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JPost.com » BlogCentral » Big Names » In the Trenches » A profile in courage

Thirty years ago, Elena Bonner, the prominent Soviet human rights activist and the wife of the legendary Andrei Sakharov, sat in my office in Rome. She was accompanying her daughter’s family to Italy, their first stop on the emigration journey that would eventually take them to Boston. But Ms. Bonner would only go as far as Rome, have her ailing eyes checked, and then return to the Soviet Union.

When I asked her how she could go back in light of the repression that she and her husband were enduring, she looked at me as if the question were nonsensical. Her place, she said, was at home, not in the West. That’s where the struggle was and that’s where her voice was needed. She and her husband would face whatever the Kremlin thought of next because the stakes made the struggle necessary.

I thought of Elena Bonner as Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a self-proclaimed “Muslim Zionist” from Bangaldesh, when he spoke to an American Jewish Committee audience in New York last week.

Surprisingly, after years of being prevented from traveling abroad, he was allowed to come to the US for a week. But afterwards, he was to return to Dhaka and danger. Choudhury, the publisher and editor of a weekly English-language newspaper, has been charged with treason, sedition, and blasphemy. His alleged crimes? Advocating relations between Bangladesh and Israel, promoting interfaith respect and tolerance, and denouncing Islamic radicalism. For these transgressions, he could be sentenced to death. As it is, he’s already been imprisoned, placed in isolation and tortured, while his newspaper’s offices have been bombed twice.

In May 2006, AJC invited Choudhury to Washington to receive our Moral Courage Award. The same award was previously given to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born human rights activist and former Dutch parliamentarian, and Mithal al-Alusi, the Iraqi parliamentarian who called for relations with Israel, and for that “crime” suffered the murder of his two sons.

Choudhury wasn’t allowed out of Bangladesh. Instead, he recorded a video message that was shown to the 1,000 people in attendance. But this time he was here in our midst. Why did he get permission to leave? He speculates that the government either wanted to generate some good public relations or maybe hoped he wouldn’t return. “When members of the government saw me leave,” he commented, with a twinkle in his eye, “I bet they said, ‘Good, one less headache.’” Then he added, “But when I go back on Sunday, I hope they will have twice the headache.”

Choudhury, who remarkably acts as if he didn’t have a care in the world, insisted that his place was in Bangladesh, one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world. “Should we just retreat or surrender?” he asked. “We have to fight. We have to win the battle right in Bangladesh. I don’t like those people who are talking about secularism and criticizing radicals, but then, at the first opportunity, want to seek political asylum in Western countries, lead a peaceful life and give some big lectures. The problem is here in my own country, and I have to stay and fight the battle. And we have to win the battle.”

Choudhury’s words were, for me, echoes of Elena Bonner in the 1970s. I recall how many people at the time thought she and her husband were simply tilting at windmills. But these Soviet human rights campaigners were, of course, on the right side of history.

Like them, Choudhury doesn’t succumb to despair and isn’t overwhelmed by the apparent odds against him. He asserts that “the people of Bangladesh are not radicals, but moderates. But the people who control us, the people who run us, the people who administrate us, are extremely radical. … Islamic forces are gaining power every day – silently – under the patronage of foreign sources, particularly from Saudi Arabia. … If someone wanted to build a school in Bangladesh, they would be faced with all kinds of bureaucracy. But if they wanted to build a madrasa, they could do so with ease.”

He movingly appealed to the audience: “Please join your voice with ours. Let us be louder. Because if we are silent, we know the consequences, as history has taught us. We should be louder. Once we become louder, the forces of radical Islam become the minority they are. I am looking forward to a world when we all raise our voice together and say no to jihad, no to Holocaust denial, and no to the culture of hatred.”

Choudhury is now back home. His trial is set to resume on August 17. He needs us. No less importantly, we need him. We are in this together, however unequal the relationship. After all, his life is on the line. All he asks of us, our governments, and human rights institutions is solidarity. Can we do any less?


COMMENTS
9.  I posted about Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on My blog several mnths ago. I hoped to read more about him in any LIberal Press, may be even to hear from the UN Forums and Amnesty Intl....of course, it did not happen. Who needs to defend REAL MODERN MUSLIM????
And if I were to ask any of those who scream on top of their lungs about modern Muslims, I doubt very much they ever heard of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

May be its about time for them to look up his name and do something instead of yealling and screaming......so, here is your chance , MY Liberal friends....or may be he is not the kind of Modern Muslim you want to hear about,,is he???

LG, NYC, Aug 8 6:08PM
8.  How heroic! I wonder if Mr. Harris would express admiration for an Israeli Jew who announced his support for dismantling Israel in favor of an Arab state. An Arab Zionist. Give me a break!
Stephen Rosen, Hartford, CT, Aug 8 5:08PM
7.  Profile of a HERO Aug 8, 2007 10:41 am
1 view
POSTED BY DAVID HARRIS

Thirty years ago, Elena Bonner, the prominent Soviet human rights activist and the wife of the legendary Andrei Sakharov, sat in my office in Rome. She was accompanying her daughter’s family to Italy, their first stop on the emigration journey that would eventually take them to Boston. But Ms. Bonner would only go as far as Rome, have her ailing eyes checked, and then return to the Soviet Union.

When I asked her how she could go back in light of the repression that she and her husband were enduring, she looked at me as if the question were nonsensical. Her place, she said, was at home, not in the West. That’s where the struggle was and that’s where her voice was needed. She and her husband would face whatever the Kremlin thought of next because the stakes made the struggle necessary.

