Shoaib Choudhury, a Muslim Zionist in Bangladesh, told IsraelNationalRadio’s Yishai Fleisher last week, “Political Islam and hate speech are our biggest enemies.”
Choudhury is the editor of the Weekly Blitz, which he calls “the only anti-jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world.” He is also an author, lyricist, movie director and peace activist – and was held in solitary confinement for 17 months because he wanted to visit Israel.
“I started this newspaper in ’03,” Choudhury told Fleisher, “and at the time, the Hebrew Writers Association in Tel Aviv invited me to take part in a symposium. On my way to Israel, I was stopped and arrested at the international airport in Dhaka. They labeled me a Zionist and an Israeli spy, interrogated me and tortured me for ten days, and then imprisoned me for 17 months in solitary confinement, until 2005.”
Choudhury’s latest book, Inside Madrassa, published in October 2009, gives extensive information on education in Muslim schools known as madrassahs, including material on Jihadist orientation, hate speech and other aspects of radical Islam taught there. He opened a branch of the Israel-based International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace in Bangladesh, and has authored articles critical of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic attitudes in Muslim countries.
Asked how he came to sympathize with Jews, Choudhury said, “My father used to tell me not to believe the weekly hate speeches against Christian and Jews that we would hear in the mosques. I tried to follow this advice, and later on I kept an open mind when I met Jews - and now I have thousands of Jewish friends.”
Among them he mentioned Dr. Richard Benkin, “who did not give up and worked to have me freed from jail… Many of my relatives abandoned me, but Benkin did not, and he got me out of jail.” Benkin is currently helping Bangladeshi Hindu refugees in West Bengal and elsewhere secure basic rights, especially protection from attempted genocide by Islamist radicals. He is a strong pro-Israel advocate who believes Jews and Hindus must unite to defeat radical Islam.
Choudhury described his newspaper as “the only paper in the Muslim world in which you can find untwisted news about Israel… We have tremendous adversity, though we have 37,000 readers of the print version… I believe that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and as a Muslim, I believe that the only problem is political Islam and the hate speech, and if these can stop, then all Muslims will be like me…"
"We have been able to get an Islamic anti-Semitism group banned in Bangladesh, and there’s another group that’s on its way to being banned as well. The problem is political Islam, which is present in all Islamic countries and is now growing in the West, too. In the U.S. there are 600 congregations preaching jihad. We must raise our voices against the misinterpretation of the Quran.”
On an optimistic note, Choudhury noted that “changes have been made; there are voices now in favor of Israel in Bangladesh, which would have been impossible in 2003.” Bangladesh, a non-Arab Muslim country, is the third largest Muslim nation in the world.