Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our inalienable right to differ

By: Maneeza Hossain
Bangladesh is a country born out of dissent. Against the tyranny of an outside power that reduced us to second-class citizens, we Bangladeshis asserted our right to difference, prosperity, and progress. We rose from the ashes as a nation deliberately burned by a vindictive colonizer to create a commonwealth that brought together the wretched of our region restoring to them dignity and decency in their means of survival. Ours has not been a full-fledged success story, yet.
These values, for generations the soul of our nation, seems to have been forgotten of late. The previous governments, while paying lip service to democratic values, ignored the central duty of recognizing dissent. Much to our disappointment, the current regime continues to crush opposition. Voices of dissent are still silenced by the state, or when attacked and abused by non-state actors, they face a resounding state silence.
Such is the voice of this particular publication, or its Editor and publisher Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury who has been recognized by many all over the world as a voice of integrity and uncompromising truth. Not in his own country.
To this day, Mr. Choudhury has to suffer the tricks of a legal system that mocks his freedom of thought. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is not alone. Women activists who challenged the status quo have been murdered. Artists and writers who expressed their rejection of facets of the political and /or social order have had to flee. Political demonstrations, a healthy expression of our vibrant democracy, are banned and forcibly repressed. It matters little whether the forces from the dark that try to silence Mr. Choudhury and other brave activists stem from the ruling order, or from a totalitarian mindset that activates radical extremists in our land. In both cases, the result is one: dissent, the right to differ, the right to be oneself, is denied. Dissent and opposition are the barometer of a healthy democracy, if ignored it can degenerate into rebellion, and if addressed properly it can often be gained back as loyal opposition. If we failed as a nation to accommodate dissent in the past, we are surely paying the price for our failure today.
No value is higher than the value of freedom. No claim for any necessity, national, social, religious, or otherwise, can supersede the obligation to respect responsible freedom. Unfortunately, as the tribulations of Shoaib Choudhury indicate, our polity has not risen to the level of acting on this non-negotiable principle. We can only hope that our society will.

Maneeza Hossain is Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Right thing to do

By: Sheree Roth
I first heard the name Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on Oct. 4, 2006 in one of the many internet newsletters that I subscribe to. By the time, I got the alert that there was a good man in trouble, Choudhury had already been charged with sedition, a capital offence in Bangladesh and had already spent 17 months in jail. He was arrested at Dhaka-Zia International Airport before boarding a flight to Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture on Muslim-Jewish relations.
I was taken by his words in a Jerusalem Post Op-Ed: “Islam does not endorse terrorism, the killing of innocents or even destruction of property. Under normal conditions, Muslims would not do so either. And yet so few Muslims object to what is being done in the name of their religion. Opportunists don an Islamic mask to justify their misdeeds, and our media support them and, thereby, our own impoverishment, ignorance and oppression.
Only a strong countervailing media presence will make for positive change, as our initial efforts in Bangladesh suggest. Our weekly tabloid, Weekly Blitz, is about the only place in the Muslim world where people can read positive things about Israel. ...
But our efforts are feeble and tentative compared to the great noise heard day after day from the other media giants. Muslims need to hear more voices of dissent, of reason, of decency. And a democracy like Bangladesh just might offer us a beachhead to join this epic battle.”
For a woman who has grown up in a land of freedom it is hard for me to imagine being arrested and imprisoned for advocating for dialogue. I am used to being able to speak my mind freely, meet with whoever I wish to meet, worship my God freely in a way that is comfortable to me, to have a say in selecting a leader of my choosing, to write a letter to a newspaper laying out whatever it is in my heart that day. I have that freedom and so do all my fellow countrymen – people of every nationality, color, race, gender and religion. Do we all disagree from time to time? Oh yes – Always! I constantly write letters defending Israel in the local newspapers. And many folks who both agree and disagree write back and the next day, their letters are in the newspapers. Most of us, if we found ourselves in Shoaib’s shoes, oppressed for our thoughts and for trying to speak out, if we had the opportunity to flee to a better, safer environment – would be on a jet plane in a split second, as fast as we could pack our bags. Why put up with all the difficulties if you don’t have to? Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has had the opportunities to flee. He has friends all over the world who want to protect him. He has chosen to remain in the country that he loves, among the people that he loves, and in the beautiful religious faith that he loves and wishes for others to know.
I would tell people reading this article that all of our holy books have passages that we aren’t so proud of. We must try to learn from them. The Jewish tradition has been openly debating our holy books for centuries. For those of us who can’t get enough just arguing with our fellow Jews around the corner, or in a newspaper, we can join a Yeshiva where we can have the honor of arguing with great Rabbis who lived centuries ago. The dialogue is alive and vigorous. It leads to learning and to understanding. Well, sometimes not – but you keep trying. I have read that this tradition of independent thinking was once alive in Islam and known as "Ijtihad".
I hope that Shoaib Choudhury will be able to help his people in Bangladesh achieve comfortableness with free dialogue. Dialogue is the way to learning about each other. We must share this planet with each other; we may as well get along. Talking to each other is the first step; listening to each other is the second but more important step. We of many faiths, whose religious traditions go back centuries, have so many stories and so much wisdom to offer each other. We may worship our creator in different ways but we have so much in common. We all want a safe, peaceful world in which to bring up our children.
Salah Uddin Shoaib’ Choudhury’s only crime was that he wanted to reach out to people of another religious faith and build bridges of understanding. I appeal to the authorities in Bangladesh and to those who have made life so difficult for Shoaib and his family, to please allow him the freedom of speech and press that we in the West are living with and wrestling with every day. It’s difficult, it’s exhilarating, it’s educational, sometimes it’s gratifying and sometimes it hurts – but it’s the only way. An American judge, the late Justice Louis D. Brandeis described the essence of free speech: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is asking for us to begin the process of learning about each other. He should not be called a criminal for this. Please set him free. It’s the human thing to do, it’s the religious thing to do and it’s the right thing to do.

Shoaib's Struggle

By: Ami Isseroff
November 29 marks the fourth anniversary of the fateful night on which Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was arrested on his way to Israel, to deliver a talk about the role of the media in peace and dialogue efforts. I remember how excited he was about attending this conference, and building ties of peace and brotherhood between our countries.
It was not to be. Shoaib Choudhury 's arrest began a long and Kafkaesque nightmare of trumped-up court charges, a degrading and dangerous term in jail, violence, threats of violence and vilification in the Arab and Muslim media. All this for the crime of wanting to make peace. Unfortunately, in certain societies, advocating terror, war and hate are not crimes, but peacemaking is a crime.
The fanatics who oppose peace claim that they are sure of their way, and that the masses are all behind them. They represent the "popular will" supposedly. If that is so, then why do they need to put the opponents of peace in jail? Why are they afraid of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury?
The "crime" that Shoaib Choudhury wanted to commit was to make peace. The same "crime" brought the representatives of the Arab states to Annapolis Maryland this past week. Should they too be jailed? But Shoaib is really being persecuted because he is fighting for freedom in Bangladesh, against those who want to extinguish it.
One day Bangladesh will be really free, and one day all Muslim societies will be free. That freedom is being bought now by courageous people like Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who dare to stand up to benighted fanatics. It is being bought at a dear price. When the people of Bangladesh, and in fact, when all Muslims, look back on Shoaib's long and lonely struggle, I believe they will understand what a great service he did for Bangladesh and for Muslims everywhere, by lighting the torch of freedom in the darkest night of fanaticism. It will happen, if not in five years, then in fifty.
One day, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury will be a national hero in his country, as he is admired today in other countries that value freedom. I dearly hope that this will be the last anniversary of Shoaib's nightmare, that his ordeal and that of his family will be finished, and that the next year will see him a free man, his case closed, and his cause vindicated.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury gets MMF Award

