Saying No to Jihad

Released on = May 1, 2006, 12:03 am

Press Release Author = Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Industry = Media

Press Release Summary = Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a senior journalist,
columnist, author and editor of Bangladesh's largest tabloid weekly newspaper Blitz.
He was arrested on 29th November 2003 when he was about to leave for Israel to
attend a symposium organized by Hebrew Writers Association.

Press Release Body =
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a senior journalist, columnist, author and editor of
Bangladesh's largest tabloid weekly newspaper Blitz. He was arrested on 29th
November 2003 when he was about to leave for Israel to attend a symposium organized
by Hebrew Writers Association. Later Bangladesh government brought sedition charge
against him, saying he was the spy for Israeli intelligence agency. Choudhury was in
prison for 17 months and was released on 30th April 2005. Till date, the false
sedition charge hangs on him, despite number of appeals from international community
and even members of US Congress. Choudhury received PENUSA's Freedom to Write Award
in 2005 while this May he will be given prestigious Moral Courage Award by American
Jewish Committee. Although he was expected to be in Washington DC to receive the
award in presence of World leaders, Bangladesh government did not allow him, as
because he had been LAND ARRESTED in his own country. On the occasion of the
anniversary of his release from prison, he wrote this article.

Even till the last date of April, I was quite sure that I shall be able to join you
all at this auspicious celebration of American Jewish Committee. But, finally, the
Bangladesh government played every trick, causing executive and judicial
complication, thus barring me from joining the grand occasion of this evening. It
makes me sad; it makes me to feel that I am land arrested in my own country, which
has very unfortunately gone into the grips of Islamist radicals. Any way, as Jewish
proverb says, where there is life, there is hope. As I am alive, I have the reason
to believe, in any of their future occasions, I shall be able to be there. I know
for sure, things are changing in positive direction. In today's world, with my
mission of peace, I can not only find lots of people around the world, extending
their support to me; but also in my own country, gradually people are raising their
voice, against, religious hatred, Islamist militancy and they too are echoing the
concept of establishment of relations between Israel and the Muslim countries.
People are punished for crime, for creating anarchy and for putting humanity into
horrifying terror. But, could we ever believe that someone would be arrested,
tortured and imprisoned for long 17 months just for being in favor of global peace,
inter-faith dialogue, ending religious hatred and thinking of everything good and
noble for mankind? In my case it did happen and after being released on bail keeping
the sedition charge very much alive. According to the allegations, my crime is: I am
a living contradiction to today\'s phenomenon in the Muslim world, a Zionist, a
defender of Israel and a devout, practicing Muslim living in the second largest
Muslim country in the world.
The very first person I was in close contact in Israel was Dr. Ada Aharoni, a
scholar and leader of International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace
(IFLAC). Then I came to know Dr. Richard Benkin, a person committed to the cause of
peace and bravest of the braves I have ever seen in my long career as a journalist.
Dr. Benkin is no more just only a friend, but my loving brother, with whom I am
proud to be teamed to work. On 10th of January, 2005 when a Charge Sheet was issued
against me, I was shocked to see names of Dr. Benkin and that of Dr. Ada as my
contacts. I was really not sure how they would react! Anyway, I had to inform Dr.
Benkin through my brother Sohail Choudhury. To my utter surprise, Dr. Benkin\'s
reaction was, \"I was with Shoaib, I am with Shoaib and I will be with Shoaib; no
matter if I have to face a trial in any court within this world\". I didn\'t want my
brother Richard to face any hassle in a country where my fate was already uncertain.
I communicated with my lawyer Advocate Samarendra Nath Goswami for his opinion if
Benkin has to be in Dhaka? Mr. Goswami replied, \"Dr. Benkin is a US citizen, he can
ignore Bangladeshi courts for obvious reasons\".
This message was transmitted to Richard through Sohail. Richard again said if my
brother can take the pain of being in prison and face trial for achieving a common
goal, I can at least be in Bangladesh to see my brother and tell him \"I am with
Unfortunately, most of the Muslims in Bangladesh as in many of the other Muslim
countries are under the impression that Jews are the ultimate enemies of Muslims and
of Islam. My request to them, please visit Israel at least once, meet the Jews or at
least find one Jew anywhere in the world. Many Muslims believe that devils have
embodied themselves in the Jews. I question those Muslim brothers and sisters, \"ARE
YOU TALKING OF HIGHER INTELLIGENCE?\" If so, you can too merge with the higher
intelligence if you just have a little more patience, tolerance and true pursuit for
knowledge. If their question is again, how? My answer to them would be finding a Jew
like Dr. Richard Benkin.
I once wrote, that when I was in prison, and my family was in danger, and it seemed
that my own people had abandoned me; that it was my Jewish brothers and sisters who
stood by us; who dedicated their time, their resources, their very soul to my
freedom. And that is a very important point, because in today's world it seems
impossible to most that a Muslim and Jews could be friends, let alone brothers and
sisters. But we can be, and in fact so can others.
Fundamentalists are men who emulate the looks and actions of the Prophet Mohammed.
Yet, they give the Prophet and Islam a very bad name, as they perpetuate and even
add to the western perception that Islam was won by force or the sword. By this I
