HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - Muslim protesters assaulted the exiled Bangladeshi author and feminist Taslima Nasreen at a book launch in Hyderabad on Thursday, incensed by her repeated criticism of Islam and religion in general.
Some radical Muslims hate Nasreen for saying Islam and other religions oppress women.
On Thursday, lawmakers and members of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party attacked her at the press club in Hyderabad at the launch of a Telugu translation of one of her novels.
An uneasy-looking Nasreen backed into a corner as several middle-aged men threw a leather case, bunches of flowers and other objects at her head and threatened her with a chair, according to a Reuters witness and television pictures.
Some of the mob shouted for her death.
Other men tried to shield her and catch the projectiles. She ended up with a bruised forehead, and described the attack as barbaric before being taken to safety by police.
Nasreen fled Bangladesh for the first time in 1994 when a court said she had “deliberately and maliciously” hurt Muslims’ religious feelings with her Bengali-language novel “Lajja”, or “Shame”, which is about riots between Muslims and Hindus.
At the time, thousands of radical Muslims protested against her, demanding that she be killed for blasphemy, and some have continued to threaten her life ever since.
Police said they have arrested three state lawmakers from the political party along with 15 party workers.
Nasreen - sometimes spelled “Nasrin” - was born into a Muslim family in Bangladesh, a conservative, predominantly Islamic country.
The author, who lives in Kolkata, now describes herself as a secular humanist, and criticises religion as an oppressive force.
In 2004, a Muslim cleric offered a $440 reward to anyone who was able to successfully humiliate Nasreen by blackening her face with shoe polish or ink or by garlanding her with shoes.
She worked as a doctor before turning to writing, and several of her books have been banned in India and Bangladesh because they upset hardline Muslims.
The European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 1994.