Monaco Media Forum Prize 2007 was awarded to Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the founder and editor of the “Weekly Blitz”, a Bangladeshi newspaper, which editorial line confronts religious hatred and openly urges Islam to embrace peaceful co-existence with other religions. Mr. Choudhury has been one of the utmost advocates of peaceful dialogue with the Christian and Jewish worlds, not hesitating to put his own life into jeopardy for the sake of the cause he chose to stand for.
After a full day of intense technology and business related debates, HSH Prince Albert II reminded the 300 media leaders, that the media could not be regarded as just any industry because “freedom of expression and its corollary freedom of the press is one of the most fundamental human rights”. Furthermore, H.S.H. Prince Albert II stressed the need for the media community to reward those who have succeeded in using the media for the greatest benefice of Mankind, such as Mr. Choudhury.
Mr. Choudhury’s nomination was the result of a one-year selection and reflection conducted by the Prize Jury headed by Peace Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel and composed of some of the most commendable individuals in the field of journalism: Marvin Kalb, Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow, at the Shorenstein Center, Gwen Lister, South African-born Namibian journalist, editor of the “The Namibian”, and winner of International Women's Media Foundation “Courage in Journalism Award” in 2004, Joyce Barnathan, President & CEO of International Center for Journalists, Monique Atlan, a most prominent figure of French TV journalism, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Editor Newsweekly Le Point and one of France most well know journalists, Roger-Pol Droit, author-researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research/philosopher and John Rossant, former editor BusinessWeek Europe, Vice President Communications & Public Affairs, Publicis Groupe.
Monaco Media Award is the highest honor of the Republic of Monaco, introduced this year to honor individuals and organizations for their outstanding contributions in defending human rights.
In the award lecture, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco praised Shoaib Choudhury for his outstanding and courageous role in promoting interfaith understanding as well confronting religious hatred. Award Committee jury Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel said, first Monaco Media Award has gone to the hand of the most courageous journalist in South Asia for his extra-ordinary courage and commitment in ensuring global peace.
The award ceremony took place at Hotel De Paris with a large number of invited guests.
About The Monaco Media Forum:
Chaired by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Monaco Media Forum is co-chaired by Barry Diller, James Murdoch, Maurice Lévy, Emilio Azcárraga Jean, Jacques Attali, and Silvio Scaglia. This event is a unique, invitation-only platform spanning interlocking realms of media, finance and advertising through local, regional and global perspectives, with particular emphasis on Europe and the Middle East.
Monaco Media Forum organizes a grand carnival of media personnel in Monte Carlo each year, which is attended by hundreds of media moguls from different countries. The event is gradually becoming one of the most important events of the media people, where they get the chance of meeting colleagues while exchanging views with the objective of adding more dynamism in various media.Weekly Blitz editor earlier received Freedom to Write Award from PENUSA in 2005, Moral Courage Award from American Jewish Committee in 2006 along with a number of awards in Bangladesh.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Shoaib Choudhury's latest book published

Award winning Bangladeshi journalist,

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

who faces sedition, treason and blasphemy charges in his own country for confronting radical Islam and for advocating interfaith understanding between Muslims, Jews and Christians as well as demanding relations between Israel and other Muslim nations is a remarkable individual. Commenting on him, The Wall Street Journal said "Mr. Choudhury has identified himself, at huge personal risk, as one such Muslim. Now that he is on the run, somewhere in the darkness of Dhaka, will someone in the administration pick up the phone and explain to the Bangladeshis just what America expects of its "moderate and tolerant" friends?”

Washington Times in its editorial said "The United States must encourage people like Mr. Choudhury to speak out. But when they do, it must also do all it can to protect them. Freeing Mr. Choudhury will tell others like him that when you stand against Islamists, the United States will stand with you."

New York Sun said, "Mr. Choudhury is a man in the mold of such heroes of freedom as Václav Havel and Lech Walesa."

The Australian said, "This is why we ought to be taking notice of Choudhury. It's not just a question of saving one man's life. He is part of a threat that is facing all of us. And he is on the right side in a very long battle of ideas."

Jerusalem Post said, "Despite the dire circumstances in which he finds himself, Choudhury remains strong, upbeat and determined."The Jewish Week said, "In a world where radical Islam is on the march, threatening moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike, outspoken and fearless individuals like Mr. Choudhury deserve our full support. It is they, after all, who are on the front lines."

The Berliner Zeitung wrote, “Would Choudhury consider it, if along with this acknowledgment the request also nevertheless came to give up his fight and to free the family from their state of siege? The family would have enough money to lead a calm life abroad, and they would have a good chance of leaving Bangladesh despite the current legal proceedings. But for Choudhury his struggle has long ago become his. "Who leaves the battleground, has lost", he says. "However, whoever struggles for the right cause always wins. “

Gabriel Oppenheim in The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote, "Now that we've found a man willing to advocate for peace and denounce extremism, we must seize the opportunity. No one else will speak out if we allow those who already have spoken to die."

Jeremy Jones wrote in The Australian, "Israel ReviewShoaib is an outspoken supporter of Muslim-Jewish and Muslim-Christian dialogue, opposes anti-Israel maximalism and has exposed the agents and activities of Islamists who have been gaining in strength and influence in his country."

Anthony Weiner in The Jewish Press wrote, "I am reminded of a Jewish proverb that teaches us to be wise not in words but in deeds. Choudhury’s deeds have brought wisdom and understanding to his country, paving the way for the peace we all desire. We could all learn from this example, and we can start by fighting Choudhury’s unfair persecution."

The Suburbun in its editorial wrote "They are neither. They work alone, with no support, forging ahead to bring the truth into the open. The International Press Freedom Awards that recognizes courage in journalism is an important event that brings the plight of these journalist to light. But it’s not enough. They deserve encouragement and support because in dangerous situations, they champion everything we hold dear, and often take for granted."

Kenneth Peskin, President, AJC's Metro New Jersey in an interview said, "He is a person who, because of his beliefs, is willing to go to jail and face persecution like Jews in other countries who have endured hardship, jailed because of their beliefs."

JT News wrote, "The Talmud says that to save one person is to save a whole world. Know this: For every Shoaib Choudhury willing to risk his life to save his people from tyranny and ignorance, there is a world of others who want to speak out but are afraid. Their future ability to add their voices to his depends on the Western world’s response to him, and they are eagerly watching."

Seth Mandel wrote in The Jewish State, "He was asked about the madrassas -- could they produce educated professionals, like doctors, lawyers, and businessmen and women? They can produce lots of educated terrorists, Choudhury responded, and then asked: can a winery produce iron?"

Rael Jean Isaac wrote in the Mideast Outpost "Forty-two years old, Choudhury is that rarest of breed, a faithful Moslem who, in the belly of the beast, publicly dissents from the stifling orthodoxy of hatred and extremism that characterizes the Islamic world. There are a handful of other outspoken Moslem-born men and women (mainly the latter), but while their heroism is unquestionable, most live in the West where, although their lives remain in danger, their right to speak is at least upheld by the government. Choudhury lives in Bangladesh where he is currently on trial on spurious charges of sedition, treason and blasphemy before an Islamist judge and faces the death penalty."

Now, a book in English by this courageous Muslim journalist named

Injustice & Jihad

has been published by Blitz Publications. This book contains 384 pages and is priced at US$30 [inclusive of postal charges]. Interested buyers may contact Dr. Richard L. Benkin in USA at for retail copies while Amanur Rashid Aman, Circulation Manager, Blitz, Email: for bulk purchase. Copies of this book are already being exported to various buyers around the world. Book sellers in America, Europe, Asia, Australia and African continent are also requested to contact any of the mentioned email addresses. Publication houses interested in getting re-print right or translation right of this book may also contact at




Title: Moderate Muslim editor beaten; faces death penalty for views
Author: Michelle Malkin

Title: Darkness in Dhaka
Author: Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal

Title: Pro Israeli editor beaten in Bangladesh
Author: Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post

Title: Abandonment of the brave
Author: Melanie Phillips

Title: And they wish to shut our voice
Author: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Title: No tolerance for love and mercy in Bangladesh
Author: Janet, The Australian

Title: Risking his life by speaking out
Author: Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post

Title: Moderate Muslim journalist to be tried for sedition
Author: The Asian Tribune

Title: Critics of Islam under fire … again
Author: Michelle Malkin

Title: Pro Israel ally speaks out from Bangladesh
Author: Seth Mandel

Title: Press should count blessings
Author: Michelle Malkin, The Washington Times

Title: Two faces of persecution
Author: Terry Glavin

Title: Deadly Profession
Author: The Jewish Week editorial

Title: Journalist’s Plight Needs Attention
Author: David A Harris, The Jewish Week

Title: The last word
Author: Jeremy Jones

Friday, May 18, 2007

The only Bangladeshi journalist facing sedition, treason and blasphemy charges

Dhaka’s newspapers on May 18, 2007 reported that Criminal Investigation Department (CID) CID Inspector Masud Karim on Thursday (May 17) submitted probe report discharging writer-columnist Shahriar Kabir, Saleem Samad (now on political asylum in Canada), Zaiba Naz Malik (British journalist), Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino (Italian journalist), Pricilla Raj (interpreter for the foreign journalists) and Tofael Ahmed (freelance journalist). The two foreign journalists belong to Britain’s private television Channel-4. In the charge sheet, the Investigation Officer mentioned that the charges brought against them were not primarily proved and he prayed for discharging them from the charge of sedition. The court will decide on May 22 whether the final report will be accepted or not, court sources said.

On November 25, 2002, police arrested the two Channel 4 journalists on sedition charges while they were crossing into India from Bangladesh through Benapole border in Jessore.
The two foreign journalists came to Bangladesh to film a current affairs program for Channel 4 about the reported repression on Hindu minorities in Bangladesh. During their arrest at the Benapole border, customs authorities seized films and other documents from them, which were "intended for tarnishing the image of Bangladesh".

Shahriar Kabir, Pricilla Raj, Saleem Samad and others were arrested on charge of assisting the Channel 4 journalists. They were later granted bail from different courts on different dates.