mean by the sword and not by conversion. Yet these self-righteous and arrogant men
claim to be speaking in the name of Allah and act like the Prophet. They try to
squash any positive action of peace by not only squashing but trying to kill all
those who oppose them, making their vision that of a totalitarian theocracy that
will allow no free exchange of ideas, the development of thinking such as ijtihad or
even speech. The golden age of Islam was built on this ebullition of ideas that made
it prosper and which gave so much to the world, such as algebra, alchemy; they even
kept and preserved philosophy. Under such forces it will lead the Islamic world into
the Dark ages which were similar to the European Dark Ages and the Middle Ages
instead of the Renaissance and the other periods where discovery, science and even
technology was invented.
One of the strengths of the Muslim world has been the shared power between, two
types of power one that is secular and was held by the governing Caliph or Sultan
and the other was led by the Ulama or the religious faction; the two balanced each
other out, as one cared for the body the other for the soul. In a fully secular
world, from a socialistic up to and including communism; there is an absence of
religious principles or of God, it is believed that man knows best. However, in a
theocracy men speak in the name of God. Be it in a fully secular world or in a
theocracy, there is imbalance as both have replaced faith with belief. Because,
there are no check points; hence the people become ruled over by men who believe
they have all the answers or by men who believe they speak for God. In either case a
despotic type of governance results and people suffer as it weakens the strength of
shared power, body and soul being ruled over by people of faith. Such is the case of
the fundamentalists or the secularist who try to impose their ways on the people
they claim to want to liberate. They also hinder those who have a balance and who
know the difference between personal faith and politics.
One of the Biblical and Qur'anic stories that have influenced my way of thinking is
the story of the bad Pharaoh and Moses. This evil man said, there were too many
Jews. He first ordered abstinence when that did not work he ordered the killing of
every male child. When a radical person comes and gives an order to young men and
women to commit suicide in the name of God, I am reminded of that story. The order
given by the evil Pharaoh, to kill Jewish male children for the simple reason they
are Jewish. In the case of radicals they are not killing Jews they are killing
Zionists. Where would we be today if Moses had been killed by Pharaoh? Why then do
fundamentalists use the prison and even death to kill all chances of peace? Why do
they not see they are the followers of evil Pharaoh and not of the prophets?
Radical movements be it religious or secular also have a trend that is their madness
increases as time goes by. We demand equal time, or you cannot say this or that on
the air. You are not allowed to speak of us in a bad way. You are a racist. You
fear my religion and we are the religion of peace. When that tactic does not work
they go after one person and start harassing them, the go over the head of the
person and complain, meet with the bosses, demand an apology and then use pressure
tactics to get their way. They are after power and control hence medias are not
safe, nor journalists because the radicals flood emails, telephone lines and faxes
with letters of demand. They order their people to write to call to make them
heard. However, the majority of those callers are uninformed; they never heard or
read the offensive article. They react blindly to an order that comes from above,
the earthly leader who claims to speak in the name of God. Their aim is to get the
person fired. If this fails they go for human right commission, law suits and try to
get money. The bottom line is they are after power, control and their aim is MONEY,
the mighty dollar. All of this is done in the name of God, let me ask you since
when does God ask for money? When does God ask to harass, lie, control others into
doing His way? God gives us freedom of Choice these radical take away that freedom
in the name of God.
Interfaith dialogues and meetings based on a will to know the other will lead to
understanding and respect of each others' faith and beliefs and it is primordial at
this time. Because, it prevents generalizations and statements such as "all Jews,
Christians, Muslims are like this or that". I do caution interfaith dialogue that
is solely based on theology, which is what the religion should be and it is not what
it is or how the people practice. Theological debates are interesting within a
community yet they are restricted for the most part to scholars who use one lineage
of thought or ideology. It also gives a moral conduct to people however it often
negates who people are. Here is one example from the Christian or Catholic side,
women are forbidden to use contraceptives including condoms. Yet, there are women
who have pre-marital sex and hence they expose themselves to sexually transmitted
diseases. Muslim Theologians or Sheikhs will tell you that a man can have four
wives if he can take care of them properly; however most Muslim women prefer having
a monogamous relationship with their husbands. Very few will like to share their
husband with other woman, except if they cannot bear a child or have a to do great
deal of physical labor to do such as farming etc. Jewish theologians will say it is
the man that grants a divorce to a woman, however in Canada religious Jewish decided
to have a Canadian law to help women get their religious divorce. In talking between
ourselves as members of a religion we can add more depth to these statements we can
agree or disagree however, the end result will be that we all have pet peeves and we
cannot follow all those religious laws as they are at times a burden in our lives.
Dialogue breaks down the idea that a group is homogenous and everyone follows the
leader blindly. More than likely this is how people make the difference between a
