In poems, novels, and newspaper columns Nasrin has advocated equal rights for women and attacked male chauvinism in a country dominated by conservative Islam. In September, 1993, for example, members of an obscure religious group called the Soldiers of Islam met in the northeastern town of Sylhet and demanded Nasrin’s execution, posting a reward for her death.
Nasrin’s 1993 novel, Lajja, or Shame, containing scenes in which Muslim men rape Hindu women, sparked a campaign against her that escalated in Bangladesh into riots and increases in the amounts offered for her murder. Her case became an international cause célèbre when the Bangladeshi government banned her novel and decided to prosecute her under an nineteenth century statute outlawing acts that flouted religion.
After seeking refuge in Sweden, Nasrin responded to her persecution by attacking not only Islamic fundamentalists but reformers in her own country for doing too little to oppose religious and political tyranny. Her literary merit, her judgment in bluntly attacking her enemies, and some of her self-serving statements have been questioned even by those sympathetic to her cause. An avowed atheist, she argues for a modern, secular state as the only way to protect women’s rights. Meanwhile, Her openly rebellious lifestyle has attracted a cult following among the young in Bangladesh. Married and divorced three times, she flouts Islamic tradition by smoking and wearing her hair in Western styles.