A sedition case was filed with Motijheel Police Station on November 15, 2002 against the two foreign journalists, Pricilla and Saleem Samad. On December 11, 2002, the government had deported two journalists -- Zaiba Naz Malik and Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino -- following their undertaking that they would not broadcast any of the material collected from the country.

After dropping of the case against journalist Shahriar Kabir, Saleem Samad and others, the only journalist in Bangladesh facing false sedition, treason and blasphemy charges is Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor and publisher of Weekly Blitz, who was arrested on November 29, 2003 from Zia International Airport en route to attend a Peace Conference in Tel Aviv (Israel). It may be mentioned here that, when the previous government of BNP + Islamist Coalitions granted bail to Mr. Shahriar Kabir and others, even before the investigation was finished, they did not grant bail to Shoaib Choudhury, even after a Charge Sheet was filed. The previous government even stopped him from attending his mother’s funeral that died on August 9, 2004. Moreover, investigation of the case against the mentioned Bangladeshi and foreign journalists took around five years, while, in Shoaib’s case, the report was submitted simply in One year.

It may be mentioned here that, US Congress passed a Resolution (No. 64) demanding dropping of the false charge of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. European Parliament also passe a similar bill.

But, despite such internal supports, government in Bangladesh is yet to show any positive sign of dropping the charge. The next date of hearing of the case is fixed for June 28.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Faces of persecution

Terry Glavin

Georgia Straight, Publish Date: October 26, 2006

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a Bangladeshi journalist. He’s the editor of the weekly newspaper the Blitz. You’ve probably never heard of him. Even in Dacca, the only journalism he’s really known for is a thin portfolio of essays that counsel peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
Juliet O’Neill is a Canadian journalist. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. She’s a seasoned reporter with the Ottawa Citizen. She’s most famous for having had her home raided two years ago by RCMP officers who confiscated notes, files, and computer disks, hoping to discover the identity of certain high-level intelligence-agency sources she’d been relying on for some blockbuster front-page stories.
If Choudhury and O’Neill were ever to find themselves competing for a bravery-in-journalism prize, O’Neill would lose. Hands down……

More Details on Link:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Der andere Moslem - Berliner Zeitung

Der andere Moslem

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury streitet für Glaubensfreiheit und Frieden mit Israel - das bringt in Bangladesch Folter ein Bernhard Bartsch

DHAKA. "Als wir kleine Kinder waren, hatten wir Angst vor Gespenstern. Nachts waren sie immer da, unterm Bett, im Schrank, vor dem Fenster. Aber irgendwann haben wir uns daran gewöhnt. Wer lange genug mit Gespenstern lebt, verliert die Furcht." Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury zieht kräftig an seiner dünnen Mentholzigarette. "Im Gefängnis ist es wie mit den Gespenstern. Wenn sie mich wieder einsperren, weiß ich genau, in welche Zelle sie mich stecken und womit sie mich foltern werden. Es gibt nichts, was sie mir nicht schon einmal angetan hätten. Deswegen können sie mir keine Angst einjagen." Er lacht und wirkt so unerschütterlich, dass man ihm fast glauben könnte.Choudhury glaubt, dass Moslems, Juden und Christen Freunde sein können. Dass es auf der Welt nur dann Frieden geben werde, wenn jeder Mensch seinen eigenen Glauben frei lebe und zugleich die Religion anderer akzeptiere. Dass die islamischen Staaten deshalb gut daran täten, Israels Existenzrecht anzuerkennen. Und dass er, ein moderner Moslem aus einem traditionell moderat muslimischen Land, dabei helfen könne, die drei verwandten Religionen zu versöhnen. "Menschen, die ein gutes Herz haben, sind sich nah, egal zu welchem Gott sie beten", sagt Choudhury. Die Mehrheit der Menschheit sei seiner Meinung, glaubt er. Von der Minderheit dürfe man sich nicht einschüchtern lassen.Folter und GefängnisDoch in Bangladesch gewinnen radikale Islamisten an Einfluss, und seitdem sie sogar der letzten Regierung angehörten, lebt der Mann gefährlich. Weil er sich mit seiner Zeitung Weekly Blitz für Israel engagiert und in zahlreichen Investigativreportagen die Ausbreitung von Terroristencamps, Al Kaida-Lagern und Ausbildungsstätten für Selbstmordattentäter in Bangladesch dokumentierte, steht er nun wegen Volksverhetzung, Hochverrat und Blasphemie vor Gericht. Ihm drohen bis zu 30 Jahre Gefängnis oder sogar die Todesstrafe. "Aber sie kriegen mich nicht unter", sagt Choudhury. "Ich bin ein Kämpfer."Tatsächlich hat Choudhury mit seinen etwas mehr als 30 Lebensjahren etwas von einem Boxer, der sich gerade von seinem jüngsten Knockout erholt. Dabei ist es schon ein halbes Jahr her, dass zum letzten Mal die Schläger in sein Büro kamen. Ein prominenter Politiker habe sie begleitet, sagt er, so prominent, dass die Polizei sich hinterher weigerte, eine Anzeige aufzunehmen. Choudhury humpelt ein wenig. Sein Gesicht ist dauerhaft geschwollen. Wenn er spricht, klingt es, als habe er etwas im Mund. Auch in schwach beleuchteten Räumen trägt er eine dunkle Sonnenbrille, um sein vom grünen Star erblindetes rechtes Auge zu verbergen. Eine Operation hätte es leicht retten können, doch während seines Gefängnisaufenthalts wurde ihm die Behandlung versagt. Trotzdem ist er bereit, sich für seine Überzeugungen wieder einsperren zu lassen, in Einzelhaft, bei 40 Grad. "Der Ventilator wurde in meiner Zelle immer abgestellt," sagt er.Choudhury ist kein Verzweiflungstäter. In Bangladesch, einem der ärmsten Länder der Welt, gehört er zu den wenigen Privilegierten, die ein Leben in Wohlstand führen. Sein Vater war ein wohlhabender Unternehmer, der seinen Sohn zum Wirtschaftsstudium nach England schickte. "Vor meinem Abflug musste ich ihm versprechen, dort nicht mit anderen Bangladeschis zusammenzuleben, obwohl es in London viele gibt", erzählt Choudhury. "Deshalb wohnte ich am anderen Ende der Stadt und fand Freunde aus aller Welt."Als er 1989 heimkehrte, arbeitete er zunächst als Korrespondent für die russische Nachrichtenagentur Itar-Tass und baute 1995 den ersten privaten Fernsehsender des Landes auf, "A-21 TV". 1999 sendete er erstmals regierungskritische Berichte - ein beträchtliches Risiko, doch der Drang, der staatlichen Propaganda eine zweite Wahrheit entgegenzusetzen, war übermächtig. Innerhalb weniger Tage wurde A-21 TV von der Regierung geschlossen und Choudhury wegen "Volksverhetzung" zu einem halben Jahr Haft verurteilt. "Damals wurde ich zum ersten Mal gefoltert", berichtet er. "Sie wollten meinen Willen brechen. Aber sie haben ihn nur gestärkt."Wenige Monate nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September gründete er Weekly Blitz, als Reaktion auf die erstarkenden Extremisten. "Ich bin ein lebender Widerspruch: Ein Zionist, aber auch ein frommer Moslem", sagt er: "Wir glauben doch alle an den gleichen Gott. Aber die Extremisten verfälschen die Lehre und treiben einen Keil zwischen Moslems, Juden und Christen." Neben gleichgesinnten bengalischen Journalisten schrieben bald auch jüdische Autoren aus Israel und den USA für Weekly Blitz. Die Assoziation des Namens zum auch im Englischen gebräuchlichen Wort "Blitzkrieg" ist Absicht. "Wir sind ein Kampfblatt für den Frieden", sagt Choudhury, "und die Redaktion ist unsere Armee."Provokation ist Choudhurys Programm. Dabei ging er so weit, 2003 eines der Pornobilder, die in Saddam Husseins Palästen gefunden wurden, auf sein Cover zu heben. Ein winziger Balken über der Brustwarze betonte die Nacktheit mehr, als er sie verhüllte. "Viele Muslime halten Saddam Hussein für einen Helden, und ich wollte zeigen, was für ein Mann er tatsächlich war", erzählt er. Die Ausgabe wurde umgehend verboten.Flucht kommt nicht in FrageNur etwa fünf Millionen von Bangladeschs 183 Millionen Einwohnern sympathisieren mit den Radikalen, schätzt Choudhury. Trotzdem erfährt er im eigenen Land wenig Zustimmung. Kaum jemand wagt, offen für ihn Partei zu ergreifen. Selbst Verwandte und Freunde wandten sich von ihm ab. "Viele von ihnen wurden bedroht", sagt Choudhury. Sein Haus, eine kleine Villa in einem der besseren Viertel von Dhaka, wird nachts von Wachleuten mit großen Gewehren beschützt. Seine beiden Kinder bringt morgens ein Fahrer in die Schule und holt sie hinterher wieder ab. Zu Freunden gehen sie nur selten. "Aber die Situation schweißt uns als Familie zusammen", erklärt Choudhury. "Meine Frau und meine Kinder sagen mir immer wieder, wie stolz sie auf mich sind."Ob Choudhury es merken würde, wenn in dieser Anerkennung dennoch die Bitte mitschwänge, seinen Kampf aufzugeben und die Familie aus ihrem Belagerungszustand zu befreien? Genügend Geld, um im Ausland ein ruhiges Leben zu führen, hätte die Familie, und wahrscheinlich fände sich auch eine Möglichkeit, Bangladesch trotz des laufenden Verfahrens zu verlassen. Doch für Choudhury ist sein Kampf längst sein Leben geworden. "Wer das Schlachtfeld verlässt, hat verloren", sagt er. "Aber wer für die richtige Sache kämpft, gewinnt immer."
Im Kern der Auseinandersetzung: Israel und der Holocaust
Der Unternehmer und Journalist Salah Uddin Shoib Choudhury gründete 2002 in seiner Heimat Bangladesch die Wochenzeitung Weekly Blitz. Wie kaum ein anderes in einem muslimischen Land erscheinendes Medium fordert sie die Versöhnung von Moslems, Juden und Christen sowie die Anerkennung Israels. "Viele Muslime glauben immer noch, der Holocaust sei ein Komplott von Nazis und Juden gewesen, um den Anspruch der Zionisten auf Israel zu rechtfertigen", sagt Choudhury. Weekly Blitz hat 32 Mitarbeiter und eine Auflage von 6 000 Exemplaren sowie eine Internetausgabe ( nach Israel sind Staatsbürgern Bangladeschs verboten. Im November 2003 wurde Choudhury am Flughafen in Dhaka verhaftet, weil er zu einer Friedenskonferenz in Tel Aviv fliegen wollte. 17 Monate wurde er ohne Anklage eingesperrt und nach eigenen Angaben massiv gefoltert. 2005 kam er auf Druck des amerikanischen Außenministeriums frei.Wegen Volksverhetzung, Hochverrats und Blasphemie steht er derzeit vor Gericht. Ihm droht die Todesstrafe. Dem Richter Shamsul Alam werden enge Kontakte zu den Islamisten nachgesagt.EU-Parlament und US-Repräsentantenhaus fordern die Einstellung des Verfahrens. Der amerikanische PEN-Club ehrte 2005 Choudhurys Engagement mit dem Preis "Freedom to Write" und das Amerikanische Jüdische Komitee 2006 mit der "Auszeichnung für moralischen Mut".Berliner Zeitung, 2.4.2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kindergarten madarassa: Breeding ground for jihadist