person of faith and a person of beliefs. A person of faith will know that God will
understand and even forgive them however the believers will rationalize that the law
will not forgive the transgressors. Hence those who transgress need to be punished
as non-believers even if the people are people of faith.
The question that arises is we people of belief or people of faith? What guides our
the lives our faith in God or our belief in the Law? Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss
once gave a talk on the idea of faith and trust in God; she said that every one says
they have FAITH in God but when asked do you TRUST God there is a hesitation.
Dialogue is what will help us learn not only about theology but also how women feel
about the laws of theologians.
Faith and trust in God, it seems that as people we do not know or forget that faith
MUST include trust. We have faith in God, and often times think that our God is ours
and not on else. God is our property as we have all the answer to salvation. In
knowing other's faith we soon find out that God created the entire world and every
person on earth has his or her own interpretation or divine revelation, be it
monotheistic or polytheistic. In the case of monotheism, the common link is Adam the
Bible, at first the first covenant found in the Torah, the second in the New
Testament and the third revelation in the Koran. Everyone will say we have faith in
God, and then proceed to say from their own perspective and interpretation: who is
God? The conclusion is that people have faith in God, however how many trust God?
How can we trust God and also learn to trust one another? Dialogue is the way the
door of can be opened and remain opened. Through interfaith dialogue we get to know
not only about the person's religion, but also his or her understanding. We also get
to know about culture and most importantly we get to know another person faith,
beliefs and hopefully we become friends. It is through faith that our beliefs are
often challenged.
There is a difference between faith and belief. I might believe that my religion is
the only true path to God. I can believe that I am right. I can believe in the law.
I can believe that I have the only way. I can believe that I am right and everyone
else is wrong. I can believe the other is evil and bad. Fear is what prevents me
from reaching out and challenging my beliefs. Fear is also what motivates me to be
very vocal and try to influence others in my beliefs. Fear is what makes me use
force to impose my beliefs. Because I have never challenged my beliefs I will
remain ignorant to other possibilities. It is through dialogue, honest debate, that
I can not only challenge my own beliefs but gain new insight in myself and the
other. I might even find out that someone else has the same belief and if the fear
is broken, the bridge is built, then a dialogue can take place. My belief is
transformed into faith in God and in His/Her diversity. After the internal journey,
the challenge of my own core beliefs what remains is faith that is based in God, the
Creator of the universe. How could this be? How can I still be true to myself? I
have a choice, either I stay and learn or go away and remain close minded. I have
been challenged, if I accept the challenge and base my research on fact instead of
theory or fiction a new reality takes shape hence a transformation from within. I
start growing as a person and hence become better human beings. If I stay as and
remain firm in my erroneous beliefs I am deluded then I regress and fall into the
abyss of darkness because I have closed myself off from reality "Mine and the
Other". This is what the message that prophets and saints have preached for years
and no one listened. No one wanted to do the internal journey they only too the
external path and not the internal one. Rabbiah of Iraq the Muslim Saint and mystic
used the metaphor of setting heaven on fire and extinguishing the fires of hell, so
people stopped to pay lip service and being hypocrites because they did good deeds
to secure their path to heaven. Christians use to buy indulgences or relics at one
time. It is time for each person to take charge of our self and look deep inside and
ask, the question: "Do I pay lip service or am I sincere and honest?"
Through dialogue we can learn about one another's beliefs and faith. You and I, yes
we can challenge belief and build on faith. By this simple action we deepen what it
means to us as individual and as a group the idea of being guided, inspired and even
acting according to God's plan. The whole idea of faith, trust, and belief is a
philosophical debate between individuals from the central point our self and the
peripheral our community. Religions can be based on theology but more importantly
it should be based on our perception and understanding of God's words as individuals
and not as a mass. This had been the reason as to why I promote interfaith
dialogue. Religion does not promote hatred however men have promoted hatred by
favoring one religion over the others; usually it is their interpretation of what
religion means which is based on theology or the word of God as interpreted by men
of small minds. Some monotheists accuse others of worshipping idols and having
false gods. Some radicals go as far as destroying historical temples. This can be
seen when Christians had statues to represent images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary
they were either destroyed or painted over. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in
Jerusalem. Christians and later Muslims destroyed Hindu temples in India or parts
or other parts of the world. The first Christian priests were destroying the
spiritual icons of natives, and saying they worshipped idols in nature. Hindus
destroyed Muslim and Christian Mosques and Churches. The list goes on an on.
However, there is another aspect of religion that is often forgotten those from the
tradition who have made a contribution to stopping hatred, which promotes better
But, while advocating peace and interfaith dialogue, like most Muslims around the
world, I have been a victim.

