Salah Choudhury

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Salah Choudhury
Salah Choudhury.jpg
Born Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
12 January 1965
Sylhet, Bangladesh
Residence Dhaka, Bangladesh
Website
Weekly Blitz

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury (Bengali: সালাহ উদ্দিন শোয়েব চৌধুরী; born 12 January 1965 in Sylhet, Bangladesh) is the editor of the Bangladeshi tabloid The Weekly Blitz[1][2] the most influential anti-Jihadist newspaper in Bangladesh, and editor-in-chief of vernacular weekly Jamjamat.

In 1996 he established the first private television channel in Bangladesh, A-21 TV.[citation needed] He has been physically assaulted three times and kidnapped once in Bangladesh due to his anti-jihadist views and his inclination to work with Israel in order to create an intercultural understanding between Israel and the Islamic world.[3]

Background[edit]

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury (known to his friends as Shoaib), is the eldest child in his family.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

In 1989, Choudhury started his journalistic career as a correspondent for Soviet Union's TASS News Agency. In 1991, he was promoted to the rank of chief correspondent of Itar-Tass News Agency in Bangladesh. He left Itar-TASS in 1996, as after the fall of Soviet Union: the news agency had to close down many of its offices in the world[citation needed].

In 1996, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury established the first private television channel in Bangladesh named A-21 TV[citation needed].

Publications[edit]

Choudhury has written a number of books in Bengali and English. His latest book, Injustice & Jihad, was published in October 2007. In May 2008, Italian publication house Neftasia published Choudhury's book titled Non Sono Colpevole in Italian. This was the first book by any contemporary Bangladeshi journalist translated into Italian.[4]

Inside Madrassa was published in October 2009 in Bangladesh. In this book, Choudhury gave extensive information on madrassa education, including unknown facts, Jihadist orientation inside madrassa, hate speech and many other important thus interesting topics, mostly related to radical Islam.

Choudhury opened a branch of the Israel-based International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace. He wrote about the rise of al-Qaeda in Bangladesh and has written articles critical of anti-Israeli and antisemitic attitudes in Muslim-majority countries.[5]

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the advisor of Bangladesh Minority Lawyer's Association since 2005.

Recognition[edit]

PEN USA gave their Freedom to Write Award to Choudhury in 2005 in recognition of his commitment to courageous journalism under extreme adversity.[6]

The American Jewish Committee presented its Moral Courage Award to him in May 2006, but the Bangladesh government prevented him from visiting the United States to receive the honor.[7]

HRH Prince Albert of Monaco awarded the 2007 Monaco Media Award to Choudhury for outstanding courage and commitment in confronting the culture of religious hatred.

Choudhury also received the Key to Englewood, (a city in New Jersey, United States), from Mayor Michael Wildes. Teaneck, New Jersey Mayor Elie Katz also gave him the certificate of moral courage in 2007 on behald of the City of Teaneck.

Assaults[edit]

In July 2006, a mob stormed the premises of Choudhury's tabloid and beat him, fracturing his ankle.[8] In September, a judge ordered the case continued, in spite of the government's reluctance to prosecute, as Choudhury had "spoiled" the "image of Bangladesh" and "hurt the sentiments of Muslims" by lauding Jews, Hindus and Christians. After the police detail that had been posted to the Blitz's offices since the July bombing had vanished, the offices were ransacked and Choudhury was badly beaten by a mob. When he lodged a formal complaint with the police, an arrest warrant was issued for him. The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka sent an observer to his trial.[9]

Later, Choudhury lodged a case in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate against the attackers, mostly belonging to the Cultural Wing of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Wall Street Journal

On 18 March 2008, members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) abducted Choudhury from his office at gun point. He was blind folded and taken to RAB office. In the late hours, Choudhury was released. Series of written complaints were sent with the military controlled interim government on this incident, but no action was ever taken by the Bangladesh authorities against the RAB men. CFP; Assam Tribune

The same month, the military-controlled interim government withdrew police protection from Choudhury's residence.[citation needed].

On 22 February 2009, armed thugs belonging to ruling Bangladesh Awami League entered Choudhury's office, ransacked the entire office and physically assaulted him and other members of the Weekly Blitz newspaper. Although a specific case was already lodged with the police station on the day of occurrence, there is no action yet by the law enforcing agencies against the culprits who are sheltered by the ruling party. CFP;

Treason charges[edit]

Choudhury is facing charges of sedition, treason, blasphemy and espionage since January 2004 for having tried to attend a conference of the Hebrew Writers' Association in Tel Aviv. He violated the Passport Act, by attempting to travel to Israel in November 2003. The Act forbids citizens from visiting countries with which Bangladesh does not maintain diplomatic relations, usually punishable by a fine of $8. It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh currently does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan and Israel. However, the travel ban on Taiwan was silently lifted while people started business with Taiwan in spite of the travel ban. On 29 November he was taken into police custody[10] and, as he tells it, blindfolded, beaten and interrogated for 10 days in an attempt to extract a confession that he was spying for Israel. He spent the next 17 months in solitary confinement, and was denied medical treatment for his glaucoma. On intervention of U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk, who spoke to Bangladesh's ambassador to the U.S., Choudhury was released on bail, though the charges were not dropped.[9]

