Sunday, December 16, 2007

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.

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