As a member of the International Academy of Humanism Taslima reflects on the guiding principles of her life………………………..

I was born into a Muslim family. I was forced by my mother to read the Koran every morning, to pray namaz, and to fast during Ramadan.

While I was growing up, I was taken by my mother to a pir, a religious cult leader respected by Muslims. He had his own group who believed in a genie and superstitions. The pir declared that women who laughed in front of men and went out of the house had been taken over by the genie and they were brutally beaten by the pir so that the genie would leave. He gave a scary description of hell. Whoever visited him gave money.

The pir was surrounded by young women who massaged his body and served him whatever he needed. One day, in my presence, he declared that keyamout, the destruction day of the Earth, was coming soon and that there was no need for women to marry. They should sacrifice their lives for Allah.

I was horrified to see all the torture he did to get rid of the genie and to listen to the description of hell and waiting for keyamout. But it did not come. The pir used to treat sick people by uttering sura and beating them. Water was declared holy and said to cure sick people. The sick became sicker after drinking the water. I was also treated by a pir but I was not cured until my physician father treated me with scientific medicine.

I was encouraged by my father to get a secular education. I learned about the ‘Big Bang’, evolution and the solar system and became suspicious about Allah’s six-day adventure to make the whole universe, the Adam and Eve story and stories of suns moving around the Earth and mountains like nails to balance the Earth so that the Earth would not fall down. My mother asked me not to ask any questions about Allah and to have blind faith in Allah. I could not be blind.

Then I studied the Koran without knowing the meaning – instead of reading it. I found it total bullshit. The Koran, believed by millions, supported slavery and inequalities among people – in other countries the equality of women had been established as a human right and the moon had already been won by men. The Koran supported the right of men to marry four times, divorce, have sex with female slaves and beat their wives. Women were to hide their bodies because the female body is simply a sexual object. Women were not allowed to divorce their husbands, enjoy inheritance, to have their testimony in court considered as seriously as men’s. I found that Allah prescribed Muslims to hate non-Muslims and to kill apostates.

With my own conscience I found religion ridiculous because it stops freethought, reason and rationality. My father told me not to believe religion and I became an atheist. I started writing against religion and all the religious superstitions. I was attacked, verbally and physically. The outrage of the religious people was so big that I had to leave my country. My own country was one of the poorest in the world. I saw how poverty was glorified by religion and how the poor are exploited. It is said the poor are sent to the Earth to prove their strong faith for Allah in their miserable life. I have not seen any religious teaching that calls for a cure for poverty. Instead the rich are supposed to make Allah happy by giving some help (Mother Teresa’s type of help). The poor in society should remain poor and opportunists can use them to buy a ticket for heaven.

So I don’t accept Allah and his cruel unholiness. I have my own conscience which inspires me to support a society based on equality and rationality. Religion is the cause of fanaticism, bloodshed, hatred, racism, conflict. Humanism can only make people humane and make the world livable.

By Taslima Nasrin