[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]
What to Do
Labels usually get a bad rap, but they actually are very important. They help identify potential allies in our pursuit of various political and moral positions. Labels can also help predict the positions certain individuals are likely to support, as well as who might or might not be open to our entreaties. But some matters reach beyond labels and transcend issues of "left" and of "right." Their essence is a simple quest for decency, for what is right and what is just.
The case of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is one of them. Sixteen months ago, government agents seized him and deprived him of the light of day, of needed health care, even attendance at his mother's funeral after her heart succumbed to ongoing pressures that she denounce her son. Choudhury's business has been destroyed, his files and computers seized by police. Virtually blackballed from any employment, his family teeters on the verge of economic ruin. His children have been threatened, and his brother beaten. Police refuse to protect them and blame the Choudhurys' troubles on "their alliance with the Jews." What did Choudhury do to merit this treatment? What is his crime?
According to the Bangladeshi government, it is sedition - a capital offense leftover from colonial days, defined as an "offence against the government" - which begs the question: What did Choudhury do that so offended the government?
He recognized a single G-d that loves all of His children equally and commands us to seek justice. Reared in a society that demonizes Jews and often others, he saw something better. Though living in a society that keeps vital information from its people, he saw something better. He envisioned a world in which peoples of all faiths could speak together openly, equally; a world in which news is judged by the accuracy of its content, not the political slant of its bearer.
In 2003, Choudhury wrote about that vision, breaking new ground and sparking debate in the press and government. Prof. Ada Aharoni of Haifa was impressed enough to invite him to address IFLAC, a non-political writers' organization, dedicated to building bridges of peace and understanding. . He was also invited officially by the 'Writers' Association' to address their International Congress on "Bridges of Peace Among Nations." Clearly, Choudhury was invited by both organizations on a purely academic and literary basis, and nothing else. But as he was about to leave for that historic address, police nabbed him, and he has been held ever since - often under brutal conditions.
Choudhury has been denied bail repeatedly, denied needed health care, and subjected to frequent interrogation. Police raided his home and office, followed by a mob allowed to sack the premises with impunity. Threats to his family have been severe enough to keep his children out of school and to force his brother twice to flee the capital of Dhaka. Yet, even in prison, Choudhury refuses to lose heart, sustained by his Islamic faith and the well wishes of people worldwide.
On April 8, US Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and I will address this injustice with Bangladesh's US ambassador.
You can add to our strength by writing him: Amb. Syed Hasan Ahmad; Embassy of the People's Republic of Bangladesh; 3510 International Drive NW; Washington, DC 20008; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you live in the United States, you can thank Congressman Kirk at 1717 Longworth HOB; Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone: 202-225-4835; Fax: 202-225-0837.
Write your own Senators or Representatives urging them to address or investigate this matter. Their contact information is at www.house.gov/writerep.
Finally, if you know of any employment opportunities for the Choudhurys (online or locally in Dhaka), contact me at email@example.com, so we can help them overcome deliberate attempts to impoverish them.
Dr. Richard Benkin, 31/March/2005