I thought of Elena Bonner as Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a self-proclaimed “Muslim Zionist” from Bangaldesh, when he spoke to an American Jewish Committee audience in New York last week.

Surprisingly, after years of being prevented from traveling abroad, he was allowed to come to the US for a week. But afterwards, he was to return to Dhaka and danger. Choudhury, the publisher and editor of a weekly English-language newspaper, has been charged with treason, sedition, and blasphemy. His alleged crimes? Advocating relations between Bangladesh and Israel, promoting interfaith respect and tolerance, and denouncing Islamic radicalism. For these transgressions, he could be sentenced to death. As it is, he’s already been imprisoned, placed in isolation and tortured, while his newspaper’s offices have been bombed twice.

In May 2006, AJC invited Choudhury to Washington to receive our Moral Courage Award. The same award was previously given to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born human rights activist and former Dutch parliamentarian, and Mithal al-Alusi, the Iraqi parliamentarian who called for relations with Israel, and for that “crime” suffered the murder of his two sons.

Choudhury wasn’t allowed out of Bangladesh. Instead, he recorded a video message that was shown to the 1,000 people in attendance. But this time he was here in our midst. Why did he get permission to leave? He speculates that the government either wanted to generate some good public relations or maybe hoped he wouldn’t return. “When members of the government saw me leave,” he commented, with a twinkle in his eye, “I bet they said, ‘Good, one less headache.’” Then he added, “But when I go back on Sunday, I hope they will have twice the headache.”

Choudhury, who remarkably acts as if he didn’t have a care in the world, insisted that his place was in Bangladesh, one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world. “Should we just retreat or surrender?” he asked. “We have to fight. We have to win the battle right in Bangladesh. I don’t like those people who are talking about secularism and criticizing radicals, but then, at the first opportunity, want to seek political asylum in Western countries, lead a peaceful life and give some big lectures. The problem is here in my own country, and I have to stay and fight the battle. And we have to win the battle.”
Choudhury’s words were, for me, echoes of Elena Bonner in the 1970s. I recall how many people at the time thought she and her husband were simply tilting at windmills. But these Soviet human rights campaigners were, of course, on the right side of history.

Like them, Choudhury doesn’t succumb to despair and isn’t overwhelmed by the apparent odds against him. He asserts that “the people of Bangladesh are not radicals, but moderates. But the people who control us, the people who run us, the people who administrate us, are extremely radical. … Islamic forces are gaining power every day – silently – under the patronage of foreign sources, particularly from Saudi Arabia. … If someone wanted to build a school in Bangladesh, they would be faced with all kinds of bureaucracy. But if they wanted to build a madrasa, they could do so with ease.”
He movingly appealed to the audience: “Please join your voice with ours. Let us be louder. Because if we are silent, we know the consequences, as history has taught us. We should be louder. Once we become louder, the forces of radical Islam become the minority they are. I am looking forward to a world when we all raise our voice together and say no to jihad, no to Holocaust denial, and no to the culture of hatred.”Choudhury is now back home. His trial is set to resume on August 17. He needs us. No less importantly, we need him. We are in this together, however unequal the relationship. After all, his life is on the line. All he asks of us, our governments, and human rights institutions is solidarity. Can we do any less?

( I posted about Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on My blog several mnths ago. I hoped to read more about him in any LIberal Press, may be even to hear from the UN Forums and Amnesty Intl....of course, it did not happen. Who needs to defend REAL MODERN MUSLIM????
And if I were to ask any of those who scream on top of their lungs about modern Muslims, I doubt very much they ever heard of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

May be its about time for them to look up his name and do something instead of yealling and screaming......so, here is your chance , MY Liberal friends....or may be he is not the kind of Modern Muslim you want to hear about,,is he???

LG, NYC, Aug 8 5:08PM
6.  This man is either very brave or very stupid; in any event I am not sure how much longer he will be allowed to live or live free.

The sad realities of the Muslim world always hit Muslims forst. The West, Israel, Jews & Christians are secondary targets in this war.

Amir, Miami, Aug 8 4:08PM
5.  "Elena Bonner's task was easier because she wasn't up against the irrational bigotry of an intolerant religion"
I would argue on that one, and sure Mr. Harris will too!!
Communist tyrany is no better then Islamo Fascism...

LG

LG, NYC, Aug 8 4:08PM
4.  I wish him the best, but I fear the worst.People like him are the "salt of the earth".
henry bonk, florida,uusa, Aug 8 4:08PM
3.  "Elena Bonner's task was easier because she wasn't up against the irrational bigotry of an intolerant religion"
I would argue on that one, and sure Mr. Harris will too!!
Communist tyrany is no better then Islamo Fascism...

LG

LG, NYC, Aug 8 4:08PM
2.   Choudhury is a great guy, but expecting positive changes from an Islamic culture is mission impossible. Elena Bonner's task was easier because she wasn't up against the irrational bigotry of an intolerant religion.
The way to liberate Bangladesh is to de-Islamicize it, not try and reform it as a "modertae" Islamic state. There just aren't enough educated, secular forces in that country yet produce an Ataturk.
Meanwhile, the Saudi influence grows along with its oil wealth. Another reason why we will need to take away their oil.

David Katcoff, Jericho, Vt, Aug 8 4:08PM
1.  Great post, thank you Mr. Harris.
Too bad none of it will ever be published in Any Liberal Press....
But I will make sure to address that issue to My private Forum and everywhere else I post..Once again, BIG THANKS!
LG

LG, NYC, Aug 8 4:08PM
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