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Blitz editor faces trial for anti radical writings

Blitz editor faces trial for

anti radical writings
Staff Correspondent

When the present interim government is continuing to show to the world that they are committed in combating Islamist militancy in Bangladesh by already executing six notorious kingpins of outlawed Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) as well as bringing charges against the abettors and patrons of such heinous crime, internationally acclaimed award winning journalist and editor of Weekly Blitz, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury continues to face sedition, treason and blasphemy charges in Bangladeshi court for writing about rise of Islamist militants in various madrassas in Bangladesh.

In 2003, Choudhury wrote several investigative reports on the existence and activities of several radical groups in Bangladesh, along with the patrons of such notorious activities.

In one of his article, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury wrote in 2003: “Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of rancor against other faiths. However, our society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim extremists.
We must admit that most of the people of
Bangladesh still lack the opportunity for modern, scientific education and are therefore open to persuasion by religious extremists. In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. Recently, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.

In the capital city of Dhaka, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class. Previously, madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments, and even include boys of the richest class..
One of the accused arrested from one such institution confessed to
Bangladesh police that they were planning to have an Islamic revolution in the country, and that they were anxiously looking for boys from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them. The accused admitted that they were heavily funded by a number of African and Arab countries.
The arrest and statement of the accused have been widely carried by local press. According to these reports, these belligerent people under the covering of various 'Deen' (true path) training organizations intend to coach a section of ill-educated and prejudiced people to be their followers. . Through their clandestine campaigns they are plotting to wage a 'Holy War'. As instruments to induce rage and delude people, they are using different recorded tapes with extremist provocative speeches and songs. They also include messages from Osama Bin Laden.

A few months ago a Syrian teacher was arrested. He had belonged to a similar organization named the 'Al-Haramine Institution'. According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the kindergarten madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in the country and even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of the are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as compensation.
According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintains a secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.
Al-Haramine Institute is gradually spreading its wings in other parts of
Bangladesh too. Recently they have established their offices in eastern and southern Bangladesh. One of the main objectives of this organization is to sell the idea of jihad (in the sense of violent holy war) to the masses. The organization maintains very good relations with some extremist news dailies. Owners of these dailies are regularly compensated by this organization and in exchange, these newspapers give quite open support to its activities.

Al-Koran Academy is another such organization run by one Hafez Munirul Islam. He was a teacher in a local madrassa with the monthly salary of US$ 75 only. Just recently an office of Al-Koran Society has been established in Bangladesh with Hafez Munirul as its Executive Director in Bangladesh. Office of the organization is located at city's top most posh area costing US$ 2000 per month. Hafez Munirul also receives US$ 1000 as a monthly salary. This organization claims that its main activity is printing and distributing the Koran. However, in fact, Al-Koran Academy is mostly engaged in providing political coordinators for various mosques in Bangladesh. The local tax department raised questions about the sudden change in fortunes of this poor madrassa teacher, and investigated the sources of the funding. They found that most funding for this organization comes from the Middle East.
The Daily Inqilab acts as a mouthpiece of the fundamentalists in
Bangladesh. It is an extremist sort of provocative newspaper spreading the theme of jihad amongst the local population. Inqilab was initially funded by Iraq's deposed autocrat Saddam Hussain and presently it receives regular cash support from a large number of hidden organizations in Bangladesh and abroad. One of the owners of this daily is based in Dubai where from global activities of this organization continues. It is believed that Inqilab enjoys very close contact with Osama Bin Laden, and it has extremely good relations with a large number of small and medium ranking organizations and parties in Bangladesh. Some of these organizations are on the regular pay role of the daily.

Destruction, fanaticism and terror are not the way to bring about positive changes in the minds of people or in any society. Such attempts have always met a grim fate in the past, whether perpetrated by organizations or states.

World leaders, government and various organizations have started to make people aware of vicious designs of the extremists and to combat them. Governments, along with the law enforcing agencies should strengthen their efforts to isolate these destructive elements before it is too late. Various media can also serve to disseminate messages to counter extremist propaganda, to generate awareness, and to organize people in favor of peace and against all sorts of religious and other extremism.

