I support the rights of all people to practice their religious beliefs privately, but I oppose the idea of respecting religions. In truth, I have no respect for any religion. I believe religion is not compatible with human rights, women's rights, or freedom of expression.
I was born in a middle class Muslim family, in a small town called Myonenningh in a northern part of Bangladesh in 1962. My father is a qualified physician; my mother is a housewife. I have two elder brothers and one younger sister. All of them received a liberal education in schools and colleges.
Every religion oppresses women. I talk about the Koran because I know this book best. It allows for torture and other mistreatment, especially for women. And I despise the Sharia laws. They cannot be changed. They must be thrown out, abolished.
In traditional societies, we have a long legacy of men controlling the body and mind of women. Such societies have valorised motherhood and fabricated concepts like chastity. Women have been the victims of these notions for thousands of years.
I have lectured at the U.N. and travelled widely, giving lectures on human rights and gender inequalities in universities. But this is a life I do not wish to live. I don't want to be a showcase, I want to be in a battlefield where I can stand beside the oppressed and the poor.
Religion is now the first obstacle to women's advancement. Religion pulls human beings backwards, it goes against science and progressiveness. Religion engulfs people with a fear of the supernatural. It bars people from laughing and never allows people to exercise their choice.
I believe that if the silent majority were to protest against those who believe in irrational blind faith - who want to go backwards instead of forward, who are for tradition not innovation, who oppose individualism and plurality of thought - then the world would become a truly civilized world in which to live.
When I write, I don't allow the fear of consequences to interfere with the writing process. I have in the past paid for my commitment to the truth and the way I live my life. I am prepared to pay more if I have to.
It is said that peace is the basic tenet of all religion. Yet it is in the name of religion that there has been so much disturbance, bloodshed and persecution. It is indeed a pity that even at the close of the twentieth century we've had to witness such atrocities because of religion. Flying the flag of religion has always proved the easiest way to crush to nothingness human beings as well as the spirit of humanity.
I was well acquainted with the Calcutta literary circle since I was 17, when I lived in Bangladesh and published and edited a little magazine called 'Sejuti,' for which young poets from both Bengals wrote. If you look at my life, there is no question of using anyone for anything. I have only got banned, blacklisted and banished.