By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

In recent years, there is a growing phenomenon of mushroom growth of kindergarten madrassas (Islamic religious kindergartens) in almost all the Muslim nations, preaching Wahhabism, which greatly encourages people towards jihad and killing of Jews and Christians. In present days, only in Bangladesh there are 64,000 madrassas, while the number of kindergarten madrassas, mostly financed by dubious Afro-Arab sources has already crossed 900 throughout the country. And, of course, most interestingly, madrassas and kindergarten madrassas are the most notorious places to breed religious extremists and terrorists. Children are given orientations to accept Ossama Bin Laden as a hero, while endorsing the notoriety of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas as ‘holy task’.

Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of rancor against other faiths. However, our society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim extremists. We must admit that most of the people of Bangladesh still lack the opportunity for modern, scientific education and are therefore open to persuasion by religious extremists. In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. Recently, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.

In the capital city of Dhaka, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class. Previously, madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments, and even include boys of the richest class.One of the accused arrested from one such institution confessed to Bangladesh police that they were planning to have an Islamic revolution in the country, and that they were anxiously looking for boys from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them. The accused admitted that they were heavily funded by a number of African and Arab countries.The arrest and statement of the accused have been widely carried by local press. According to these reports, these belligerent people under the covering of various 'Deen' (true path) training organizations intend to coach a section of ill-educated and prejudiced people to be their followers. . Through their clandestine campaigns they are plotting to wage a 'Holy War'. As instruments to induce rage and delude people, they are using different recorded tapes with extremist provocative speeches and songs. They also include messages from Osama Bin Laden.

A few months ago a Syrian teacher was arrested. He had belonged to a similar organization named the 'Al-Haramine Institution'. According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the kindergarten madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in the country and even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of them are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as compensation. According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintains a secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.Al-Haramine Institute is gradually spreading its wings in other parts of Bangladesh too. Recently they have established their offices in eastern and southern Bangladesh. One of the main objectives of this organization is to sell the idea of jihad (in the sense of violent holy war) to the masses. The organization maintains very good relations with some extremist news dailies. Owners of these dailies are regularly compensated by this organization and in exchange, these newspapers give quite open support to its activities.

Al-Koran Academy is another such organization run by one Hafez Munirul Islam. He was a teacher in a local madrassa with the monthly salary of US$ 75 only. Just recently an office of Al-Koran Society has been established in Bangladesh with Hafez Munirul as its Executive Director in Bangladesh. Office of the organization is located at city's top most posh area costing US$ 2000 per month. Hafez Munirul also receives US$ 1000 as a monthly salary. This organization claims that its main activity is printing and distributing the Koran. However, in fact, Al-Koran Academy is mostly engaged in providing political coordinators for various mosques in Bangladesh. The local tax department raised questions about the sudden change in fortunes of this poor madrassa teacher, and investigated the sources of the funding. They found that most funding for this organization comes from the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia funds terrorism?

Five years back, on September 11, 2001, most well-informed observers of the Middle East were shocked to hear that 15 out of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi citizens. It was equally surprising that the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack on the United States in its history, Osama bin Laden, was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. This curiosity and wonder about the Saudi role in the attack came up once more with the release of the September 11 Joint Intelligence Report by the U.S. Congress and its disclosure of what the U.S. press called “incontrovertible evidence” linking Saudis to the financing of al-Qaeda operatives in the United States.For decades, terrorism had been associated with states like Libya, Syria, or Iran. Saudi Arabia had been a pro-Western force during the Cold War and had hosted large coalition armies during the 1991 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia had not been colonized during its history, like other Middle Eastern states that had endured a legacy of European imperialism. This background only sharpened the questions of many after the attacks: What was the precise source of the hatred that drove these men to take their own lives in an act of mass murder? The Saudis were initially in a state of denial about their connection to September 11; Interior Minister Prince Naif even tried to pin the blame for the attacks on Israel, saying it was impossible that Saudi youth could have been involved.Yet over time it became clearer how Saudi Arabia could have provided the ideological backdrop that spawned al-Qaeda's attack on the United States. In a series of articles appearing in the Egyptian weekly, Ruz al-Yousef (the Newsweek of Egypt), this past May, Wael al-Abrashi, the magazine’s deputy editor, attempted to grapple with this issue. He drew a direct link between the rise of much of contemporary terrorism and Saudi Arabia’s main Islamic creed, Wahhabism, and the financial involvement of Saudi Arabia’s large charitable organizations:

Wahhabism leads, as we have seen, to the birth of extremist, closed, and fanatical streams, that accuse others of heresy, abolish them, and destroy them. The extremist religious groups have moved from the stage of Takfir [condemning other Muslims as unbelievers] to the stage of “annihilation and destruction,” in accordance with the strategy of Al-Qa’ida – which Saudi authorities must admit is a local Saudi organization that drew other organizations into it, and not the other way around. All the organizations emerged from under the robe of Wahhabism. I can state with certainly that after a very careful reading of all the documents and texts of the official investigations linked to all acts of terror that have taken place in Egypt, from the assassination of the late president Anwar Sadat in October 1981, up to the Luxor massacre in 1997, Saudi Arabia was the main station through which most of the Egyptian extremists passed, and emerged bearing with them terrorist thought regarding Takfir – thought that they drew from the sheikhs of Wahhabism. They also bore with them funds they received from the Saudi charities.

Thus, while some Western commentators have sought to explain the roots of al-Qaeda’s fury at the U.S. by focusing on the history of American policy in the Middle East or other external factors, a growing number of Middle Eastern analysts have concentrated instead on internal Saudi factors, including recent militant trends among Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi clerics and the role of large Saudi global charities in terrorist financing. This requires a careful look at how Saudi Arabia contributed to the ideological roots of some of the new wave of international terrorism as well as how the kingdom emerged as a critical factor in providing the resources needed by many terrorist groups.

