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Bangladeshi writer seeks asylum in United States

FEMINIST writer Taslima Nasreen, under threat of death from Muslim extremists, is seeking asylum in the US, Bangladesh newspapers reported yesterday. Ms. Nasreen, accused of insulting the Koran, Islam's holy book, has requested the international women's committee of the writers' group PEN to lobby Washington, the state-run Bangladesh Times said.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 Islamists smashed cars as they marched to Parliament yesterday to demand Nasreen's death. Nearly 1,500 policemen in riot gear stopped the procession, but allowed several religious leaders to submit their demands. The protest also was held to mobilize support for a nationwide strike called for June 30 to demand punishment. There have been nearly daily street protests since last month, when India's Statesman newpaper reported that Nasreen recommended revising the Koran. Nasreen denies the report.

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The author gained prominence last year when the government banned her book ``Shame,'' about anti-Hindu discrimination in Bangladesh. She went into hiding this month after a court ordered her arrest on charges of blaspheming the Koran and offending the religious sentiments of people in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.

An Islamist leader, Mufti Nazrul Islam, has offered a $2,500 reward for her death. Other radical groups have followed suit.

Nasreen told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week that ``women must live outside the religion and Islamic law.'' The government has warned against foreign interference in the case.

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