Now we don’t want to upset any apple-cart, but when last week Bangladeshi writer-under-duress Taslima Nasreen announced that she would be withdrawing a contentious section from future editions of her book Dwikhondhito — as well as pulling out copies of the present edition from bookstores — how can we be so sure that the ‘offending’ bits are no more there? Considering that only a small section of the Bengali-reading population has read the bits, and an even smaller section had found the pages offensive to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, it is only by the dissemination of the ‘withdrawn’ bits that will enable the rest of us to know that Ms Nasreen has done what she has said.
So paradoxically, to know that Ms Nasreen is not bluffing, we all must read the ‘withdrawn’ pages of Dwikhondhito. And to gather the offensive bits, English translations of the excised pages are already helping us to spot the ‘necessary absence’ when the next edition of the book comes out. So what should we look forward to not being there in the next edition or in a future translation of Dwikhondhito. Well, it won’t have the bit about non-Muslims being treated as second-hand citizens in an Islamic State. It also won’t contain Ms Nasreen’s observation that women aren’t quite treated at par with men in these countries. Also excised will be the author’s ‘belief’ that prior to Islam, the Arabs were a life-affirming people who enjoyed life. According to the ‘old’ edition, the Prophet Mohammad, in a streak of reformation, infused some ‘discipline’ into an otherwise Epicurean lot. That Islam, at its advent, was more political than spiritual, will also not find mention anymore.
Now that we know at least a little of what will no longer appear in Ms Nasreen’s book, we can all rest easy.