Like most Muslims, I've been victimized by a socially supported information flow;
one that taught me to look the other way when facts seem to contradict the
politically-mandated and politically-correct weltanschauung that we are supposed to
adopt. I was taught that much of the world is in essence my enemy, and that Israel
and the Jewish people are the embodiment of evil. And I was taught to distrust-even
though we all admired-Americans.

And that is the case because the enemies of freedom have wormed their way into most
social institutions in the Muslim world-the press, the media, governments, and
schools. I have seen this in my own nation-a nation of good people, who seek
nothing other than the things all of us want in life. These enemies of freedom seek
to control my people by controlling our access to information and our contact with
those who offer a different point of view.

And so I am not misconstrued here, I must emphasize that such practices are neither
Islamic nor culturally mandated. They are political. And, thankfully, politics

In my own case, I was fortunate. My parents raised me to be open and moral, and I
had a journalist's natural curiosity and access to information via the Internet. I
began to see that there was more information than we were being force-fed;
information that quite often contradicted the political orthodoxy. And it opened my
eyes. I saw that the United States is not the greatest threat to us; neither are
the Jews, Zionism, western culture, nor so-called "infidels."

No, the greatest threat to us is the same thing that threatens non-Muslims, that
threatens us all. It is a dedicated cadre of individuals who justify killing
innocents by falsely-falsely-using our faith.

And so like any good journalist, I began writing about it, warning our people about
the rise of terrorism, advocating interfaith dialogue, and urging Muslim Bangladesh
to recognize Jewish Israel. Colleagues outside of my country-both Muslim and
non-Muslim-joined me in this effort. And as we wrote, people listened. Not all of
them agreed with us; in fact, most did not. But our efforts sparked the beginning
of public discussion and debate on these issues. And my people began to recall the
interfaith respect that is our true heritage.

But all of that changed on November 29, 2003.

Our free exchange of ideas had angered some powerful people who were setting the
stage for a "surprise" that would put free debate in Bangladesh on hold.

As I was about to board the aircraft to address a group of Israeli writers, police
grabbed me. They ransacked my bags, took my passport and possessions.

