|Journalist accused of treasonVows to continue fight against radical Islam|
by Eric Fingerhut
Bangladeshi journalist facing a death sentence for traveling to Israel
says he doesn't want political asylum. He wants to fight the charges
and help his country escape the influence of radical Islam.
the District last week, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury said it was
essential for the world to know that his country was suffering from the
"very dangerous growth" of radical Islam financially backed by Saudi
about 20 people at the American Jewish Committee's office on Wednesday
morning of last week, he said he hoped that Americans would raise the
issue with Muslim governments and take actions, such as stop buying
Saudi oil, that would hinder the spread of Saudi influence.
a Muslim, is the publisher of the English-language newspaper The Weekly
Blitz. He was arrested in 2003 before boarding a plane to Jerusalem for
a meeting of the Hebrew Writers Association.
spent the next 17 months being tortured in a Bangladeshi prison ‹ where
his legs were broken, he was forced to sleep on a bale of hay and his
eyesight was damaged, according to Richard Benkin, a Chicago Jewish
activist who has been assisting Choudhury throughout his ordeal and
appeared with him at the AJCommittee meeting.
has been charged with three crimes: blasphemy, for criticizing Islamic
militancy; sedition, for attempting to travel to the Jewish state; and
treason, for praising Jews and Christians. His fate will be decided not
by a jury, but by the decision of one man, the judge. The trial is
closed to the media, but Choudhury said that the U.S. Embassy and the
European Union have sent observers.
the U.S. for a week before his trial resumes later this month,
Choudhury said that the new army-backed interim government in
Bangladesh was willing to let him leave the country because it didn't
want to anger journalists.
"They have enough enemies," he said. "They don't want to make more enemies at this stage."
said all Bangladesh journalists, and many others, are familiar with his
case. But many shy away from writing about it, he said, because they
are worried that the government could urge an advertising boycott of
their publications or make other trouble for them.
he said, Western journalists seem to ignore issues "when it is a
question of Israel and Jews," and thus have not been doing enough
reporting about what is happening in his native country.
pointed out that there are 64,000 madrassas (Islamic religious schools)
now in Bangladesh and 3,780 "kindergarten madrassas," funded by Saudi
Arabia and teaching children lessons such as "Jews and Christians are
Furthermore, he noted that while one must get a license to open a school in Bangladesh, the madrassas are under no such rules.
"This is the way the money is coming into the Muslim world," he said. "They're using money to" radicalize young people, he said.
believes that if he were to accept offers of political asylum, his
ordeal would have been for naught. He added that he hoped those
"creating trouble" for his country might take asylum in Saudi Arabia
instead, but acknowledged that was unlikely.
has the attention of political leaders in the United States. With the
help of lobbying from AJCommittee, the House of Representatives, by a
vote of 409-1, passed a resolution in March urging the Bangladeshi
government to drop the charges and stop its harassment of Choudhury.
said that he and Choudhury have received more requests for
congressional meetings than they could accommodate during the weeklong
and Benkin also stressed that the United States, because of its
economic and political standing, has a tremendous amount of influence
in a country such as Bangladesh. Choudhury noted that any U.S.
ambassador who requests to meet with the head of the Bangladeshi
government is immediately welcomed.
the congressional resolution was not enough to convince Bangladesh to
drop the charges. Asked if he has hope that he will win in court,
Choudhury said to a reporter, "I have to ‹ otherwise I'd become