Shana Tova and something for the peace
Jewish festivals are mostly unknown in the Muslim world, especially the non-Arab Muslim nations, though Christmas, Easter and Halloween are greatly known and even celebrated by the Muslims. In Bangladesh, each year, more than 3 million Christmas cards are sold and it is a public holiday. But, unfortunately, Bangladeshis never heard of Jewish festivals even before 2003, when we launched our only anti-Jihadist and pro-Israel newspaper, Weekly Blitz.
Weekly Blitz has been publishing articles and features on Jewish religious festivals including Rosh Hashanah as well as Yom Kippur. At our personal initiatives, we made English and Bangla version of Holy Torah available in Bangladesh, which also was very much unavailable in this country before 2003. Now copies of Torah are purchased by Muslim readers even in Bangladesh and only in 2009, more than 5,000 copies of Bangla version of Torah was sold. We certainly are not making any profit from such projects.
Weekly Blitz is the only newspaper in the Muslim world, which organizes annual Rosh Hashanah party in the Capital city, which is participated by people from various religious groups, including Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Bahais, Ahmadiyas etc. When we initiated the celebration in 2005, it was attended only by 20 people. But, this year, our celebration will be attended by over 200 people. There is indication of interest by various important people in the society in participating in the Rosh Hashanah celebration. This year, we also are organizing a mini-seminar titled 'Understanding Jewish Festival', where university teachers, scholars, editors and religious leaders are invited as speakers. We really should have made a larger function, as we are unable to invite hundreds of people, who are still willing to participate. We are forced in doing that, because of our limited fund.
Many, who participated in our past events of Rosh Hashanah in Bangladesh, are saying that, gradually this even is turning into an example of religious tolerance. Every year, during Rosh Hashanah, we make strong statements against Jihad and Islamist extremism. Moreover, we oppose Holocaust denial. Due to our continuous efforts, significant portion of local intellectuals and editors are gradually raising voice in favor of establishment of relations between Bangladesh [third largest Muslim nation] and Israel and also are pronouncing Israel to be the homeland for the Jewish people.
Anti Semitic and anti-Israel activities of Iranian embassy in Bangladesh, which is spending huge amount of money each year in such heinous venture, are greatly opposed by many locals as well recruitment of Bangladeshis by the so-called Palestinian embassy in Dhaka and sending them to fight against Israel is almost stopped.
Ultra Islamist militancy group such as Hizbut Tahrir is already banned by Bangladesh government in 2009 due to continues editors and investigative reports published in Weekly Blitz. We now are actively working in getting a book and DVD named 'Dajjal', which contains serious offensive comments against Jews and Christians. Bangladesh government is reportedly considering putting ban on this group too, very soon.
In 2006, a minor girl was raped by the Muslim clergy in Chittagong district in Bangladesh. When local press published the report, the clergy and some of the very influential religious leaders in the locality tried to justify this crime by saying, the girl was from a Jewish family. Immediately on seeing this statement, Weekly Blitz not only started publishing reports and editorials, I personally met the minister in the government with the demand of justice for the child. As a result, the culprit was arrested and now serves life term in prison for raping the minor Jewish girl.
In 2008, in another incident, a Jewish family [Jews in Bangladesh mostly suppress their religious identity and pronounce them to be 'Jehovah's Witness' to avoid social and state repressions], was attacked by Muslim youths and their 15-years old daughter as well the wife of the Jewish man was gang raped. We once again brought this matter to the attention of the government, and the culprits are already in prison, facing trial.
These are just some of the examples of accomplishments of Weekly Blitz since 2003. But, just because of our editorial policy, Weekly Blitz office was bombed in July 2006 and attacked in October the same year. I was physically assaulted in 2006 [October] as well as abducted at gun point in February 2008. My office was again attacked and ransacked in February 2009. I knew with certainty that, some elements, encouraged by the Islamist militancy groups and anti-Israel groups were behind such attacks. We got no protection from the government.
In 2009, armed men intruded into my house with assassination plan.
Though US Congress passed resolution in 2007 [HR 64], demanding immediate end of all forms of harassment tactics on me as well as protecting me from attacks and taking actions against the attackers, there is in reality, no action from the government. I am facing sedition, treason and blasphemy charges in Bangladeshi court since 2003, for my stand in favor of Israel. According to Bangladeshi law, sedition bears capital punishment.
Shall I leave Bangladesh with my family and take political refuge in the West? This is what thousands of my friends keep on asking. But, I was offered political asylum in USA, UK, Australia, Canada and many other countries. I humbly told all of them that, I am unwilling to leave Bangladesh. Rather, I am determined to combat militant Islam and will not rest, until it is completely defeated.
Some of my friends ask why I am taking risk of my life. I told them, because I want to see a peaceful world and defeat of militant Islam.
But, the sad thing is, my newspaper, Weekly Blitz, is already at the verge of closure, because, we never received even a single advertisement for our editorial policy favorable to Israel. We have been surviving with generous help from some individuals and organizations. While pro-Islamist media is continuing visible conquest and expansion, this only pro-Israel and anti-Jihadist newspaper is facing imminent closure, due to financial constraint. Can anyone, keep us on their prayers, during Rosh Hashanah please? Can anyone extend their hands?
Happy Rosh Hashanah!
SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz www.weeklyblitz.net
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007