Calcutta Muslim Cleric Hate
Cleric quizzed over author threat
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta
Police in India have questioned a prominent Muslim cleric in connection with threats made against feminist Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
Syed Barkati, head imam of Calcutta's Tipu Sultan mosque, denied making death threats, but admitted offering money to anyone who blackened Ms Nasreen's face.
Face blackening is carried out in India in order to publicly humiliate someone.
Ms Nasreen lives in self-imposed exile in Calcutta on an extended visa and is trying to get Indian citizenship.
Syed Noor-ur-Rehman-Barkati was summoned by police following media reports that he had issued death threats against Ms Nasreen.
The cleric said his comments had been distorted. He said he only promised to pay anyone who would blacken Ms Nasreen's face $1,100 (50,000 Indian rupees).
Syed Barkati said Ms Nasreen is a "Jewish spy" and demanded a federal police inquiry to find out who was funding her.
The cleric is upset over Ms Nasreen's reported comments at a Calcutta seminar earlier this month in which she said that she abused Allah as a child and was not punished for it.
Several Muslim groups have joined Syed Barkati's call for Ms Nasreen's immediate expulsion from the Indian state of West Bengal .
"She should not disturb communal harmony here by her outrageous remarks," said Hasan Ahmed Irfan, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Bengal.
"She should leave this place and go if she has a problem with Muslims," he said.
Security stepped up
Ms Nasreen later said she was misquoted by the media.
"I am not against religion, I only advocate woman's rights and fight for it," she said.
A police official said that security had been tightened at Ms Nasreen's Calcutta residence, and she had been warned about possible threats.
Taslima Nasreen was given a year-long Indian visa and permission to stay in Calcutta in September last year but her request for Indian citizenship has not been granted so far.
The writer left Bangladesh for Sweden in 1994 after her controversial writing there led to calls for her execution.
She says she wants to settle in West Bengal so that she can stay in touch with the Bengali way of life which she says is so important for her writing.
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