Taslima Nasreen’s remark on Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity is beneath contempt, to say the least. And yet the response of the Archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, and the Vice-Chancellor of St Xavier’s University, Father Felix Raj, has been remarkably restrained, with the Missionaries of Charity declining to comment.
It has in effect ignored the rantings of a direly controversial writer. Her allegation relating to child adoption is best left to the police to investigate. The Bangladeshi author, evicted from her country and ejected from Kolkata by the Bengal Left under fundamentalist pressure (November 2007), has ignited a controversy and in a city where she had longed to settle down because of its libertarian and tolerant credentials.
In the net, she has offended the sentiments of the people generally, and cutting across religious denominations. Not least because Mother Teresa had lived and worked in Kolkata; beyond the city, the world bears witness to her noble deeds and holiness.
“Taslima can say what she wants, but the Mother’s image will remain impeccable for all that she was and all that she has done,” was the pointed retort of Archbishop D’Souza. Her unsolicited remark is not merely uncharitable, but untrue as well.
On closer reflection, she has used Mamata Banerjee’s expressed suspicion that there is a BJP plot to debunk the Mother’s institution as a peg to launch a virulent attack on the Mother and the Missionaries of Charity and done so 21 years after her passing.
Without a scintilla of evidence to substantiate her allegations, she has used an overdose of invective to condemn a person whom Malcolm Muggeridge had once described as Something Beautiful for God, indeed the title of his biography. Thus has Taslima bared her angst ~ “Mother Teresa’s charity home sells babies; it is nothing new. Mother Teresa was involved with many illegal, inhumane, immoral, unethical, unprincipled, wicked, fraudulent, barbaric acts. Please don’t try to protect criminals only because they are famous”.
Fame or otherwise is not the point at issue. Taslima herself has a lot to answer for in terms of how she acquired her notoriety. She infuriated the fundamentalist fringe in Bangladesh with her explosive perceptions of women, religion, and also, of course, the Shariat.
The problem with Taslima is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend if she actually believes the things she says, or merely makes controversial remarks now and again to remain in public focus.
In the net, Taslima has betrayed an insufficient understanding of Mother Teresa’s work. The controversial writer can scarcely arrogate to herself the task of conducting a “post mortem” examination as it were on the life and work of Mother Teresa, indeed her signal contribution to humanity that many would be proud of but few able to claim.