The particular creed of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which is known in the West as Wahhabism, emerged in the mid-eighteenth century in Central Arabia from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. This Arabian religious reformer sought to rid Islam of foreign innovations that compromised its monotheistic foundations, and to restore what he believed were the religious practices of the seventh century at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. He established a political covenant in 1744 with Muhammad bin Saud, the ruler of Diriyah near modern-day Riyadh, according to which he received bin Saud’s protection and in exchange legitimized the spread of Saudi rule over a widening circle of Arabian tribes. This covenant between the Saudi royal family and Wahhabism is at the root of modern Saudi Arabia.In retrospect, Wahhabism was significant for two reasons. First, it rejuvinated the idea of the militant jihad, or holy war, which had declined as a central Islamic value to be applied universally. Under the influence of Sufism, for example, jihad had also evolved into a more spiritual concept. Second, Wahhabism became associated with a brutal history of political expansion that led to the massacre of Muslims who did not adhere to its tenets, the most famous of which occurred against the Shi’ite Muslims of Kerbala in the early nineteenth century and against Sunni Muslims in Arabian cities, like Taif, during the early twentieth century. These Muslims were labeled as polytheists and thus did not deserve any protection. The highest spiritual authority of Islam during this period, the Sultan-Caliph of the Ottoman Empire, regarded the Wahhabis as heretics and waged wars against them in defense of Islam.Yet it would be a mistake to focus on Wahhabism alone as the ideological fountainhead of the new global terrorism. Modern Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s hosted other militant movements that had an important impact, as well. For reasons of regional geopolitics, King Saud, King Faisal, and their successors provided sanctuary to elements of the radical Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Syria. Some were provided Saudi stipends. Others were given positions in the Saudi educational system, including the universities, or in the large Saudi charities, like the Muslim World League that was created in 1962. For example, while Egyptian President Abdul Nasser had the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, executed in 1966, his brother, Muhammad Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jiddah. He was joined in the 1970s by one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan, Abdullah Azzam. In 1979, both taught Osama bin Laden, a student at the university.Saudi Arabia’s global charities, like the Muslim World League, permitted the spread of the new militancy that was forged from the cooperation between the Wahhabi clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood refugees. After 1973, these charities benefited from the huge petrodollar resources dispensed by the Saudi government, which undoubtedly helped them achieve a global reach. Abdullah Azzam headed the offices of the Muslim World League in Peshawar, Pakistan, when it served as the rear base for the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was joined by his student, bin Laden, who with Saudi funding also set up the Mujahidin Services Center (Maktab Khadmat al-Mujahidin) for Muslim volunteers who came to fight the Red Army. After Moscow’s defeat in Afghanistan, this office became al-Qaeda. Thus, the Saudi charities became the chosen instrument for Riyadh’s support of the continuing global jihad. Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, ran the offices of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Muslim World League offshoot, in the Philippines. Local intelligence agencies suspected that it served as a financial conduit to the Abu Sayyaf organization. Muhammad al-Zawahiri, brother of bin Laden’s Egyptian partner, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would eventually work for IIRO in Albania. An IIRO employee from Bangladesh, Sayed Abu Nasir, led a cell broken up by Indian police that intended to strike at the U.S. consulates in Madras and Calcutta; Abu Nasir explained that his superiors told him of 40 to 50 percent of IIRO charitable funds being diverted to finance terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Summarizing this history, former CIA operative Robert Baer wrote: “When Saudi Arabia decided to fund the Afghan mujahidin in the early 1980s, the IIRO proved a perfect fit, a money conduit and plausible denial rolled into one.”

While these developments may seem far beyond the horizon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a careful examination of some of the worst suicide bombings by the Hamas organization against the State of Israel also leads to Saudi Arabia. As of September 2003, Saudi clerics were featured prominently on Hamas websites as providing the religious justification for suicide bombings. Of 16 religious leaders cited by Hamas, Saudis are the largest national group backing these attacks. The formal Saudi position on suicide bombings, in fact, has been mixed. To his credit, the current Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, has condemned these acts. Yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh Al al-Sheikh, has condoned them: “The suicide bombings are permitted...the victims are considered to have died a martyr’s death.”The Hamas-Saudi connection should not come as a surprise. Hamas emerged in 1987 from the Gaza branch of Muslim Brotherhood which, as noted earlier, had become a key Saudi ally in previous decades. When Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was let out of an Israeli prison in 1998, he went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and Crown Prince Abdullah made a high-profile visit to his hospital bedside. As late as early 2002, Abdullah was hosting Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Bin Laden had made the fate of Sheikh Yasin an issue for his al-Qaeda followers as well. In his 1996 “Declaration of War,” he listed Sheikh Yasin’s release from prison as one of his demands or grievances. Saudi support for suicide bombings has wider repercussions. Other militant Islamic movements cite Saudi Wahhabi clerics to justify their activities – from the Chechen groups battling the Russians to Iraqi mujahidin fighting the U.S. in western Iraq.8 Coincidentally; the ubiquitous IIRO was lauded by the Saudi press for its support activities in the Sunni districts of post-Saddam Iraq, as well. Its presence was usually indicative in other regions of Saudi identification with local militant causes. In order to evaluate the significance of these religious rulings, it is necessary to focus on the stature of these various Saudi clerical figures that jihadi movements worldwide were citing.For example, just after the September 11 attacks, it is true that many Saudi government officials condemned them. But there were other voices as well. Shortly thereafter a Saudi book appeared on the Internet justifying the murder of thousands of Americans, entitled The Foundations of the Legality of the Destruction That Befell America. The Introduction to the book was written by a prominent Saudi religious leader, Sheikh Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi. He wrote on November 16, 2001, that he hoped Allah would bring further destruction upon the United States. Al-Shuaibi’s name appears in a book entitled the Great Book of Fatwas, found in a Taliban office in Kabul. Sheikh al-Shuaibi appears on the Hamas website, noted earlier, as a religious source for suicide attacks. Attacks on U.S. soldiers in western Iraq by a Wahhabi group called al-Jama’a al-Salafiya were dedicated to his name and to the names of other Saudi clerics. Al-Shuaibi’s ideas, in short, had global reach.The question that must be asked is whether a religious leader of this sort is a peripheral figure on the fringes of society or whether he reflects more mainstream thinking. In fact, al-Shuaibi had very strong credentials. Born in 1925 in the Wahhabi stronghold of Buraida, he was a student of King Faisal’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Sheikh. Al-Shuaibi’s roster of students read like a “Who’s Who” of Saudi Arabia, including the current Grand Mufti and the former Minister of Islamic Affairs and Muslim World League secretary-general, Abdullah al-Turki. When al-Shuaibi died in 2002, many central Saudi figures attended his funeral. In short, he was in mainstream. His militant ideas about justifying the September 11 attacks were echoed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Jibrin, who actually was a member of the Directorate of Religious Research, Islamic Legal Rulings, and Islamic Propagation and Guidance – an official branch of the Saudi government.
In 2003, the religious opinions of Saudi militant clerics were turning up in Hamas educational institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, the Hamas-oriented “Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine,” that had been established in 1996 in Kalkilya, had branches in Bethlehem, Salfit, Abu Dis, Jenin, and the Tulkarm area.10 It distributed Saudi texts praising suicide attacks against “the infidels” and condemning those who dodge their obligations to join “the jihad.” The pro-Hamas “Dar al-Arqam Model School” in Gaza, that was established with Saudi aid, used texts that cited Sheikh Sulaiman bin Nasser al-Ulwan, a pro-al-Qaeda Saudi cleric, whose name is mentioned in a bin Laden video clip from December 2001. Both the “Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine” and the “Dar al-Arqam Model School” were supported by the Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) (see below), and were part of the “civilian” infrastructure of Hamas. Militant Saudi texts extolling martyrdom were infiltrated into schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, creating a whole generation of students that absorbed their extremist messages. The export of this jihadist ideology to the Palestinians was reminiscent of the Saudi support for madrasses in western Pakistan during the 1980s, that gave birth to the Taliban and other pro-bin Laden groups.

As already demonstrated, Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam, but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda’s global jihadi network. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO; an offshoot of the Muslim World League), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations of terrorist funding. From the CIA’s interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative, it was learned that al-Haramain, for example, was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, Russia’s Federal Security Service charged that al-Haramain was wiring funds to Chechen militants in 1999.

It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private charities, as they are mistakenly called. At the apex of each organization’s board is a top Saudi official. The Saudi Grand Mufti, who is also a Saudi cabinet member, chairs the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League. The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs chairs the secretariat of WAMY and the administrative council of al-Haramain. All three organizations have received large charitable contributions from the Saudi royal family that have been detailed in Saudi periodicals. Indeed, according to legal documents submitted on behalf of the Saudis by their legal team in the firm Baker Botts, in the 9/11 lawsuit, Prince Sultan provided $266,000 a year to the IIRO for sixteen years. He also provided a much smaller sum to WAMY. In short, these Saudi charities were full-fledged GOs – governmental organizations.

