JEWISH WEEK EDITORIAL
Voice of moderation
He's not a household name. But, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury should be.
He's facing a possible death sentence ‹ for the crime of wanting his Muslim-majority country to recognize the Jewish state.
Bangladesh's ambassador to the United States, Shamsher Chowdhury, says Choudhury, the editor and publisher of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper published in Bangladesh's capital, leaked classified information that endangered state security.
A host of human rights organizations have rushed to Choudhury's defense, saying such charges are false and malicious. The Bangladeshi journalist's only crime, they contend, is that he speaks out against Islamic fundamentalism and tried to attend a conference in Israel. He also has called for his nation ‹ a country where Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise ‹ to establish diplomatic relationships with Israel.
We often wonder where the voices of Islamic moderation are. Choudhury provides one such voice.
In an October interview with The Jerusalem Post, Choudhury said he has "found Jews to be among the most dependable and sympathetic of nations in the world. I am proud to have brotherly relations with many Jews in the world."
He also said Israel "is the only modern state in the entire Arab world, and its technological strength is much superior to that of many Western countries."
In May, the American Jewish Committee presented Choudhury with its Moral Courage Award, recognizing his efforts to promote dialogue between Muslims and Jews and his courage to condemn Islamic extremism. The Bangladesh government prevented him from visiting the United States to receive the honor.
Now, he awaits a trial later this month that could result in the death penalty.
Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution in the last congressional session calling on the Bangladeshi government to drop all charges against Choudhury, stop "harassment and intimidation," and "hold accountable those responsible for attacks" against him. They plan to reintroduce it.
We call on President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, our members of Congress and Ban Ki-moon, the new United Nations secretary general, to let Bangladesh know its treatment of Choudhury is unacceptable.
A voice of moderation should never be silenced.