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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was imprisoned for 17 months after being charged with sedition on November 29, 2003. The Bangladeshi journalist put himself in a highly precarious position by openly advocating relations between Israel and Bangladesh, along with all Muslim nations.
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Signs of progress
By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury   June 6, 2005

Upon my release from prison, I told my colleague, Dr. Richard Benkin, that if we can realize the goals that landed me there, "my 17-month incarceration would be worth it." Those goals were an open and unbiased flow of news about Israel to Bangladesh, increased relations between Israel and Muslim nations, and the elimination of hate toward the Jewish people in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the non-Arab Muslim world.

While the world focuses on high-profile peace-making efforts, even without addressing the ongoing anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish socialization at the root of the conflict, there are clear signs that real bridges are being built with Israel here in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Previously, the people of Bangladesh received only anti-Israeli news, and certainly nothing about the tiny openings of interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims. That began to change recently with the appearance of such pieces in the pages of Dhaka daily Amader Shomoy. Amader Shomoy is published in Bangladesh's vernacular language of Bangla, and now to a limited extent in English as well.

News of US Rabbi Marc Gopin's appearance on Damascus television as part of an interfaith discussion caused quite a stir. When news of Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom's visit to Mulsim Mauritania followed the next day, it became the talk of the Dhaka press community. Amader Shomoy editor Nayeemul Islam Khan said that his paper was swamped with phone calls about these and other articles of Benkin's. More surprising, the calls were overwhelmingly positive. Bangladeshis wanted to know more!

"Traditionally," Benkin told me, "anti-Israeli partisans framed the dispute in such a way that any contact with Israelis or even pro-Israeli idea, was tantamount to abandoning support for Arab Palestinians. It was defined as a betrayal."

The new freer flow of information is beginning to change that, because Bangladeshis do not have to engage in this new sort of contact and change their basic assumptions about things at the same time. It also allows political leaders to follow democratic principles that ultimately are in the best interests of their constituents.

Until now, most reporting on Israel and the Jewish people in Muslim countries nourished a culture of hatred. Many of the western news agencies reinforced that culture. Their news about Israel in the Muslim world, surprisingly appeased the radicals. The practice, unfortunately, continues despite attempts by many Muslims to increase their people?s access to free information. I asked a journalist working with an internationally acclaimed wire service the reason behind this notorious tendency. He responded that the news is a business, which leads them to cater to popular emotion, selecting only those elements that conform to mass sentiment. He acknowledge that such practices only increase the gap that has "unfortunately" been created between religions, as noted by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Moshed Khan recently. But he did not see his editors changing their policy anytime soon.

Khan has consistently spoken out against any rapproachment between Bangladesh and Israel but noted on his recent return from Washington that his country is ready to work closely with the United States in ending the division of the world in the name of religion. This is a very positive signal from Bangladeshi policy makers, as they consider withdrawing the ban on travel to Israel with the introduction of digitized passports this year. Other government authorities are studying the Gulf States-Israel relation as a possible model to follow.

Previously withheld news of Israeli relations with several Arab and Muslim countries has encouraged many of us in Bangladesh. Published statements by Libyan leader Gaddafi's son and positive signs from conservative Muslim countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, has brought us hope, as well.

Most Bangladeshi leaders, aside from some avowed radicals, favor Dhaka-Jerusalem relations as is. They have said privately that the lack of Bangladesh-Israel relations only strengthens the radical forces that they both recognize as threats to global peace. Bangladesh is an active participant in the war on terror, and many of its leaders are asking if their traditionally blind allegiance to Arab policies harms that effort and the people of Bangladesh.

Because Bangladesh is a democracy, its leaders must be cognizant of the popular will, which makes the role of the media critical. Most of the Bangladesh media, however, remains hostile towards Israel and the Jews. We don't expect them to become overnight Zionists, but we should expect open and unbiased news. Chicago based contributor, Benkin has been able to crack that iceberg with his articles, and is not receiving the same opposition that greeted my own Weekly Blitz after it published Bangladesh's first pro-Israeli news in 2003. If that trend continues and spreads to the rest of the non-Islamist Bangladeshi media, we can expect the government to proceed with stunning changes in its policies, beginning with removal of the travel ban to Israel later this year.

Ultimately, it is the people of Bangladesh who will benefit the most.

Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of israelinsider.