Weekly Blitz[edit]

He is the editor of Weekly Blitz,[11] the most influential anti-Jihadist newspaper in Bangladesh, and editor-in-chief of vernacular weekly Jamjamat. He also is the editor of Daily Frontline.[12]

Choudhury's articles appear in various international press on a regular basis. He also is considered to be an expert on topics such as Islamist militancy and extensively works on finding root cause of Jihad . He is also invited by many reputed institutions around the world as a Speaker to give lecture on such topics as Islamist militancy, jihad, and Hate Speech and Political Islam.

Views on Islam[edit]

Choudhury rejects the assertion by Geert Wilders that there are moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islam. "My Islam derives from the Koran. This teaches that Muslims, Jews and Christians will all be rewarded for good deeds and punished for evil," he has said.[13]

Arrest[edit]

Choudhury was arrested on November 29, 2003 at Dhaka airport. The following is the news report.[14] from The Daily Star, the leading English language daily in Bangladesh:

A man was arrested at Shahjalal International Airport yesterday morning on his way to Tel Aviv for his alleged Mossad connection.

A leader of Bangladesh chapter of ‘Iflaq’, a Haifa-based organisation, Salauddin Shoib Chowdhury was carrying compact discs (CD's) and papers containing write-ups on some sensitive issues including ‘minority repression and the al Qaeda network in Bangladesh’, police said.

Shoaib was managing director of the planned Inquilab Television until he was sacked last year.

Members of different law enforcement agencies and Shahjalal immigration officials apprehended him at the immigration counter minutes before he was to leave for Bangkok by the Biman flight, BG-084, at 10:30am.

"He introduced himself as the editor of the ‘Blitz’, an entertainment magazine published from Dhaka, and said he was going to Bangkok," a top police officer said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

"Searching his luggage, we found a number of CD-formatted write-ups and papers that clearly proved his contact with Tel Aviv," he said. "He was going to take part in a conference in Tel Aviv scheduled to begin on 1 December", the police officer added.

It was however learnt that Shoaib’s movements were being monitored for quite sometime on suspicion of his connection with the Israeli secret service ‘Mossad’.

"He was going to Bangkok first and was scheduled to fly for Israel, a country Bangladeshi citizens are barred from travelling to," he said.

After release from 17-months imprisonment, Choudhury wrote in an Israeli newspaper "I also stand before you perhaps as a living contradiction: a Zionist, a defender of Israel, and a devout, practicing Muslim, living in a Moslem country." He said "I believe in the justice of the Zionist dream. I also acknowledge this historical reality: that the world has endeavored to crush that dream and, yes, even to destroy the viability of the Jewish people. At the same time, I live in an environment where people believe just as passionately in an opposing view—one that sees Israel as illegitimate; and the Jewish people as evil incarnate."[15]

Choudhury's father Ghulam Ather Choudhuri died on 29 March 2003, while his mother Sharifa Choudhury died on 9 August 2005. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was in prison when his mother died. The then government in Bangladesh refused petition by his family for him to attend his mother's funeral Ref: http://jewishvoiceandopinion.com/pdf/200708.pdf.

Inqilab Television[edit]

Choudhury was the managing director of Inqilab Television, a private television venture run by a major publication the Daily Inqilab. Choudhury was also a correspondent for the Daily Inqilab. Choudhury owned a 30% stake, worth approximately $1 million according to Choudhury, in Inqilab Television. Choudhury claims his ownership share in the television station was sold without his consent. In first court appearance, Choudhury claimed that his arrest was motivated by the financial dispute over his ownership stake in Inqilab Television.

Support for Choudhury[edit]

The campaign to get the government of Bangladesh to drop all charges against Choudhury is being led by Dr. Richard Benkin. Benkin, like Choudhury, is an Advisory Board Member of Islam-Israel Fellowship.[16] Dr. Benkin and Choudhury together formed Interfaith Strength to disseminate information about Choudhury's case. On September 6, 2005 Dr. Richard Benkin registered[17] as a foreign agent with the US Department of Justice, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).[18] According to the document filed with the US government, Dr. Benkin registered as a foreign agent with Lutfuzzaman Babar, former State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh, as his principal, for a sum of $5000 per month to prepare and disseminate informational materials via radio or TV broadcasts, magazines or newspaper articles, letters or telegrams, press releases and the internet. He was hired to disseminate this information to public officials, civic groups or associations, legislators, newspapers and editors. Benkin's decision was made in response to initially positive actions by the Bangladeshi government with respect to Choudhury as well as human rights issues. When it became clear to him, however, that these moves by the BNP government were only perfunctory, he ceased working with the government after only one month. Benkin refers to Babar as one of many sources of information about the Choudhury case in a few newspaper articles[19][20][21] of that period. Although those who have been trying to cover up the Bangladeshi government's role in persecuting Choudhury (especially leftists related to the then-opposition Awami League, a left-center party) have tried to make much of Benkin's former relationship with the Bangladeshi government, they have failed to convince anyone that it has any bearing on the case.[22]

