WSJ: Free Choudhury

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

A quick update on Sepia Mutiny Profilee Salah Choudhury. The Wall Street Journal has picked up the story and dares the Bush Administration to match actions with words on Mr. Choudhury’s behalf –

Bangladesh does not mean much strategically to the U.S., except for the fact that it is home to some 120 million Muslims, many of them desperately poor and increasingly under the sway of violent religious notions imported from Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration, which every year spends some $64 million on Bangladesh, has made a priority of identifying moderate Muslims and giving them the space and cover they need to spread their ideas. Mr. Choudhury has identified himself, at huge personal risk, as one such Muslim. Now that he is on the run, somewhere in the darkness of Dhaka, will someone in the administration pick up the phone and explain to the Bangladeshis just what America expects of its “moderate and tolerant” friends?

And so, we shall see.

Unfortunately, when we last wrote about Mr. Choudhury, first hand reports indicated that he’d just been attacked by a lynch mob. Subsequent, recently released reports have confirmed this story with unsavory indications of quasi official sanction of the attack –

A Muslim journalist facing charges of sedition for advocating ties with Israel was recently attacked and beaten by a crowd in Bangladesh that allegedly included leading officials of the country’s ruling party..

In a photo taken shortly after the incident that was obtained exclusively by the Post, Choudhury can be seen hunched over a table wearing a torn shirt while a Bangladeshi policeman dressed in blue chats with two BNP officials. Both officials took part in the attack.

No arrests were made, and police refused to allow Choudhury to file charges against his attackers.


p>Now I’m a pretty big believer that in many situations over the long arc of history, we’re presented with Tipping Points. The Glory is that at these moments single individuals can make a Difference. The tragedy, of course, is that we rarely know for sure when we’re at one. Small course corrections – in this case over the fate of a single individual – can yield profound downstream effects in either direction. Perhaps a free Choudhury – especially with direct, US involvement – might be a strong datapoint for naysayers that the whole GWOT wasn’t about Oil afterall? (of course, that won’t be enough to assuage all – they’ll simply assert that it was the Vast Zionist Conspiracy trying to save one of their agents – I guess you can’t please everyone, can you?).

On flip side, losing Choudhury could represent an irreverisible chill on public discourse in a remote (to most Americans) country that is nevertheless nearly 5x the size of Iraq and home to nearly a tenth of the worlds Muslims. Once smothered, it could be a generation before voices of liberalism re-emerge there.

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8 thoughts on “WSJ: Free Choudhury

  1. Good post. I hope the US does put pressure on the government there. But I also hope that other like minded regional powers, like India, apply whatever pressure they can. What about other NGOs that watch the US and this administration like a hawk but do not do anything in such cases.

    Also, this naysayer will continue believing that Iraq was not directly related to the GWOT. (I do not buy the whole we went there because of oil theory either.)There is plenty of evidence for people,who want to see it, that the administration was planning a war against Iraq prior to 9/11.

  2. Sadly there seems to be NOTHING about this guy in local papers – not even the opposition party (who calls general strikes when the prime minister sneezes) seems to be complaining.

    On another note, that really isn’t a very flattering picture – he looks like a desi serial killer from the 70s.

  3. Thanks for the update, vinod.

    I agree with Nara. In fact, I think India might be better source of pressure than the US. US pressure can be too easily misconstrued in the Muslim world. Perhaps that US can pressure India and some other friends to, in turn, pressure Bangladesh?

  4. Interesting fellow this Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury is. He was a mouthpiece of Daily Inquilab, an Islamist run newspaper in Bangladesh during the 90s. From Islamic fundamentalism he had a sudden switch to leaning in direction to Israel. If you own a Bangladeshi passport like me, the only country you are not allowed to go is Israel. If I remember his first arrest was because he wanted to go to Israel and that prompted some ruling coalition goon to take the chance of retaliation against him by using law. Earlier he messed with some of his partners regarding his shares at the proposed Inquilab TV, a mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami. The Bangladesh ambassador to USA told last year that Shoaib Chowdhury was arrested because of property related case and not for his views.