At first, they did not charge me with anything but leaked that my alleged crime was
espionage "in the interests of Israel against the interests of Bangladesh." You
see, anyone who even suggests that all faiths are equally legitimate must be
demonized, and you can do that by preying on people's vulnerability to wild and
untrue conspiracy theories involving the Jews.

Conditions were terrible for me and my family while I was in prison. I was
purposely kept in a wing for the mentally insane. The constant screaming, the
terrible heat, the filth, and the accusations were intended to break me. My family
was threatened and attacked. Police refused to act, blaming it all on my "alliance
with the Jews." My brother, Sohail Choudhury, twice had to flee Dhaka for his
safety. They wouldn't even let me attend my mother's funeral.

But while my health deteriorated, my spirit did not.

For I had, first of all, faith: my Muslim faith; and a general faith in G-d and in
the justice of our cause. And I had something else. Just before I was taken away,
I saw Sohail and asked him to contact my Jewish brother Dr. Richard Benkin, who
fought for me without stopping; traveling here and there, writing articles, speaking
publicly, and petitioning his government. He even went to the Bangladeshi embassy
in Washington, along with honorable Congressman Mark Steven Kirk-who is neither
Muslim nor Jewish, demanding my release, and to whom I am also so grateful-joined
him in the cause, and this interfaith team eventually secured my freedom.

Today, our efforts to build a Coalition of Understanding continue. For were this
persecution just about me, it would be unjust, but little more. However, there are
many people of many faiths being persecuted for their stance on behalf of interfaith
understanding and for trying to warn their people about the terrorist threat; and
many more who are afraid to speak that which are in their hearts. And that is
especially true in Muslim nations, where such beliefs are opposed both the by
accepted political orthodoxy and by the terrorists in our midst.

Working together, Dr. Benkin and I seek to empower Muslims and others to embrace the
religious diversity of our world; to accept that G-d has given us many paths by
which we can come to Him; and not seek a return to 7th century political and
intellectual constructs that deny all but one set of believer's equal legitimacy.

I am a devote Muslim, and I know that my faith, my Koran does not award 70 virgins
to those who murder children and seek to destroy the faith of our mutual prophet
Moses-our Jewish cousins who preceded us in our journey of faith.

We continue to write without ceasing-and now publish unmolested so we can counter
the lies that pass as journalism in most of the Muslim world. We seek to provide
my people with information-facts, as well as opinion-that most of the media is
either too ignorant or too fearful to publish. For it is only through the light of
truth, of free access to information, that we can overcome those who seek to
overturn centuries of progress. Under extreme adversities, Weekly Blitz and Weekly
Jamjamat are continuing publication, which are presently known as most vocal against
Islamist fundamentalism and extremism. Each week, number of readers is increasing,
although, our advertisers are hesitant to accord support with their advertisements,
for reason unknown, despite the fact that, Blitz by now has turned into the leading
tabloid weekly in Bangladesh.

Slowly, we are gaining adherents to our cause. Slowly, we are exchanging
information and ideas with more and more people who seek the same peace that we do.
Being inspired with our mission of peace, Bangladesh Minority Lawyers Association
(BMLA), under the courageous leadership of Advocate Samarendra Nath Goswami, has
expressed its solidarity to our cause. They are the first organization in
Bangladesh, which issued statements asking the government to immediately withdraw
the false sedition charge that still hangs on me, and end harassment.

We hope to participate in and perhaps empanel seminars and informational events
around the world-events that further our goal of true interfaith understanding.
Perhaps we will do this in own Bangladesh-a nation that is struggling, valiantly at
times, against terrorism and the evil incarnate that is attacking my people.

We do so even though the forces of evil remain arrayed against us. But each one of
their lies, each death threat against me and my brother only confirms that they
realize our efforts threaten their attempts to drag our world into an abyss. The
intensity of their opposition is perhaps the best measure of our success.
I salute those brave Muslim brothers and sisters who have the courage to say: "NO!"
to hate; "NO!" to Holocaust-denial; "NO!" to jihad; "NO!" to the demonization of
Israel, the United States, and the Jews.

Web Site = http://

Contact Details = Blitz Publications
169 Shahid Syed Nazrul Islam Sarani
Bijoy Nagar, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
Phone: 880-191-326232

  • Printer Friendly Format
  • Back to previous page...
  • Back to home page...
  • Submit your press releases...