The earliest documented links between one of these charities and terrorists was found in Bosnia. It is a handwritten account on IIRO stationery from the late 1980s of a meeting attended by the secretary-general of the Muslim World League and bin Laden representatives, indicating the IIRO’s readiness to have its offices used in support of militant actions. As already noted, IIRO has been suspected of terrorist funding in the Philippines, Russia, East Africa, Bosnia, and India. Al-Qaeda operatives became accustomed to Saudi Arabia being their source of support, in general. In an intercepted telephone conversation, a senior al-Qaeda operative told a subordinate: “Don’t ever worry about money, because Saudi Arabia’s money is your money.” As in mid-August 2003, the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted in Australia that “some money from Saudi private charities had gone toward funding militants in Iraq.”

But the strongest documented cases that demonstrate the ties between Saudi Arabia’s global charities and international terrorism are related to Hamas. These ties were allegedly already in place in the mid-1990s when a Hamas funding group received instructions to write letters of thanks to executives of IIRO and WAMY for funds it had received. In 1994, former US President Clinton made a brief stop-over in Saudi Arabia during which he complained about Saudi funding of Hamas. These charges about Saudi Arabia bankrolling Hamas have become even more vociferous in recent years.

Teaching the children to kill non-Muslims:

In the Palestine’s public schools, whose textbooks were financed by the European Union, incitement against Israel and the glorification of martyrdom are prominent themes, embedded in nationalistic aspirations. Needless to say, interest in reconciliation with Israel is notably absent. Elementary school teachers and principals commend their young students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists’] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know." Posters in university classrooms proudly remind the world that the Palestinian cause is armed with ‘human bombs’. Sheik Hassan Yosef, a leading Hamas member, summarized this process of incitement in his own words: "We like to grow them from kindergarten through college." Palestinian Brigadier General, Mahmoud Abu Marzoug, reminded a group of tenth grade girls in Gaza City, "as a Shahid (martyr), you will be alive in Heaven." After the address, a group of these girls lined up to assure a Washington Post reporter that they would be happy to carry out suicide bombings or other actions ending in their deaths.

When the PA assumed responsibility for education in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, it adopted textbooks from Jordan and Egypt. These schoolbooks contained egregious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, including overt calls for Israel’s destruction. After much international criticism, a curriculum review project was initiated by the PA, which resulted in the publishing of new textbooks for grades one and six, for the school year 2000–2001. While much of the explicit incitement against Israel and Jews that existed in the old schoolbooks is gone, there is still considerable de-legitimization of Israel and denial of any Jewish historical connection to the land. Israel is omitted on all maps of the area, and all cities and natural and historic landmarks in Israel are taught as being ‘Palestinian.’

In the new sixth grade textbook entitled "Reading the Koran", Palestinian children read about Allah’s warning to the Jews that Allah will kill them because of their evil. Elsewhere, they are taught that Jews are like donkeys and that they will be expelled from their homes by Allah. In the assessment of the Palestinian Media Watch, this religion-based anti-Semitism is the most dangerous, as children are taught that hating Jews is God’s choice and command. Moreover, although Islam also has positive traditions regarding Jews, the PA educators chose to incorporate only hateful religious traditions. Israel is portrayed as foreign to the Middle East and is described as a colonialist conqueror. There is a strongly implied message that all such conquered Arab land must be "liberated." This message is pervasive in all subjects, sometimes subtly, almost subliminally, as in the first grade science book in a chapter on ‘sight’. The young student is instructed to look at little things using a magnifying glass. An illustration demonstrates what would be seen when looking through a magnifying glass at a piece of paper with writing that is barely visible without the magnifier. The part under the magnifying glass can be read clearly: "Palestine is Arab." In all contexts of the education system, "Palestine" includes all of Israel.
Note that these are the ‘new and improved’ textbooks.

Other grades are still using the Jordanian and Egyptian imports, which glorify hatred of Israel and Jews, and glorify death in jihad. For example, in an eighth grade book for "Islamic Education" we find, "The Muslim sacrifices himself for his belief, and wages jihad for Allah. He is not swayed, for he knows that the date of his death as a Shahid on the field of battle is preferable to death in his bed." A tenth grade reading text claims, "Martyred jihad fighters are the most honored people, after the Prophet."

Violent death is sanctified throughout the Palestinian areas. The streets are plastered with posters glorifying the exploits of individual suicide bombers. Children trade ‘martyr cards’, purchased at their local shops, instead of cricket cards. Necklaces with pictures of martyrs are also very popular. One favorite wall slogan reads: "beware of death by natural causes." Suicide bombing is considered a source of neighborhood pride, as streets are named after the perpetrators of these atrocities. There is even a musical group named ‘The Martyrs’, whose lyrics espouse the virtues of "sacrificing yourself for Allah." Under these cultural influences, many children readily admit that they want to become suicide bombers. Some draw pictures and fantasize about the day when they will achieve their goal. Boys are taught that, as suicide bombers, they will ascend to a paradise of luxury staffed by 72 virgins waiting to gratify the martyrs as they arrive. An American psychiatrist with 22 years of experience studying and treating suicidal patients stresses that suicide bombers – both children and adults – are "tools used by terrorist leaders" with "a whole culture encouraging [them] to die."

Pakistani Government-controlled schools and private schools teaching the Government-prescribed curriculum may teach conventional disciplines, but hardly provide a more rational education than provided at Madrassas and training camps. The educational agenda of these schools is to instill the "ideology of Pakistan" into the minds of students, and/or the belief that Islam is superior to all other religions and that Pakistan is the Muslim homeland. Dr. Yvette Clair Rosser’s study for the Observer Research Foundation revealed the prejudices found in Pakistani textbooks. In one seventh grade textbook, the section explaining different political systems on democracy, theocracy, and military rule was replaced with chapters titled "What it Means to be a Good Pakistani" and "Standing in Queue." As stated by one student: "we have covered the same material year after year… we don’t have to study for the tests, because the ideology of Pakistan has been instilled into us."

On an ethnic level, textbooks embody supremacist phrases condemning outside religions. In Pakistani textbooks, Hindus are referred to as "diabolical and conspiring against Pakistan." Further, Hindus are described as "backward, superstitious, wife burners, and that they are inherently cruel and if given the chance would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims, by depriving them of education and pouring molten lead into their ears." This supremacist rhetoric continues on a global level and other countries are vilified in a similarly negative light. Textbooks portray Pakistan’s existence as being threatened by a "Machiavellian conspiracy." As stated in Mohammed Sarwers’ Pakistan Studies book, "at present particular segments in the guise of modernization and progressive activities have taken the unholy task of damaging our cultures heritage and thereby damaging our nation’s integration."
Pakistani state-run education is not substantially different from what is preached by Islamist fundamentalists at Madrassas. The latter proclaim the need to perform jihad against India and on the West, which they believe is run by Jews. They also proclaim the goal of "planting Islamic flags in Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington." One of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Websites had a list of Jews that it claimed were working for the ‘Clinton Administration’. Included in this list were presidential officials Robert Nash (an African American from the United States) and CIA director George Tenet (a Greek American).

For many Palestinian children, incitement begins at home. The parents’ role in encouraging their own offspring to become martyrs is difficult to understand. They believe that the death of their child for the sake of holy jihad and Islam will guarantee him or her everlasting life and bliss in the hereafter. This type of sacrifice is held in such high esteem in certain segments of Palestinian society that it has become a badge of pride. Parents of toddlers proudly recount their little children saying they want to become martyrs. The father of a 13 year-old says, "I pray that God will choose him" to become a Shahid (Martyr). One mother of a 13 year-old who perished as a result of his participation in the Intifada, told a journalist from the Times (London): "I am happy that he has been martyred. I will sacrifice all my sons and daughters (12 in all) to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem." Another mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for the purpose of participating in such a Jihad, while the child’s father proudly claimed to have provided his son with the training. After 15 year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his ‘martyrdom’ at a street festival attended by about 200 men.

A photograph in the Jerusalem Post on February 26, 2002, showed Palestinian fathers teaching a group of toddlers and young children to properly hold assault rifles while trampling on American and Israeli flags. The most shocking evidence of the extent of such brainwashing was found in the family photo album of a wanted Hamas militant. This album contained a photograph of a baby dressed as a suicide bomber, complete with a harness of mock explosives and the traditional Shahid’s red headband.