    The BNP/Jamaat current coalition is showing their power on him and I think the lynch mob was none other than BNP goondas. And the Bullshit mytyh of Muslim mob nailing pro-Israily journalist is nothing but trying to create sympathy from certain quarters. People barely know Shoaib back in country.

    Probably Salh Uddin Chowdhury has pissed also the civil society of Bangladesh that nobody is taking time to listen to him. The Bangladesh press is free and persecution of journalists cause much steer in the civic society. I have circulated the news among other Bangladeshi bloggers and known journalists whether they know the latest status. So far I am yet to get a reply.

    Its surprising that there is almost nothing on this except in his mouthpiece The weekly Blitz.

    And let there be no ambiguity that he is still a free man and and unless we hear a second source verifying every word of Chowdhury, things still look dodgy. In Bangladesh there has never been a sedition case before and he is unlikely to be awarded the capital punishment without much public outrage within a short time. So some contemplates whether Chowdhury’s case is a cry wolf scenario.

    The BNP government has to relinquish power on 27th of this month and there will be an interim (caretaker) government. So I think it will soon be revealed whether the BNP government exercised some misuse of power to cause Chowdhury the miseries.

  5. If you own a Bangladeshi passport like me, the only country you are not allowed to go is Israel.

    You learn something new on SM every day.

  6. I am a Bangladeshi citizen too and have a passport, which prevents me from travelling to Israel. My question is, why did he attempt to visit Israel? What was the hidden agenda? Moreover, he lodged a false case against some of the leaders of BNP’s cultural wing on 8th October 2006 with the Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court. This is a clear harrassment of BNP people, by a Zionist spy. Weekly Holiday on 3rd November 2006, re-published an article by Michael Freund in it’s international page on this man. There is unnecessary cry for this man in US and other international media. And, now possibly some of the anti-BNP newspapers also join this trend.

    So far I know, Weekly Blitz promotes Zionist themes and ideologies and advocates relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem. But, should it be any agenda for a Bangladeshi newspaper? Their over enthusiasm some time might put a question mark as to who are funding this newspaper to run Zionist idelogies. Moreover, Salah Uddin Shooaib Choudhury is a well known figure in Dhaka’s press community as a very ‘questioned’ figure. He supports Zionism and Israel despite the fact that his Muslim brethrens are regularly killed by Israeli forces with lame exuses. I think, Bangladesh government did the right thing by bringing a sedition charge against this man. His newspaper should also be banned in Bangladesh for spreading anti-Islamic themes. This newspaper is violating the norms of honoring the religious emotions of majority of the people in this country.

    I also learnt that, this man, several months back became the advisor to a minority lawyer’s group. He leads more than few hundred lawyers of that particular group and is using this institution too in spreading false campaign against Islam and Islamic leaders. This organization is holding meetings in different parts of Bangladesh. And everywhere, Shoaib Choudhury is the main speaker. He openly defames Moulana Matiur Rahman Nizami and other respected leaders of Islamic political parties. Why? Because, he was kicked out of daily Inqilab?

  7. If I am not misquoting, Tofael Ahmed confessed that Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is confronting Islamic radicals like Matiur Rahman Nizami in his speeches, which he considers to be ‘crime’ (!). Everyone knows that Nizami is a notorious killer of 1971. By opposing this man, Choudhury is showing his commitment to Bangladesh and respect for the martyrs of our war of liberation.

    By advocating peace, he is not doing anything wrong. He speaks for the protection of rights of religious minority in Bangladesh. Is this a crime? He confronts the culture of religious hatred. Is this a crime. He opposes misinterpretation of Islam by some evil forces and killing of innocent people in the name of JIHAD. Is this any crime? Let me leave this questions to the future readers.