Thursday, April 19, 2007

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

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