In another article, commenting on the rise of Islamist militancy Choudhury wrote: “Muslim nations compare us with Pakistan, which is 97 percent Moslem, Egypt 94 percent, and Iran which is 99 percent Muslims. We Bangladeshi Muslims have learned to respect other faiths. And we are also—in contrast to those other countries—a democracy.
The greatest number of non-Muslims in
Bangladesh are Hindu. Others adhere to other so-called "Eastern" and "tribal" religions. But we also have a small  Christian population, and I want to share our experience in Bangladesh with my readers, because I believe it is very instructive. Christian missionaries, as we know, are active throughout the world, including several Muslim countries. They operate churches and schools with the goal of  convincing people to embrace Christianity—of "spreading the Gospel." Muslim leaders have not always welcomed them. In Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, they have been attacked, arrested, and expelled. But among the tolerant Muslims of Bangladesh, some 400 such missionaries operate free of such harassment. And they have been successful in converting some 500,000 members of tribal groups and various minorities to their faith. Do we Bangladeshi Muslims consider this an offense against The Prophet? Do the converts face legal or other disabilities?
No, because that is not our way. Quite the contrary, we recognize the missionaries’ charitable work and positive efforts among the people—our people. Just outside
Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, are the areas of ‘Bhaluka’ and ‘Pubail.’ Most of the residents are converts to  Christianity, and I have personally visited the area several times. Beyond their proselytizing, the missionaries have established schools, colleges, hospitals, community centers, and other facilities for the local population. They have helped many poor farmers out of poverty and their previous lives on the constant edge of starvation, and helped modernize Bangladeshi agricultural. Lives in Bhaluka and Pubail are changing very fast and the paradigm is becoming a positive example for Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist neighborhoods. And of course, no one has accused them of using their activities as a cover for terror, or raised any objection to their activities.
You might be surprised to see the conservative Bangladeshi Muslims celebrating Christmas and other holidays with the Christian community in our country. School children from all faiths share these celebrations with Christian  classmates. Their parents have not objected and in fact are rather happy to see their children participate in the religious festivals of others. In some English-language schools, students even read the Christian Bible and tales of Christian saints. All of this is surely creating a more open atmosphere for our next generation.
In December 2002, more than two million Christmas cards were sold in various outlets throughout
Bangladesh. These statistics alone are evidence of  Bangladeshi tolerance. But, what they do not reveal is the positive role that both electronic and print media played in our acceptance and even enthusiasm for various Christian festivals and rituals. During Christmas, for instance, Bangladesh’s state owned electronic media offer elaborate programs to mark the occasion, and newspapers print special articles and supplements. Christmas Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh, even though Islam is our state religion. The significance of this history is apparent: contrary to the—accurate—image of most Muslim nations, Bangladesh is a society tolerant of other religions.
But even in Bangladesh—and certainly elsewhere in the Muslim world--many of us have a blind spot, don’t we? And I am ashamed to say that it is with regard to the Jewish people and Israel that too many conveniently ignore the nobler, and even essential, principles of Islam—and of basic human decency, for G-d’s sake! In contrast to the Christian missionaries are the Islamic missionaries who have taken root in
Bangladesh recently. Funded by shadowy sources in the Middle East and Africa, they operate under charitable-sounding names like Islamic Hospital, Free Ambulance Service, and Kindergarten Madrassa. But charitable they are not. Whispered allegations—for louder objections place you at considerable risk—whispered allegations that Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas train students for guerilla war found support when many of their graduates went on to real battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq; and, yes, some even volunteered to fight alongside the PLO and other terrorist organizations right here.

"Repatriated Soldiers from Palestine," an organization in Bangladesh, cares for "soldiers" wounded in the fighting here, then recruits a fresh batch of terrorists to take their place. You might think these revelations would harm their agenda—place them in a bad light among the
people. If anything, it improves their standing in the eyes of, to my chagrin, many Bangladeshi citizens. That popularity has taken them to more affluent and influential neighborhoods, away from the lower-middle class and poverty-stricken areas that were once their exclusive location.
Children of prominent Bangladeshis now attend the Madrassas, where they learn Bangla (our vernacular), Arabic, Urdu, English, and in some places, French, as well as other advertised subjects. But they also learn the theory and practice of guerilla warfare. Old hates are taught as faith, and they learn to revere Bin Laden, Arafat, Saddam, and the shahids. Innocent Muslim children are lured towards ‘Jihad,’ are taught to hate Christians and Jews, and are encouraged to kill them and destroy their property as a religious duty.
Glimpse the future leaders and elites of
Bangladesh! It so distressed me to think of them taking positions of influence with the extremist attitudes, and hatred brainwashed into them by the Madrassas. These institutions surely are breeding thousands of Bin Ladens and Arafats for our children’s futures.
Naturally, such education takes hold only because it finds support in other social institutions. I am sorry to confess that most mosques in
Bangladesh and elsewhere have turned Friday Prayer into carefully orchestrated hate-fests. People are exhorted to hate Christians, and Jews especially. Fearing neither contradiction nor censure, Mullahs openly quote Hadit (verses from The Prophet) that any Muslim who befriends or has any relations with Jews or Christians will be cursed by Almighty G-d and sent to hell.

Despite the fact that, most of the prophecies of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury already turned true in the eyes of the people but, unfortunately, the false charges against him continues to hang.
Posted on 03 Apr 2007 by Root


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