Another reason that Palestinian parents allow and even encourage their children to get involved is the financial incentive offered to families of ‘martyrs’. Thus, the PA furnishes cash payment of $2,000 (USD) per child killed and $300 per child wounded. Saudi Arabia announced that it had pledged $250 million as its first contribution to a billion-dollar fund aimed at supporting the families of Palestinian martyrs. In addition, from the beginning to the current Intifada until the capture of Baghdad by allied forces in April 2003, the Arab Liberation Front, a Palestinian group loyal to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, paid generous bounties to the injured, and the families of the Palestinian dead, according to the following sliding scale: $500 for a wound; $1,000 for disability; $10,000 to the family of each martyr; and $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber. These are lavish sums, particularly given the chronic unemployment and poverty of the Palestinians who reside in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It is important to note, however, that many Palestinian parents have attempted to restrain their children, and have resisted those who would place them in harm’s way.
One public opinion poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank revealed that 74.1 per cent oppose the participation of children under the age of eighteen in the Intifada. Unfortunately this still leaves a substantial percentage that supports the participation of children, corresponding to hundreds of thousands of parents. Could their reluctance to exercise routine parental authority, by discouraging their children from participating in the violence, be attributable to the threats by armed PA officials?
Some in the PA leadership are apparently uncomfortable with the international and local criticism their use of children has engendered and are beginning to acknowledge the inherent risks of mixing child protesters with Palestinian gunmen. However, their reactions to the use of children in the Intifada are far from uniform or consistent. Mixed signals still emanate from various factions of the PA leadership.
For example, in January, 2003, marches and rallies were being planned by Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO, to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the founding of the movement. The then PA Minister of Interior, Hani al-Hassan, warned the Fatah activists against any display of weapons or the wearing of masks (to hide their faces) during the demonstrations. Hassan’s directive was completely ignored, however, and witnesses said that the marchers "carried almost every kind of weapon, turning the celebration into a military parade." Shots were fired into the air from rifles and pistols. "The shooting continued all day," said one Palestinian. "It was like being in a battlefront. People were terrified, and it’s only a miracle that no one was killed or injured." Many Palestinian bystanders were especially disturbed by the participation of several hundred children brandishing Kalashnikov rifles during the demonstrations. Some of the children were dressed in white uniforms, and wrapped in explosive belts to emulate Palestinian suicide bombers. Pictures of the children appeared in both local and foreign newspapers, much to the annoyance of the Palestinian Journalists’ Association. The Association has banned journalists from taking pictures of armed children and threatened sanctions against any journalist, local or foreign, who disregards the ban. Association members are concerned that such pictures will further damage the image of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.

The same ideology of martyrdom of their children is shared by many Pakistani parents. Stern found that "mothers claimed that they would donate sons, because it will help them in the next life – the real life." One father stated "whoever gives his life to Allah lives forever and earns a spot in heaven for 70 members of the family chosen by him." Whenever there is a martyr in the village it encourages more children to join Jihad.

As there is allegation of Palestinian jihad, organizations been set up in Pakistan to help the families of martyrs. These organizations help to pay debts, improve the families’ living conditions and help start businesses. One such organization, the Shuhda-e-Islam Foundation, founded in 1995 by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), claims to provide financial support to over 364 families and to have paid out over three million Pakistani rupees. When interviewed, one mother whose son lost his life to jihad claimed, "God is helping us a lot," pointing to the new additions to her house. She stated that she wanted to martyr her youngest son, who was ten years of age. When questioned what he wanted after he grew up, he claimed "respect and jihad."

The mysterious kindergarten madrassas:

An extensive study was conducted on the existing kindergarten madrassas in Bangladesh. All of them, having quite a handsome amount of expenditure each month for maintaining posh class rooms, air-conditioned transports and high standard accommodation for male and female students, could not show any acceptable source of income. For example, one of such madrassas in Dhaka’s Uttara area spends more than US$ 8000 per month while their income from student’s tuition fee is less than US$ 2000. When asked about their source of income, Moulana Abdus Sakur, the principal of the institution said, they receive donation from Muslims abroad on a regular basis, which helps them to sustain. It was even revealed that, such institutions do not enroll with the Bureau of Non-government Organization (NGO)s in Bangladesh to declare their source of money. Rather any citizen in the country is entitled to establish a kindergarten madrassa with a Trade License issued by the City Corporation just with an annual fee of US$ 10.

Talking to this correspondent, a senior official with NGO bureau said, country’s intelligence agencies have gathered substantial evidence of several kindergarten madrassas receiving donations from foggy Afro-Arab sources. In many cases, these madrassas invite ‘speakers’ from these countries for orientation course of certain period ranging between 2-6 weeks. Generally, those speakers are extremist Islamist scholars, preaching jihad and religious hatred to the innocent children. Such lectures are extremely hypnotizing, leaving great impact on the minds of children, who get allured towards suicide or jihad and killing Jews and Christians in exchange of heaven and 70 virgins during the next life.

Most alarming information on the madrassas and kindergarten madrassas is there is no monitoring by the government of Bangladesh on the activities of such religious institutions. Although the Education Ministry had been trying to bring them under enrollment for past several years, a large number of influential radical leaders are some how avoiding such enrolments for reason understandable.
A student in fifth grade with one of the kindergarten madrassas said, “Islam is the ultimate for the entire world. We have to fight every enemies of our religion so that one day, the whole world will come under the umbrella of Islam. Allah promises us heaven if we fight and even embrace death in this holy task”.

There is information on a hidden agenda of some of the kindergarten madrassa preparing their adult female students for a particular group for a specific agenda named ‘Operation Penetration’. Generally, girl students mostly from lower income group, having excellent looks are recruited for this purpose. They are given proper education to attain highest efficiency in speaking English, French, German or Spanish. Moreover, they get training in computer and various IT related works. These students are destined for various jobs in Western destinations with airline companies, IT companies, hotels, restaurants, large commercial enterprises and even in sensitive organizations. Once completed educational career, their back ground of having education in madrassa are generally kept secret. Even some are given Christian names. There are several ways of ‘penetrating’ these well-trained females to western countries. One is as spouse of any male immigrants, by meeting targeted Western partners through internet or by taking the job of any kind of job in companies and secondly as tourists or performers/artistes. Prior to their departure to West, these girls are injected HIV positive virus. But, for making such ‘sacrifice’ generally their families receive US$ 5,000-10,000 as compensation. Main objective of these females, once already entered to the Western countries are to make friendly relations with men and ultimately establish physical relations, thus passing the virus. While on domestic job, they will push infected needles in the body of children at home, when their parents are out for work. Some of such females establish day care centers in the West, and continue to get the children infected to HIV virus mainly through needles. The ‘operation penetration’ has a target of infecting at least half million Westerners by the end of 2010. According to internal sources in the madrassas, this is the latest technique of Islamist radicals in causing maximum degree of damage to the Western societies.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the Publisher & Editor of Weekly Blitz published from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Internet edition of this newspaper is available on

Street Sex Workers in Bangladesh

Mohammad Khairul Alam
Weekly Blitz
Sexually transmitted diseases/ infections - also known as STDs/STIs and once called venereal diseases - are infectious diseases that spread from person to person through intimate/ sexual contact. There are different kinds of STDs, Some kinds of STDs are very dangerous for human health. It can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death. HIV/AIDS is one of the STDs/STIs that are on the rise in sex workers and Injection Drug Users. Sex work is central to an epidemic that is primarily spread by unprotected heterosexual intercourse. It is also a feature of all countries and cultures, encompassing a wide range of people and behaviours. Sex work can involve men and transgender people, as well as women. People who are engaged in selling sex obviously have multiple sex partners and are therefore highly vulnerable to several Sexual Transmission Diseases (STDs/STI) and HIV/AIDS infection. Because they have many sexual partners, they are also more likely to transmit the virus to other people unless condoms are always used. As mentioned by AIDS researcher Mr. Anirudha Alam, "Street Sex Workers contracting HIV/AIDS through unprotected sex with HIV infected men and sexual abuse has become a persistent problem, especially in South Asia". Bangladesh is still a low prevalence country (HIV-infection rate is less than 1%), but there is a potential for expanding HIV/AIDS epidemic in the future, because the country is very receptive to HIV infection. Sex work exists at significant levels in Bangladesh, and condom use is low. In Bangladesh, sex workers in brothels as well as on the streets reported rather high client turnover, by Asian standards. Women working in brothels nationwide averaged 19 clients a week, and street workers reported between 12 and 16 in different cities. Consistent condom use is among the lowest in the region. Street Sex Workers (SSWs) in Bangladesh would play a critical role of HIV/AIDS infections. Due to the types of their work, the lack of sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs) knowledge and low acceptance of condom use, SSWs represent a highly vulnerable group in Bangladesh. The sharp rise in others sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Bangladesh contributes to the spread of HIV and may lead to a extensive epidemic, as the heterosexual mode of others STI transmission accounts for an increasing percentage of HIV transmission. Studies of street beggars conducted by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation & L.R.B Foundation in mid-2006s at Kamrangir Char, Lalbagh and Polashi in Dhaka city in Bangladesh surveyors confirm the 40-45 per cent of homeless beggars (adult male) indulge in multi-partner sex with less than 10 per cent of them reporting condom use. Street Sex Workers are the main sexual partners of them. Street Sex Workers are closely associated with the tourism and transport industries where they find a large supply of potential clients. They get their clients by waiting on the streets. Most of them run on their work separately, though some rely on brokers for help in getting clients. The favored method of work is to wait on busy streets, which make available custom as well as relative confidentiality to the contract, as opposed to the less frequented localities. Bus stops, railway stations, cinema halls and river-bank are the usual locations where the contract is negotiated, from where they go to cheap hotels, under constriction building, darkness park-place and lodges with their clients. Day by day, Sex work is increase in Bangladesh. However Ms. Roushan Ara Rekha, Executive Director of GHARONI, an expert in the field, she said, 'On a regional basis, infected men probably outnumber infected women by a factor of 3 to 1 or more, since commercial sex clients, injecting drug users and men having sex with men have contributed most strongly to the rapid initial growth of the epidemic. This male/female ratio is expected to drop as the epidemic spreads into the general population through spread of HIV from clients of sex workers to their regular partners and spouses.' M. C. M. Lokman Hossain, Executive Director of Association for Social Advancement & Rural Rehabilitation (ASARR) said, if we want to reduce sex trade we have to clarify our vision on sex work first. Traditional perspectives on prostitution have been repressive, moralising and controlling, perceiving sex workers and their customers to be objects rather than active subjects, excluding them from discussions and decisions around policy and legislation.

