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Muslim cleric protests new Indian visa for Bangladeshi writer

Muslim cleric protests new Indian visa for Bangladeshi writer

Author: AFP
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: February 16, 2008
URL: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/080216/world/india_religion_culture_bangladesh_nasreen_28

Scores of Muslims led by a radical cleric protested Friday against India's decision to extend the visa of threatened Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who is in hiding in New Delhi.

"Taslima has hurt the sentiments of Muslims in India. She must be deported from India immediately," Syed Nuroor Rehman Barkati, senior cleric at the Tipu Sultan mosque in the heart of the eastern city of Kolkata, told AFP.

Nasreen fled Kolkata in November after radical Muslims protested against "anti-Islamic" passages in her works.

Barkati had offered money in previous years to see the 45-year-old blackened with tar, garlanded with shoes -- considered an insulting gesture -- and driven out of the Bengali-speaking city she adopted as her home by in 2004, according to reports in the Indian media.

In August, he also backed an order by another radical cleric that offered an "unlimited financial reward" to anybody who would kill her.

Barkati organised a rally at the mosque after Friday prayers at which nearly 2,000 gathered. Most of the worshippers were not part of the anti-Nasreen rally, which saw some 100-odd protesters carrying placards that read "We want Taslima Nasreen to leave India."

India on Thursday extended Nasreen's visa, set to expire this weekend, but warned the writer not to "hurt the sentiments" of India's religious communities, a reference to the nation's 140 million Muslims.

The violent protests over her writing led to the army's deployment in Kolkata, and she now lives under federal protection at an undisclosed location in New Delhi.

Nasreen has said she is very depressed in hiding, describing her condition as virtual house arrest.

The 45-year-old author was forced to leave Bangladesh in 1994 after extremist Muslims accused her of blasphemy over her novel "Lajja" or "Shame", which depicts the life of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims in Bangladesh.

She has been seeking permanent residence in India, where she moved after spending time in Europe and the United States, but so far the government has only granted her six-month visas.

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