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Nobel Prize Nominee Embraces Islam

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    Posted: 08 March 2006 at 2:08am

Indian Nobel Prize Nominee Embraces Islam

It takes extraordinary courage for a rich and famous Hindu to embrace Islam and be faced with the ire of Hindu extremists, who recently murdered an Australian Missionary priest and his two lovely children by burning them alive.

The celebrated Indian novelist and poetess Dr. Kamala Das is now Suraiyya. Her Krishna poems are replaced by Ya Allah.

Kamala's "My Story" has been published in more than 15 languages and is a text book in Japan. Her English poetry collections include: Summer in Calcutta, Alphabet of Lust, The Descendants, Old Play House, and Only the Soul Knows How to Sing. She has been awarded numerous prizes and was the only Malayalee to be nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Here is part of the "Times of India" article:

I like Islam's orthodox lifestyle: Kamala Das
S Balakrishnan

The Times of India

MUMBAI: Noted writer Kamala Das finds herself in the eye of a storm following her recent decision to embrace Islam and change her name to Suraiya. This is not the first time she finds herself embroiled in a controversy. Her writings in the past have generated considerable heat. But the earlier controversies were essentially confined to literary circles. Her decision to convert to Islam has taken Kerla by storm with applause and criticism both flying in her direction. The Times of India spoke to her over the telephone at her home in Kochi on Tuesday evening. Excerpts:

Question: When exactly did you decide to embrace Islam?
Answer: I do not remember the exact time. I think it was about 27 years ago.

Q: Why did you wait so long to convert?
A: When I discussed the matter first with my husband in the early seventies, he asked me to wait. He advised me to read books on Islam. I again thought of converting before the 1984 parliamentary elections.

But, not all my children were married and settled at that time. I did not want my decision to impact on their lives. Now, all of them are well settled and happy. Hence, I have announced my decision now.

Q: Who introduced you to Islam?
A: My first interface with Islam was through two blind Muslim children, Irshad Ahmed and Imtiaz Ahmed. They were sent to me by the National Association for the Blind since I had volunteered to read and teach the blind. The children virtually stayed at our flat at Bank House at Churchgate, Mumbai. I was required to read them Islamic scriptures.

Q: What was it in Islam which attracted you?
A: I liked the purdah which Muslim women wore. I liked the orthodox lifestyle of Muslim women.

Q: But, doesn't the Purdah circumscribe your freedom?
A: I don't want freedom. I had enough of it thrust on me. Freedom had become a burden for me. I want guidelines to regulate and discipline my life. I want a master to protect me. I wanted protection and not freedom. I want to be subservient to Allah. In fact, for the past 24 years I had worn a purdah off and on. I had gone to markets, matinee shows and even while abroad I had worn purdah. I have several of them.

A woman in purdah is respected. No one touches you or teases you if you wear one. You get total protection.

Q: But isn't freedom the most precious of all gifts enjoyed by humankind?
A: My freedom had become frayed at the edges. It was not good any more. It was no more the toy I wanted to play with. I had outgrown the desire for freedom.

Q: What was the immediate reason to accept Islam?
A: Recently I was travelling in a car from the Malabar to Kochi. I started the journey at 5.45 a.m. I looked at the rising sun. Surprisingly, it had the colour of a setting sun. It travelled with me and at 7.00 a.m. it turned white. For years I have been looking for signs telling me when to convert. Finally, I got the message.

Q: Can you please specify the three chief reasons which prompted you to become a Muslim?
A: I cannot list the reasons like that. I wanted protection. My husband died seven years ago and I am now a lonely widow who is 67 years old. When he was there he provided me with protection. I had not to bother about getting tickets, passports, visa and such other things. I just had to follow him.

Q: Did your children approve of your decision?
A: Yes they did. They respect my decision. In fact, one of my sons has embraced Buddhism.

Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?
Qur'an 55:13
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