duly respecting the concern expressed in various quarters, I trust it will be apparent that there is a distinction between legal prosecution for the violation of an existing law and persecution for free thought, or ``destroy[ing] an idea by murdering its author.'' Humayan Kabir, Washington Ambassador, People's Republic of Bangladesh

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