STATEMENT BY DR. RICHARD L. BENKIN ON THE BOMBING OF WEEKLY BLITZ OFFICE AND THE ATTACK ON HIS BROTHER SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY;

READ AT A RALLY IN SUPPORT OF SHOAIB, DHAKA, JULY 6, 2006.

 

What manner of man responds to ideas with a bomb?  What kind of man has a world view so warped—so fragile—that it cannot brook any thought that has not first been its own?  What manner of man is that?  It is a man outside of civilization, a man dangerous to all who believe that the rule of law is more important than whether or not individual laws are to our momentary liking.

 

What manner of man attacked my brother, and in so doing attacked the principle that all should be free to express their views without fear?  It was a man with no mind, no heart, and saddest of all, no soul.

 

A man with no mind because he is obviously incapable of engaging Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury—or anyone else—in a free exchange of ideas.  An enemy of civilization as well, because it is precisely such exchanges that preserve civilization for our posterity.

 

A man with no heart because he is wrapped so tightly in his own little cocoon of a world that he is unable to see others as sharing the same qualities of human-ness that he claims for himself.

 

And a man with no soul because he dishonors the faith he claims to defend and is, in the end, faith-less.  For whether it was his attack on the Ahmadiyya’s prayers or Shoaib’s ideas; Noor Hussain Noorani blasphemously believes that Islam is a feeble religion and its followers even weaker in their beliefs.  How else can one explain his morbid fear of any ideas that veer from the specific Islamic orthodoxy that he and his ilk promote?  Does he really believe that Judaism—with its several different belief branches—and Christianity—which has survived schism and division; are far stronger, far more durable than the Religion of the Prophet?  I submit that he does, and in so doing de-values not only Islam but its followers as well.

 

Noor Hussain Noorani and his Islamist ilk think so little of Bangladesh and Bangladeshis that they do not believe you are as capable as, say, Americans, Japanese, or Israelis; whose societies operate in accordance with the rule of law; and where disagreements are resolved in courts of law or in the marketplace of ideas:  where individuals are given both the credit and responsibility for their decisions and their consequences.

 

But if Islamists like Noorani have their way and rule the roost in Bangladesh, all of that will be gone.  And if religious minorities get in the way, too bad.  And if people like Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and other thinking Bangladeshis dare to have a different thought or two, too bad for them as well.  And too bad for all of us.

 

For whether they seize power by more bombs or by taking advantage of disorganization and discontent in January, the tragic results will be the same.

 

But we see here today a different manner of man and woman—people of courage, people of ideas, people who say “No” to a closed mind, who say “No” to a heart of stone, and who say “No” to the soulless life of faithlessness and fear.  And for what it is worth, I too stand with you, as do many others around the world and even in the corridors of power in Washington, DC.

 

When subversives in the government tried to silence my brother by throwing him in prison and subjecting him to all manner of mistreatment; we stood by him until he was free.  And if they persist in their vain and insulting attempts at silencing him, we will continue to stand with him.  Whether it is by pursuing the charges against him—which they have admitted are false and without foundation; or by allowing uncivilized and faithless louts to act with impunity; there are many who will stand with him—and with all who stand for a free Bangladesh, a Bangladesh that is true to its traditions of free ideas and a veritable garden of ways that people can approach the divine.