If what happened to Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor in chief of the Bangladeshi Weekly Blitz and peace activist, and his colleagues, happened in Tibet or Burma, for instance, the international media would rush to these regions and report about them meticulously, and human rights activists worldwide would take to the streets and demonstrate against the oppressors.
Mr. Choudhury is fighting radical Islam in one of largest Muslim countries of the world (150 million). If the West does not support Choudhury’s struggle, a whole society will increasingly drift to Islamism. Bangladesh is being Talibanized day after day.
Choudhury was assaulted <http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/8984> on February 22, 2009 by a bunch of radical Muslims affiliated with the Awami League, the party of the recently elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed - the same party that claims that it is secular and supports the rule of law.
To add insult to injury, after the premises of the Weekly Blitz were infiltrated by a radical gang affiliated to the Awami League which accuses Choudhury of being an agent for Israel, he and his colleagues were attacked and severely abused by officials of the DGFI (military intelligence).
Choudhury and his co-workers suffered critical injuries.
Choudhury filed a case against the attacking gang and officials of the DGFI. However, a lawyer and advisor to the Prime Minister by the name Shintu urged Choudhury to drop his charges, otherwise he would face fatal consequences - including an extortion of TK 500,000 (about $8,000).
The current atrocities against the Weekly Blitz mark a series of attacks. From 1996-2001, numerous journalists were assaulted by members of the Awami League. In 2003 Choudhury was also attacked, arrested, and brutally tortured for 17 months by government agents. His “crime?” He called for establishing relations with Israel and advocated moderate Islam. He also advocated genuine interfaith dialogues between Muslims and followers of other faiths.
The persecution of Chouhury was meant to appease Islamists across the country, whose number is rising dramatically; an outspoken moderate Muslim must be muzzled by all means.
Since 2003, a court in Dhaka has charged Choudhury with blasphemy, treason, and sedition, and he has been subjected to all kinds of harassment.
Dr. Richard Benkin and Congressman Mark Kirk eventually managed to bail Choudhury out. If these outspoken peace-loving gentlemen, the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the Australian Senate, and numerous human rights organizations had not interfered, Choudhury would be dead by now. According to the Bangladeshi law, sedition charges deserve the death penalty.
Yet Choudhury is not intimidated. He says,
“People are punished for crime, for creating anarchy and for putting humanity into horrifying terror. But, could we ever believe that someone would be arrested, tortured and imprisoned for long 17 months just for being in favor of global peace, inter-faith dialogue, ending religious hatred and thinking of everything good and noble for mankind? In my case it did happen and after being released on bail keeping the sedition charge very much alive. According to the allegations, my crime is: I am a living contradiction to today's phenomenon in the Muslim world, a Zionist, a defender of Israel and a devout, practicing Muslim living in the second largest Muslim country in the world."
On the issue of interfaith dialogue, which all peace-loving people cherish, Choudhury says,
"Through dialogue we can learn about one another's beliefs and faith. You and I, yes we can challenge belief and build on faith. By this simple action we deepen what it means to us as individual and as a group the idea of being guided, inspired and even acting according to God's plan. The whole idea of faith, trust, and belief is a philosophical debate between individuals from the central point our self and the peripheral our community. Religions can be based on theology but more importantly it should be based on our perception and understanding of God's words as individuals and not as a mass. This had been the reason as to why I promote interfaith dialogue. Religion does not promote hatred however men have promoted hatred by favoring one religion over the others; usually it is their interpretation of what religion means which is based on theology or the word of God as interpreted by men of small minds. Some monotheists accuse others of worshipping idols and having false gods. Some radicals go as far as destroying historical temples. This can be seen when Christians had statues to represent images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary they were either destroyed or painted over. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Christians and later Muslims destroyed Hindu temples in India or parts or other parts of the world. The first Christian priests were destroying the spiritual icons of natives, and saying they worshipped idols in nature. Hindus destroyed Muslim and Christian Mosques and Churches. The list goes on an on. However, there is another aspect of religion that is often forgotten those from the tradition who have made a contribution to stopping hatred, which promotes better understanding."
Also, Choudhury vehemently opposes the Islamist propaganda spearheaded by Saudi Arabia which propagates that Jews are the enemy of Allah. Choudhury advocates peace among followers of all faiths, and demands that the culture of hatred and violence be out-rooted.
Choudhury is a real hero. He is a valiant fighter who chose to stand up in a hostile environment and fight radical Muslims. He was offered asylum in several Western countries, where he could live in peace. But he turned down all these offers and opted for fighting the virus of out times: Islamism, and added, “If someone is willing to say no to Jihad, he must say it on the ground.”
If the West, and in particular America, is serious about the war on terror, they should wholeheartedly and by all means support Choudhury and all those Muslims who are in the same front on the ground.
All of those writers, Muslim-born, who live in the West, like myself, or Westerners who write about Islam and the need for its reform are undoubtedly doing a good job, but they are preaching to the converts <http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.2667/pub_detail.asp>. For reform to become a tangible reality on the ground the world needs heroes like Choudhury.
A Nobel Peace Prize for Choudhury would fuel further his energy and rally more public support for his noble fight. Choudhury is sacrificing himself for peace in his country and the world at large.
Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to Germany he taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for the Jerusalem Post and Weekly Blitz http://www.weeklyblitz.net/