Threats stirred courage, says Behzti author
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, whose play "Behzti" generated so much controversy that it was cancelled, has broken her silence saying that the threats "had only stirred tolerance and courage".
The play, which depicts sexual abuse and murder in a gurdwara, was considered by many British Sikhs as offensive to their religion and was taken off stage by the Birmingham Repertory last month.
"My play, Behzti, has been cancelled, I've been threatened and verbally abused by people who don't know me. My family has been harassed and I've had to leave my home. I have been deeply angered by the upset caused to my family and I ask people to see sense and leave them alone," Bhatti wrote in The Guardian on Thursday.
Bhatti said she still wanted her work and she "wholeheartedly" stood by the play, adding it was not fear that kept her silent but "practical issues" about her own safety and that of those closest to her.
The threats and hate mail had "stirred only tolerance and courage within me".
Death threats had forced Bhatti into hiding. The writer wrote that she was "very saddened" by the decision to cancel the production, but accepted that the theatre had no choice because of the danger of more violence.
In the article, Bhatti wrote that her faith in god remained strong and condemned people who used the row over her play to condemn Sikhism.
"There can never be any excuse for the demonisation of a religion or its followers. The Sikh heritage is one of valour and victory over adversity."
She continued: "I am proud to come from this remarkable people and do not fear the disdain of some, because I know my work is rooted in honesty and passion.
"I hope bridges can be built, but whether this prodigal daughter can ever return home remains to be seen."
Bhatti wrote that the play was taken out of context by some people and was not intended to offend, and added that it was meant "to explore how human frailties can lead people into a prison of hypocrisy".
Artists and writers in Britain and around the world expressed their support for the playwright.
Bhatti wrote that the artist's right to free expression was vital.
"I believe that it is my right as a human being and my role as a writer to think, create and challenge. The dramatists who I admire are brave. They tell us life is ferocious and terrifying, that we are imperfect and only when we face our imperfections truthfully can we have hope.
"Theatre is not necessarily a cosy space, designed to make us feel good about ourselves. It is a place where the most basic human expression - that of the imagination - must be allowed to flourish."