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Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury: What are you willing to do for peace and freedom?


Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury is the Bangladesh journalist who is being persecuted because he advocates peace and moderation and speaks out against Muslim extremism. I have been writing about Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury since he was arrested for the "crime" of trying to come to Israel to address a dialogue conference in 2003. The extensive and grueling nightmare was not due to the technical violation of attempting to come to Israel, an offence that carries a six month maximum penalty, but to his outspoken stance against Islamist extremism, for which he faces the death penalty for "sedition."

Since then he has been tortured in jail, beaten by rioters, and reviled throughout the Muslim world. Bangladeshi and other Muslim world journals published all manner of lies about him: that he is a homosexual, that he is an agent of the Mossad, a crook and worse. One man commented on the very first article I wrote [spelling is as in the original]:

...He is a known fraudster who defrauded a lot of people financially and otherwise. Now is the most stunnign revealation - he is a known criminal of terrorist nature...

That is a mild sample of the "stunning revelations" - baseless and vicious rubbish that has been spread throughout Asia, simply because Salah has dared to fight the insane cancer of Islamism, terror and hate.

I have known all this from the start, but the meaning of Salah's sacrifice was only brought home to me by an interview with him published recently in the Berliner Zeitung:

It is already over half a year since the time the hoodlums came into his office. A prominent politician accompanied them, he says, so prominent that the police refused afterwards to publicize the incident. Choudhury limps a little. His face is permanently swollen. If he speaks, it sounds as if he has something in his mouth. Also, even in weakly illuminated areas he carries dark sun glasses, in order to hide his right eye, gone blind by glaucoma. An operation could have easily saved it, but during his prison stay treatment was denied. Nevertheless he is ready to be locked up for his convictions again in 40 degree celsius heat in solitary confinement. "The fan was turned off in my cell always," he says...

Only about five million of Bangladesh's 183 million inhabitants sympathizes with the radicals, estimates Choudhury. Nevertheless he get little support in his own country. Hardly anyone dares to openly take his side. Even relatives and friends turned away from him. "Many of them were threatened", says Choudhury. His house, a small mansion in one of the better quarters of Dhaka, is protected at night by watchmen with large rifles. Both of his children are brought to school in morning by a driver and brought home again later. They rarely visit friends. "However the situation welds us together as a family," explains Choudhury. "My wife and my children tell me again and again, how proud they are of me."

Would Choudhury take it into consideration, if this acknowledgment also nevertheless included the request 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 life. "Who leaves the battleground, has lost", he says." However, whoever struggles for the right cause always wins."

. Reading this brought home to me that Salah is one of those heros who makes a great sacrifice to give a gift of enormous value to his people. Salah is offering the gifts of peace and freedom to Bangladesh, to the Muslim world, and to the entire world. These gifts are priceless. The struggles of such heroes are always difficult, and often thankless.

We can understand just how valuable these gifts are, and how desperately they are needed, when we remember the violence that has torn apart Bangladesh in the past months, and the violence that is tearing apart both South Asia and the Middle East. Suicide bombers explode in Iraq and Afghanistan almost every day, murdering people endlessly. Bombings in Algeria and Morocco are a reminder that the devilish genie of terror, once uncorked from his bottle, is proving very difficult to put back. There are many suicide bombers for every Salah Choudhury. It seems that it is much easier to get people to blow themselves up in the causes of hatred, fanaticism, tyranny and chaos, then to take up the defense of peace, freedom and civilization.

In Lebanon, an entire people are held in the grip of a fanatic charlatan organization, the Hezbollah. In an April 15 interview on the Iranian Arabic language TV station 'al Qawthar', Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Kassem freely admitted that every move they make, every bullet they fire, and all the suffering they brought on the Lebanese and Israeli peoples, are all controlled from Tehran. A cynical and evil regime is fighting their battles on the soil of others.

Today is Israel's memorial day for our war dead. Over 20,000 Israelis have died in the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs, and over 50,000 Arabs has sacrificed their lives as well. These huge numbers are dwarfed by the dead of the Iran-Iraq war and the genocidal crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime. To those figures we must add the victims of 9-11, of the London bombings of the bombings in Algeria and Morocco and Turkey and Egypt and Bali and Jordan, and the list does not end there. The lesson is clear. If we are unwilling to sacrifice for peace and freedom, we shall pay a much greater price for war and tyranny.

The OneVoice Movement asks "What are you willing to do for peace?" Most of us cannot live up to the example of Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, but he has certainly given us all something to think about.

What are you willing to do for peace?

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000582.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment

My sincere thanks to the writers of this article. My name is Anita and I live in Kolkata, India. By profession, I am a free lance journalist. Since 2005, case of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury came to my knwledge. I absolutely agree with Ami Iseroff that Choudhury is a hero. He dares to speak the truth when others are affraid of. We really need to stad for him

Posted by Anita Mathur @ 04/24/2007 09:22 AM CST

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