A Bangladeshi journalist and peace activist is being punished for refusing to condemn Israel. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was charged with sedition, treason and insulting Islam in 2003.
Choudhury, 44, has worked hard to oppose Islamic extremism through his articles, in particular those for the Weekly Blitz which he started in 2003. He has also called for interfaith dialogue and for normalizing relations between Muslim countries and Israel.
Yet this week will see Choudhary back in court, charged with ‘insulting Islam’. It is possible he will be sentenced to death for this ‘sedition’.
In a letter which was made public at the weekend, Choudhary says:
“According to my lawyers in Bangladesh, the government is determined to conclude the trial as soon as possible.No one knows what will be the verdict. But, of course, seeing the past track record, we cannot hold any hope for a good result because the court is not applying its judicial mind, but trying to appease the Islamists.”
Choudhary has already suffered violence for his views. In 2006, his newspaper offices were bombed, after he publicly expressed sympathy for the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam.
And in October of that year, he was attacked in his office by a mob that included prominent members of the then-ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which historically has aligned itself with Islamist parties in the country.
In March 2007, US House Resolution 64 referred to Choudhury and protested his ongoing “harassment and intimidation” as well as his incarceration in 2004 for 17 months without legal recourse, during which he was placed in solitary confinement and “suffered harsh interrogation techniques and received no treatment for a debilitating case of glaucoma.”
The House resolution called for the Bangladeshi government to “immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury… and take steps to protect Mr. Choudhury.”