Friday, 10 August 2007

Taslima Nasrin "has lived in Kolkata for the last two years", according to The Guardian (displaying its elemental liberalism), where "staff and agencies" report that the author's book launch was crashed by a posse of vigilantes determined to keep women in thrall.

The city, previously known as Calcutta, is close to her native Bangladesh, which she fled in 1994 "when Islamic extremists threatened to kill her after an Indian newspaper quoted her as saying changes must be made to the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, to give women greater rights".

She denies the charge. Nevertheless, she has been "outspoken in defence of minority and women's rights". The paper's reluctance to use a by-line implies some concern for the journalist's safety.

My colleagues are both fundamentialist Christians and both went to see Amazing Grace before I did. No doubt both would applaud renaming the city Nasrin now calls home. One of them recently caused me to give a lecture on the East India Company, which was ultimately responsible for the existence of the city in the first place.

In fact, one of my colleagues went to see the movie due to the influence of her church, Hillsong. This is disturbing. I doubt she would know, for example, that William Pitt, one of the 'good guys' of the movie, is the person Sydney's Pitt Street is named for. His father was responsible for the naming of Pittsburgh.

I guess what I'm saying is that unless you understand these connections (there are a thousand other facts the movie presents that most do not recognise for what they are) the movie will be simply what she wants: a booster for the church.

Will she see that Nasrin is fighting for the same kinds of 'rights' (I usually detest the word) as Wilberforce? I doubt it. As a result, the hyperventilation we are meant to experience at the end of the movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons. And people like Nasrin will continue to struggle against the forces of reaction.

Ahmad Pasha Quadri, a politician involved in the protest against Nasrin and who is named by the British paper, is cut from the same cloth as Lord Tarleton in Amazing Grace. Equally corrupt is Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong church. These people seek to subdue, for their own selfish reasons, the progress of society from ignorance (we have a loooong way to go even in Australia) to full consciousness of self.

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