By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
On November 29, 2003 I was arrested at Zia International Airport in Dhaka [Bangladesh] on my way to Tel Aviv for attending a Peace Conference, organized by Hebrew Writers Association.
At that time, a coalition government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] with radical Islamist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote [Islamist Alliance] were partners in the government. Virtually it was an Islamist government in administration in Dhaka.
Influential figures in the government played key role in giving me a ‘proper lesson’ for attempting to travel to Israel. It is known to all that, in the eyes of Islamists and pals of Al Qaeda, Israel is an ‘enemy state’.
Unfortunately, Bangladesh is the only Muslim country in the world, which continues total ban on Israel, although, Israel was amongst the first four nations to recognize Bangladesh right after its independence in 1971.
Since creation of Bangladesh, unfortunately, Islamists either was in power or had tremendous influence on all the governments, which resulted in Bangladesh’s continuous rivalry attitude towards Israel.
Till date, such ‘mentality’ of the ruling parties in Bangladesh are unchanged, although, Dhaka presently has Bangladesh Awami League in power, which claims to uphold secularist policy in governance. It may be mentioned here that, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is the founder of Bangladesh Awami League headed the first government after the independence of the country in 1971. During the tenure of Bangabandhu, anti-Israel notions were adopted in the state policy and total ban on any sort of relations with Israel were enforced.
Awami League ruled Bangladesh on two more tenure in 1971 and in 1996 and now the party is back to power for the third term with landslide victory during the general election, which was held on December 29, 2008. The key reason behind Awami League’s massive victory was charismatic leadership of Sheikh Hasina [daughter of Bangabandhu] and secularist ideology of her party. On the other hand, Bangladeshis were virtually feeling captive in the hands of BNP-Islamist coalition government, which was trying to turn the country into another Taliban type nation.
People of Bangladesh had high aspiration on Bangladesh Awami League of honestly restoring the secularist ideology in governance as well ensuring proper rights to the religious minorities in the country. But, the track record of governance of Awami League for past 11 months is truly frustrating. Persecution of religious minorities, especially various forms of repressions on Hindus are continuing.
There is fresh trend of anti-Ahmadiya moves by some fanatics in the country. Destruction of Hindu temples, grabbing of their properties, rapes, murders, abductions and forceful conversions are continuing without minimum sign of any real initiatives by the government in stopping such nasty actions. Islamists are even finding ‘house’ within the present ruling party in Bangladesh, and influence of Islamists are continuing to grow, instead of being dampened.
Notorious Islamist militancy group like Hizbut Towhid is continuing provocative actions against Jews and Christians without minimum obstruction from the government. This group is selling hate materials like DAJJAL [a DVD describing Jews and Christians as enemies of Islam] openly in Bangladesh market.
BNP led Islamist government brought sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against me for my efforts against militant Islam. They saw ‘severe crime’ in my exposure of rise of Jihadists within the 64,000 [now 73,000] madrassas in Bangladesh. They considered my effort of ensuring inter-faith harmony as a ‘crime’. Moreover, BNP led Islamist government considered my planned travel to Israel as a ‘move to visit an enemy state’. According to Bangladeshi law, sedition bears capital punishment.
I was arrested, placed on remand, tortured in custody and held inside a solitary confinement for seventeen months in the worst-ever inhuman condition, where I was denied medical treatment as well minimum human rights were even ignored. I was even not allowed to attend my mother’s funeral by that rogue Islamist government.
When Awami League came in power, there was high hope of end of year-long harassment that I have been facing since 2003. But, things never changed! Rather, I am continuing to face the trial, which may even conclude in couple of months, and surely, the present government is equally inclined in giving me a good lesson for attempting to establish relations with Israel as well confronting militant Islam. My next trial date is on mid January 2010.
Meanwhile, the government withdrew police protection from my residence, thus leaving me to the grips of Islamists who are continuing to kill me, since I was released on bail in 2005. My office was bombed, office attacked and I was even abducted by the members of Rapid Action Battalion. On 22nd February 2008, members of the ruling party attacked my office.
They looted valuables and physically assaulted me and other members of my newspaper Weekly Blitz [online edition available on www.weeklyblitz.net]. Despite lodging of a case with the local police station, there is no action yet by the law enforcing agencies against the perpetrators. Rather, the government and its agencies are trying to save the culprits, instead of punishing them. Reign of terror is continuing on me and members of my family.
On my return from two week tour to United States [in October 2009], I was once again threatened over telephone by some terror groups, which was also reported immediately to authorities concerned. But, here again, no action was ever taken.
From November 30 2009, I have entered the 7th year of sufferings, which started on November 29, 2003, for my efforts against militant Islam. No one really knows how many more years I will continue to suffer.
Each month, I have to meet heavy legal expenses, which is again continuing for past 6 years. There are repeated attempts to suffocate my voice including closing my newspaper Weekly Blitz. Just for the reason that we confront Jihad and militant Islam. Just for the reason, we promote inter-faith harmony. Just for the reason, we demand rights of religious minorities in Bangladesh. And just for the reason, we demand relations between Bangladesh and Israel.