Article By Dr. Richard Benkin

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

What to Do

Save a Peace Hero!

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.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Once More In Peace

From my solitary prison cell

The whole city is deep into sleep

During the late hours of winter night

Freedom is just on the other side of these Iron bars

Through these cruel Iron Bars I look into the unknown future

Uncertainty rocks me from deep inside like a sudden Tsunami

I can hear the roar of the mighty wave, as if they were the sound of my heart beat

Suddenly, my childhood, my boyhood and my youth project before me like the celluloid in a theatre

Only a few days ago; a whole year faded away from the pages of the Calendar

Just a few days back, my mother left this world, telling me nothing at all

I was not even lucky enough even to bade her farewell to her with my tears

In my distressed moments, I look for my mother in my daughter

My mother is gone somewhere, far away from sight, far away from this earth, even too far away from my knowledge.

All I can feel is the silence of the place where my mother is with me in my solitary prison cell

In my solitude, in the unfinished canvas of my remaining life, I wish to draw the picture of the peaceful life we perhaps live for

In the darkest nights, I can see the stars are rather much brighter

But I see "the pigeon" being crashed in the claws of the devils

In the breeze I can smell the odor of gun powder

They do not want peace! They want destruction, anarchy, they want human corpses

For, they are humanlike vultures

O' the lord of the Universe! How dirty their minds might be, but, not mightier than you!

Let us all, children of Adam, Children of Abraham live the rest of our lives on earth together: once more in peace.

(Amen)

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: bdootwash@bangladoot.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.

You can also help by visiting www.freechoudhury.com to increase our hits, sign the linked petition that has already been signed by thousands of people, and read further about this.

Finally, if you know of any employment opportunities for the Choudhurys (online or locally in Dhaka), contact me at drrbenkin@comcast.net, so we can help them overcome deliberate attempts to impoverish them.

Dr. Richard Benkin, 31/March/2005


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