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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Risking his life by speaking out - interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

I wish this was my interview, but it's not.

Today's Jerusalem Post has an interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the Bangladeshi journalist who is due to stand trial for sedition in his home country on the grounds that he advocates having diplomatic relations with Israel, and because he tried to visit Israel. Two weeks ago, Choudhury was beaten by a mob led by officials in Bangladesh's ruling party. Choudhury was arraigned in a Dhaka court on October 12, and his trial is due to resume on November 13. Michael Freund interviewed him in today's Jerusalem Post. Some highlights:
What led you to decide to speak out against Islamic extremism? Weren't you concerned about the possible repercussions of doing so?

Since my childhood, I listened to the provocative sermons of the clerics in the mosques during Friday prayers, where they repeatedly encouraged the people about Jihad and fighting against Jews and Christians. They would bring an example of a verse of the Holy Koran, which says "those who will make relations with the Jews and Christians will be in their groups." But my father, the late Ghulam Ater Choudhury, always suggested to me not to believe these words and to look at the world with a broader perspective.

So, when I grew up, I remembered the words of my father. An opportunity came for me when I met Russian Jews for the first time, while I was working for the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. By mixing with them, I discovered excellent human qualities. They were always extremely friendly and honest to me. They never hated me because I was a Muslim. So, when I established the Weekly Blitz newspaper, I thought it would be best for me to tell our people the truth - to unmask the nasty faces of Islamist radicals.

By that time, through my investigative journalism, I was aware that extremists were being incubated in the madrassas and more precisely in kindergarten madrassas. Of course, I was aware that the term "Jew" itself was viewed as a kind of horrific pronunciation in the Muslim world. But someone has to take the responsibility of breaking down such firewalls of lies. So I started publishing positive articles on Judaism as well as on Israel in the Blitz. I also asked my American Jewish brother, Dr. Richard Benkin, to write positive articles for the Bangladeshi press, which I managed to get published in the largest English dailies.

Why do you think it is important for Muslim countries such as Bangladesh to have a dialogue with Israel and the West?

There is no alternative to dialogues with mutual understanding and mutual trust, which ultimately turn into multi-level cooperation.

Were you surprised when you were arrested in November 2003 before boarding the flight to travel to Israel?

Yes I was! Because, although our passports are not valid for traveling to Israel or to Taiwan, as Bangladesh does not have diplomatic relations with them, many people travel to Taiwan regularly. There are even exchanges of high-level delegations between Dhaka and Taipei. So, I thought, as a journalist and editor, I had the right to travel to any country.


Why do you think the Bangladeshi government is putting you on trial? What is their motivation in doing so?

The Bangladeshi government wants to make their radical partners in the coalition happy. They want to show that they have finally convicted an "agent of Jews." Their intention is also to let others know that, "if you speak in favor of Judaism or Israel, you shall have to be hanged."


Why is Islamic fundamentalism succeeding in attracting so many followers? What is its appeal?

The main reason that Islamist fundamentalism succeeds in countries like Bangladesh is poverty. Poor people can not obtain a general education. They send their children to madrassas, where they only learn hatred. On the other hand, during each winter season, there are mehfils (gatherings) of people where Islamist orators are invited to give speeches. Unfortunately, these are speeches which spread the poison of religious hatred, inspiring people toward Jihad. Such activities are funded by various Afro-Arab NGOs and other sources.

On the other hand, the media in Muslim countries are also gradually falling into the grip of radicals. The radicals are spending money on the media to spread their messages. The main message of the Islamists is: "Jews and Christians are your enemies. So hate them to remain a Muslim."

They make up imaginary stories about Jews torturing the prophet of Islam as well as repression of Muslims in Israel. Such stories are so well constructed that people become kind of hypnotized into listening and believing them.

Do you think people in the West are sufficiently aware of the dangers posed by Islamic extremism?

No, I don't think so. The people in the West have a very foggy idea about the dangers posed by Islamic extremism. That is why they too are visibly silent in countering the false propaganda of the radicals in the media. But one thing I can say is that by allowing radicals to be incubated in Muslim countries, the West is giving a chance to the evil forces to generate thousands of Osama Bin Ladens for future generations. If they want this trend to end, they should definitely work out a formula aimed at having certain media in the Muslim countries, which would at least confront the lies and culture of hatred promoted by the radical-controlled Muslim media.
Read it all.


At 6:23 PM, Blogger lilfeathers2000 said...

The politically correct crouwd screams louder than the voices of reason in the West. There fore very few are heard on the issues of extreme islam.
Have a GOD blessed week!!

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's truly sad to see the courage of this man contrasted with the smallness of the liberals in America. If these people were treated .00001% as badly as Salah, they would be out suing someone. If they were treated 1% as badly, they would be on their knees, facing East and praying to Allah because they have no guts and no real Faith.


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