Nasrin's Research

The Harvard fellowship would be beneficial to Taslima Nasrin as it would allow her to do research on the various ways in which human rights are violated in different societies, as well as ways in which such violations may be eradicated. She would learn more about the emancipation of women throughout the world, and the ways in which cultural and religious barriers have typically prevented this from occurring. Of course, the interchange of ideas and experiences among faculty and fellows would be invaluable adjunct to any formal training.

A central concern she has is the question of how the secularization of Islamic countries might be possible at a time when Islamic fundamentalists are gaining strength. How might secular education be promoted in situations where governments want to use religion for their own interests in order to remain in power? It seems to her that the spreading of secular education and the encouragement of secular movements in general in Islamic countries is a necessary step if women are to get full equality and justice, for their oppression is strongly connected with Islamic laws and customs. It is also important to protect religious minority communities from being abused and tormented by the dominant religious groups.

For Islamic countries, the question is now whether there can be a reformation of the Islamic laws or whether a revolution for secularism might be needed. In case of reformation, though A longer process, there is a hope, too. After all, both the Judeo-Christian bible and the Qu’ran clearly accept and condone slavery. Jesus explicitly tells slaves to accept their roles and obey their masters. But no one in the world today defends chattel slavery in any public forum or allows its under any legal code. Neither fundamentalist Christians nor orthodox Jews talk about animal sacrifice or slavery. In those countries in which Sharia law exists, where stoning for adultery and amputation for stealing are legalized, no legitimization of slavery is ever mentioned. Polygamy and concubinage are clearly accepted in the old testament but no where in the Judeo-Christian world are either of these practices legalized. Thus, insistence of continuation of practices which denigrate, oppress and suppress women under the guise of scriptural reference is a sham. Such practices could and should be delegitimized as chattel slavery has been delegitimized.

Taslima would like to learn more about the history and development of "secularism" as a political and social movement, focusing specifically on the way this has been successfully achieved in the United States. She would benefit from studying the writings of such important American figures as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, who all argued strongly for the need to have a separation between the government and religion. Why did they feel so strongly about this? How did they implement such separation? How successful has this secularization process been in the United States? And how might such a process be applied to other countries, especially those who lack the democratic traditions inherent in the United States? These are the questions she wish to pursue during her fellowship.

Finally, she hopes to be in close contact with various human rights organizations based in the United States. Her primary desire is to continue her activism – the historical and philosophical research she would do during her fellowship would then be applied to hands-on work to further the work she has already done to help emancipate women in countries presently dominated by Fundamentalist religious doctrines.