Judi McLeod Bio
Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Bangladesh judge suddenly revokes journalist Shoaib Choudhury’s bailBy Judi McLeod Sunday, November 25, 2007
Almost every month, award-winning, Muslim, Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury must stand alone before an Islamist judge in Dhaka. How far away his friends in Western countries must seem when Choudhury stands before a judge with the power to sentence him to death.
Only world attention kept alive by an American professor keeps his death and return to prison at bay. But who can really say for how long?
Because Choudhury has twice been able to travel to the United States at the invitation of prominent senators, people have come to believe that the plucky journalist will always be safe from harm.
But on the return from his second trip abroad two weeks ago, the Bangladeshi court that controls his fate suddenly raised the stakes. This time, the judge suddenly revoked Choudhury’s bail, and the question mark always over his head, now flashes like a nighttime neon sign.
The publisher and editor of the Dhaka-based Weekly Blitz came to the notice of Bangladeshi authorities in 2003, when for the first time he wrote in his newspaper how jihadists were being bred in his country’s 64,000 madrassas—including kindergarten madrassas, most of which are beyond any form of governmental control of supervision.
With a pen that was resolute, Choudhury, who gained experience as an investigative journalist at Russia’s Tass News, chronicled their number and locations.
“Many are located long the Indian border in the west and north, where young radicals from both countries are taught the virtues of orthodox Islam,” Choudury wrote in Weekly Blitz. “Funding for the madrassas comes from donations from local communities and from international Islamic charities, such as the Saudi Arabia-based and immensely wealthy Rabitat Al Alam Al Islami.”
“The madrassas, he says, “fill an important function in a country where basic education is available only to a few, especially in the impoverished countryside, but as Bangladeshi journalist Salahuddin Babar said: “Once the students graduate from the madrassas, they either join mosques as imams or similar religious-related jobs. There are hundreds of thousands of mosques, so there is employment in that field. But they find it difficult to get employment in secular institutions. Certain quarters grab this opportunity to brainwash them, make them into religious fanatics rather than moderate Muslims.”
Moderate Muslims note that the Taliban was born in similar madrassass in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and in Afghan refugee camps, where they promoted a new radical and extremely militant model for `Islamic revolutions’.
Dangerous descriptions for a non-Muslim to make, but when the Paul Revere of Bangladesh happens to be a Muslim-born whistle blower, imagine the powerful need to silence his voice.
Choudhury was arrested, tortured and sent to prison for 17 months shortly after writing about the madrassas.
But even the pressure of the international community has failed to get Bangladesh to drop the trumped up charges against him since his release.
For praising Jews and Christians alike, for daring to continue to call for relations between Bangladesh and Israel and for forecasting the rise of Islamist militancy in his home country, Choudhury was charged with sedition, treason and blasphemy.
“They said that I tarnished the image of Bangladesh in the international arena,” he said.
His 2005 release from prison, won by Jewish activist Dr. Richard Benkin, with the aid of US Congressman Mark Steven Kirk, Nita Lowey and Australian Senator, Ursula Stephens, should have ended the Bangladesh court charade.
But in 2006 after he returned to family and work, Choudhury’s office was bombed and two attempts were made on his life.
Among those who wish him grievous harm is radical Islamist leader, Noor Hussain Noorani.
“Noorani personally threatened my life, calling me an “agent of Ahmedias”, Choudhury said.
Noorani heads the radical Khatmey Nabuat Movement (KNM), which clashed with police several times when it tried to attack the Ahmadi prayer services in Bangladesh.
The Ahmadi are a Muslim group that has angered fundamentalists by its belief that Muhammed was not the final prophet, and for their belief in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
With the kind of courage that awes and an unassuming personality that uses humour to deal with daily stress that would break the spirit of most, Choudhury makes friends wherever he goes.
Some of those friends, including Yours Truly have been pressing him to leave Bangladesh and to take asylum abroad.
“To me, there is no dignity or honor in retreating from my mission of peace,” says Choudhury.
“I know in my heart that if I were to retreat from this battle field filled with religious fanatics, or choose to willingly abandon my mission, anyone else might think twice before raising a strong voice to say no to jihad in Bangladesh.”
A clear and present danger has never silenced the voice of the man called before an Islamist judge every month for the past two years.
God protect Salah Uddin Shoiab Choudhury always.