 Talk Back! Respond to this view

kosherkop  - Canada  (06/06/2005 13:26 IT) 
I applaud the heroism of Mr. Choudhury
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/06/2005 13:28 IT) 
BenYaakovKoppel  - NJ, U.S.A  (06/06/2005 14:07 IT) 
"Open Dialogue"
Sharonkerr  - Fergus, Canada  (06/06/2005 16:59 IT) 
RE:'Open Dialogue'
RedSniper  - Toronto, Canada  (06/06/2005 19:04 IT) 
RE:RE:'Open Dialogue'
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/06/2005 20:59 IT) 
Sharon & Her New "Friend"
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 01:08 IT) 
Basic freedoms
BitterSweet  - Other  (06/07/2005 02:20 IT) 
BitterSweet  - Other  (06/07/2005 02:23 IT) 
RE:Sharon & Her New 'Friend'
Sharonkerr  - Fergus, Canada  (06/07/2005 05:06 IT) 
Sanguine's Descent
behit1  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 05:11 IT) 
The High Seas Adventures of the Wet Diapered One
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 05:44 IT) 
Sounds very encouraging
Cynthia7  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 06:00 IT) 
Sanguine's Descent is earned
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/07/2005 06:14 IT) 
RE:Sanguine's Descent is earned
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/07/2005 06:53 IT) 
One Sanguine's funniest lines (05/06)
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 07:48 IT) 
Sanguine's Descent is earned/Wharold
MattyGroves  - Afghanistan  (06/07/2005 14:40 IT) 
RE:Sanguine's Descent is earned/Wharold
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/07/2005 15:48 IT) 
RE:RE:Sanguine's Descent is earned/Kosherkop
MattyGroves  - Afghanistan  (06/07/2005 16:50 IT) 
RE:RE:Sanguine's Descent is earned/Wharold
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 17:03 IT) 
RE:RE:RE:Sanguine's Descent is earned/Kosherkop
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/07/2005 17:08 IT) 
MattyGroves  - Afghanistan  (06/07/2005 17:27 IT) 
Traify the Court Eunuch .. How's your tutu?
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/07/2005 17:43 IT) 
RE:X4 Sanguine's Descent is earned/Kosherkop
MattyGroves  - Afghanistan  (06/07/2005 18:18 IT) 
RE: Sanguine's Descent is earned/Kosherkop
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/07/2005 18:56 IT) 
RE:RE: Sanguine's Descent is earned/wharold
MattyGroves  - Afghanistan  (06/07/2005 19:20 IT) 
RE:RE: Sanguine's Descent is earned/Kosherkop
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/07/2005 19:25 IT) 
Pardon the confusion
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/07/2005 19:33 IT) 
For the Love of Zion PART I
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/07/2005 20:45 IT) 
RE:For the Love of Zion PART II
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/07/2005 21:14 IT) 
RE:RE:For the Love of Zion PART II
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/08/2005 15:18 IT) 
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/08/2005 20:54 IT) 
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/08/2005 21:35 IT) 
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/08/2005 22:40 IT) 
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/08/2005 23:13 IT) 
Nicolas, I appeal to you again
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/09/2005 07:04 IT) 
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/09/2005 07:34 IT) 
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/09/2005 07:52 IT) 
RE:kosherkop 1
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/09/2005 18:48 IT) 
RE:kosherkop 2
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/09/2005 20:17 IT) 
RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/09/2005 22:58 IT) 
RE:RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 01:38 IT) 
RE:RE:kosherkop 2
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 01:54 IT) 
Who knew? Bangladesh?
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 01:55 IT) 
re: Nicholas for the love of Zion
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 02:31 IT) 
RE:RE:RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/10/2005 02:46 IT) 
RE:re: Nicholas for the love of Zion
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/10/2005 03:06 IT) 
RE:RE:RE:RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 03:54 IT) 
RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
sanguine  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 05:00 IT) 
To the Editor
lindaR  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 07:04 IT) 
RE:To the Editor
wharold  - Dar al-Harb (Calgary), Canada  (06/10/2005 08:42 IT) 
RE:RE:To the Editor
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 12:30 IT) 
RE:To the Editor
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 12:39 IT) 
What have we here, fighting Jews?
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 15:49 IT) 
kosherkop, remember?
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 15:51 IT) 
Petras, remember?
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/10/2005 16:27 IT) 
kosherkop re: Petras, remember?
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 17:24 IT) 
re: kosherkop
Petras  - U.S.A  (06/10/2005 17:26 IT) 
RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:Nicolas, I appeal to you again
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/11/2005 00:07 IT) 
RE:Petras, remember?--> koshercop!
Nicolas  - Victoria, Canada  (06/11/2005 02:47 IT) 
lindaR  - U.S.A  (06/11/2005 06:30 IT) 
The end of a love affair
kosherkop  - Canada  (06/11/2005 12:40 IT) 
Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a Hero
tor_abba  - Dhaka, Other  (03/20/2006 10:19 IT) 

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