August 17, 2007 / 12:59 PM / 10 years ago

Kolkata's clerics threaten Taslima Nasreen

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Muslim clerics in Kolkata issued a “death warrant” against controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen on Friday, threatening her life if she did not leave the country where she lives in exile.

The threat came after a meeting of dozens of clerics from prominent mosques in Kolkata - where the writer lives - who said she had invited their wrath through her “repeated criticism” of Islam in her books and speeches.

While one prominent cleric said Nasreen had a month to leave, another said she had 15 days. Anyone who killed her would get a cash reward of 100,000 rupees ($2,400), they said.

“Anyone who executes the warrant will also be given additional rewards,” said Nurur Rehman Barkati, a cleric of one of the biggest mosques in Kolkata.

The move by the clerics came a week after Nasreen was attacked by radical Muslims in Hyderabad during the launch of a translation of one of her novels.

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.

Police said they had stepped up security around Nasreen’s house in Kolkata after the clerics’ announcement.

Nasreen said their illegal order destroyed India’s secular image. “I have never hurt religious sentiments and strongly believe in freedom of speech,” she told Reuters. “I am not afraid of death, but I am saddened by the turn of events.”

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