South Asian Workers Called Security Threat

Dr. Richard L. Benkin reports from USA
Bangladesh and other South Asian nations have long benefited from and in some cased depended upon millions of dollars in receipts from nationals working in the Arab Gulf States. A prestigious security conference here in March placed the future of those receipts in jeopardy. United Arab Emirates (UAE) analyst, Ebtisam Al Kitbi warned that millions of laborers from South Asia endanger the Gulf States’ security and urged the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to take immediate action.
In an address to the conference on “Internal and External Security Challenges in the Arabian Gulf,” Al Kitbi warned the GCC of a growing “demographic imbalance” in favor of foreign workers who can be expected to demand political rights in the Gulf.
“The imbalance is very stark and it will take many decades for the Gulf states to take remedial measures,” she said. “But the Gulf countries need to take urgent measures to check this imbalance.”
Al Kitbi tied the threat to the “winds of globalization” that seek to subordinate “state sovereignties…to the interests of international organizations.” She gave as another example of the danger speeches by Indian MPs calling for voting rights in the UAE for Indian workers because “they have contributed to the progress achieved in the country.”
In the past year, labor unrest expatriate communities in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, along with other developments in the Gulf has enhanced security concerns over South Asian workers. A proposal by some communities there to award foreign laborers citizenship after five years, according to Al Kitbi could “trigger major problems.”In recent years, the oil-rich Gulf states have been increasingly concerned about security threats from Iran and Islamist terrorists. Courtesy: Weekly Blitz

No fundamental rights in Bangladesh - Interim Government

Dhaka, Apr 19 : A day after imposing ban on former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's entry into her own country, an influential adviser to the army-backed interim administration said, "there has been no fundamental rights under the state of emergency in the country". "Journalists should understand one thing that the country is under the state of emergency. None of us has any fundamental rights... The country is heading for a difficult situation," Mainul Hosein, the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Adviser, told reporters on Thursday. He made these comments when journalists asked him about press advisories asking the media not to publish or broadcast Sheikh Hasina's interview aired by BBC Bangla radio service on Wednesday, the day the interim government imposed a ban on the former Prime Minister's entry into the country. Hasina was at that time in the United States and has now arrived in London on her way to Dhaka, as she has vowed to come back home defying the ban. Another adviser, M A Matin, said that the government would take action if she comes back home defying the ban. In her BBC interview Hasina said that she would come back as per her schedule and face the charges that the government brought against her. Meanwhile, a High Court bench asked the government on Thursday to explain whether the immediate past prime minister, Khaleda Zia, was under house arrest. Newspapers have been reporting over the couple of days that the Zia had agreed on a negotiation to go into exile, preferably in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.She might be forced to leave the country at anytime, according to intelligence sources. A section in the government, taking the advancement of the state of emergency, has been interfering press freedom. Asked about verbal instructions to the press by the government's press information department and intelligence agencies imposing restriction on printing some news items, Mainul, also in charge of the information ministry, expressed ignorance about it. "I do not know whether any intelligence agency has telephoned any media office imposing restrictions on any news items," he said. He, however, defended the agencies saying if any agency discussed about some news items and gave advice on the particular issue, there was nothing wrong with it. "Anybody can give advice as there is nothing wrong in it. It is the reality which the journalists should bear in mind that the country is under a state of emergency," Mainul added saying that the freedom signifies responsibility, which must be cared for. The adviser said, everyone should realise that it was a crisis time."There is little opportunity to live normal lives. It is true that we are enjoying freedom, but this is not such freedom as in normal situation," explained Mainul.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dr. Richard L. Benkin & Hanzalah

During Dhaka visit (8-18 January 2007), Dr. Richard L Benkin with Hanzlah (Shoaib's son)

American interests in Bangladesh

American interests in Bangladesh
Rabbi Sue Levy writes from USA

The United States’ government is now engaged in several matters concerning Bangladesh, and they are all inter-related. In order to understand the positions being taken at this time, one must first look at the history of the last century. At the close of World War I, Germany had fought a war on its own soil and lost disastrously. Their agricultural fields were in ruins, as was much of their industry, and an entire generation of young men who could have moved the country forward had died. It was unthinkable to many Germans that they should not only suffer so terribly but also accept responsibility for what had happened. Within a decade a leader emerged, Adolf Hitler, a man who told them that all that happened had been the fault of the Jews. And, he promised them easy answers to terribly difficult questions. Never mind that the answers were lies. People were desperate for hope, and they needed someone else to blame. The result was a new war based on radical, fascist, nationalism and, more than anything else upon the hatred which Hitler nurtured.
We learn from our history. Today, Bangladesh is an impoverished country with people as desperate for answers and aid as the Germans were seventy years ago. When people have no jobs, fragile homes or no homes at all, and children they cannot afford to feed, it is tempting to believe those easy answers to difficult questions, and radical Islamists are willing to provide them. And, with those answers, which are no answers at all, comes a new generation of hatred and terrorism.
Here in the United States, we have seen enough of what hatred can do to know that it is in our interest to support moderate Islam and to help people out of the kind of desperate poverty that makes them easy targets of those who would give them someone to blame. In spite of our reputation as a wealthy country, we have many economic problems here at home. We have our own homeless and hungry people to care for and, like Bangladesh; we have our share of disastrous storms and other calamities that drain our resources. Still, we are mindful of the goodness we are so fortunate to have, and we understand that it is our responsibility to share it with others to the best of our ability.
The most noble and gracious way to help others is to make it possible for them to help themselves. To that end, there is legislation pending in our Congress that would give relief from tariffs to ten countries who deserve a helping hand. This would allow Bangladesh to become more competitive in the marketplace and create jobs in the textile and other industries. Virtually all Americans support this legislation and wish for it to become law. We also provide many millions of dollars in direct financial aid to the Government of Bangladesh for development purposes, health care and other Nevertheless, there are some conditions attached to the new legislation. First, there is separate legislation pending at the same time which would require that our government will assist only those countries that protect the human rights of its citizens. This means that all people should enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of religion as well as freedom for journalists to be able to write whatever they wish to say without censorship or coercion. And, there is additional legislation being considered by our government which would restrict financial benefits to any industry in which child-labor is used or in which workers are abused in any way. We believe strongly enough in the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect, that we will not reward people for denying those basic elements of humanity to its citizens.
Many of the readers of The Weekly Blitz are familiar with the false charges that have been brought against the publisher of this paper, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, as well as the fact that he is presently on trial for sedition for having written the truth in a place where truth is often unwelcome. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that it is the will of our Congress that these charges be dropped, and that the harassment against him must end (The European Parliament has made a similar statement of support for Mr. Choudhury). Therefore, an effort is being made now to add one more restriction to any financial benefits given to Bangladesh – that your government will be in compliance with this resolution and protect a man who does not deserve to be imprisoned or face a possible death penalty. Please understand that I am a Jew and that Shoaib Choudhury is a devout Muslim and my dear friend and spiritual brother. He understands that the word “Islam” means more than submission to the will of Allah. At the heart of the word “Islam,” is the word “peace.” Peace requires understanding. And, understanding requires that the truth be made plain for all to see and read. That is his calling and his lifelong commitment to you and to us all. And for this, I love him as a brother.Is it fair for us to attach so many conditions before we part with money which poor people need? I believe it is, because these same people deserve to have their other needs met as well – the need to be treated with dignity and to be allowed to speak their minds without fear. Bangladesh was founded as a democratic republic, one in which free and fair elections would be held and in which a government would operate not in the interests of the wealthy and privileged, but in the interests of all people. We would like to call the Government of Bangladesh to live up to the promise and principles of its founders, principles which we share. And, if that can happen, then we wish to do everything possible to help those who need us most. I am not an elected official, and I do not speak for my government. I am an American, and I’m expressing my best understanding of all that my country stands for, and my deep caring and affection for the people of Bangladesh who would do the will of Allah in peace and friendship with us.

Courtesy: Weekly Blitz