In 2008, Kazi Aiz, a fundamentalist Muslim and an official of an Islamic organization, Khalefat Andolin Bangladesh [KAB], has publicly sided with Choudhury, calling the charges against him "false" and called on the Bangladeshi government to end its ban on travel to Israel.[23]

US House Resolution 64[edit]

On February 15, 2007, House Resolution 64 passed the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs without opposition. The resolution, introduced by Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), calls on the government of Bangladesh to drop all charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury charged with sedition for writing pro-Israel reports. The penalty for conviction could be death. The vote on the resolution was held on 13 March 2007 and the resolution passed by a vote of 409 to 1 with 4 members voting present.[24]

Impact[edit]

Choudhury and the Weekly Blitz have influenced government policy and popular opinion in Bangladesh. The articles have prompted the Bangladeshi government to ban the Islamist group Hizb-ut Tahrir and the antisemitic publication Dajjal, which is published by another notorious Islamist militancy group named Hizbut Towhid. A campaign against Zakir Naik led Britain and Canada to refuse him entry.[13]

Controversy[edit]

In March 2011, Aryeh Yosef Gallin, founder and president of the Root and Branch Association which is a nonprofit group that promotes cooperation between Israel and other nations, expelled Choudhury from its Islam-Israel Fellowship after reports surfaced that the Bangladeshi had bilked “emotionally vulnerable single Jewish ladies” out of tens of thousands of dollars.[25] On November 7, 2012, The Dhaka court sent Salauddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of local English weekly Blitz to jail, in connection with an embezzlement case filed by his business partner Sajjad Hossain.[26] He has had a long-standing confrontation with William Nicholas Gomes; Gomes has attempted to expose what he considered his yellow journalism.[27] Gomes has also exposed Shoiab false news on Hina Rabbani.[28][29]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ About Us, The Weekly Blitz
  2. ^ Office of controversial magazine Weekly Blitz bombed, Centre for Independent Journalism, 11 July 2006
  3. ^ "Stand up for Salah Choudhury". ajc.org. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Non sono colpevole Choudhury Salah U." (in Italian). 2008-04-25. 
  5. ^ Bangladesh: Journalist detained, The Committee to Protect Journalists, December 3, 2003
  6. ^ Honorary Member Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, PEN USA (with time table of events)
  7. ^ Wall Street Journal urges Bush Administration to protect Bangladesh journalist Choudhury from persecution, by Daya Gamage, Asian Tribune, 12 October 2006
  8. ^ Michael Freund, US slams trial of Bangladeshi newsman, Holiday International, 3 November 2006
  9. ^ a b Darkness in Dhaka - A gadfly Bangladeshi journalist runs for his life by Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal, 15 October 2006
  10. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 25 February 2004
  11. ^ http://www.weeklyblitz.net
  12. ^ http://www.dailyfrontline.net
  13. ^ a b Bangladesh's Muslim Zionist on trial The JC, By Brian Sacks, September 2, 2010
  14. ^ Man with 'Mosad links' held at Shahjalal, The Daily Star, November 30, 2003
  15. ^ Shoaib Choudhury, Salah Uddin (June 13, 2005). "A letter from a friend of Israel". Israel Insider. 
  16. ^ Bio of Dr. Richard Benkin, Interfaith Strength
  17. ^ Registration Statement of Richard Benkin, US Department of Justice, 6 September 2005
  18. ^ US lobbyists hired for image building, 'positive' reporting, The Daily Star, 10 April 2006
  19. ^ Bangladesh to Frame Sedition Charge against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury by Dr. Richard L. Benkin, Asian Tribune, May 19, 2006
  20. ^ Bangladeshi Islamists Bomb Independent Newspaper by Dr. Richard L. Benkin, Asian Tribune, July 6, 2006
  21. ^ Appeasement of Islamists Adherence to Injustice Send US-Bangladesh Relations into Decline, by Dr. Richard L. Benkin, Asian Tribune, 3 November 2006
  22. ^ The papers noting Benkin's ending the relationship with the Bangladeshi government, including the date, are on file with the United States Department of Justice.
  23. ^ Fundamentalist Muslim wants Bangladeshi Government to end its ban on travel to Israel
  24. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll139.xml
  25. ^ [1]"The unfathomable life of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury"
  26. ^ [2]"Blitz editor sent to jail"
  27. ^ "Yellow journalism of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury". ModernGhana.com. 2011-01-19. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  28. ^ "Yellow Journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury: Attack on Hina Rabbani Khar". Salem-News.Com. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  29. ^ "British paper alleges ISI role in Hina-Bilawal affair rumors | Pakistan Today | Latest news | Breaking news | Pakistan News | World news | Business | Sport and Multimedia". Pakistan Today. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 

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