Shoair Choudhury was editor of the Bangladeshi magazine Weekly Blitz when he was arrested and accused of, but not charged with, supporting the State of Israel. He awaits trial in Cell No.15 of the Dhaka Central jail in Bangladesh. Choudhury, perhaps the world’s only Muslim Zionist, writes in the Jerusalem Post (thanks to Iris):
Today, I stand before you perhaps as a living contradiction: a Zionist, a defender of Israel, and a devout, practicing Muslim living in a Muslim country.
Like you I believe in the justice of the Zionist dream. I also acknowledge this historical reality: that the world has endeavored to crush that dream and, yes, even destroy the viability of the Jewish people.
At the same time I live in an environment where people believe just as passionately in an opposing view that sees Israel as illegitimate and the Jewish people as evil incarnate. Witness the recent statement of outgoing Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed that “Jews rule the world.”
A true culture of peace is far more than the cessation of hostilities. It includes justice and tolerance for all people. It allows each person to have pride in one’s own faith, while respecting the pride that courses through the veins of those who follow other paths to God.
In Israel, you have any number of viewpoints being aired in any number of forums. You have Likud; you have Labor. You have Shas; you have Shinui. You have Peace Now; you have the Temple Mount Faithful. You have The Jerusalem Post; you have Haaretz.
Most of the Muslim world takes your diversity as a sign of weakness and disunity, a lack of resolve; we know it is your great strength. It’s messy, to be sure. But the fact that you do not feel it necessary to control the flow of information to your people means you respect them far more than we do ours – from whom we keep the news and forswear open dialogue, especially when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people….
Choudhury goes on to appeal to the tradition of tolerance in Muslim Bangladesh, and to describe Bangladesh’s increasing radicalization.
Children of prominent Bangladeshis now attend the madrassas, where they learn Bangla (our vernacular), Arabic, Urdu, English and, in some places, French, as well as other advertised subjects. But they also learn the theory and practice of guerrilla warfare. Old hates are taught as faith, and they learn to revere Bin Laden, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein and the shahids. Innocent Muslim children are lured toward “jihad,” taught to hate Christians and Jews and encouraged to kill them and destroy their property as a religious duty.
It so distresses me that we are allowing these children, the future leaders of Bangladesh, to be brainwashed with hatred and extremism. These institutions are surely breeding thousands of Bin Ladens and Arafats for the future.
I have listened to this filth since childhood. When I grew up, I turned my eyes to the Bible and many other books, had Christian and Jewish friends, and now am convinced that what the mullahs taught was not merely false, but also evil. That is clear not only to me but to many others in my country.
For there to be any chance of lasting peace, this must change. How can we have peace when most Muslims still believe Israel was behind the September 11 attacks on the US? How can we have peace when Muslims see their own leaders refusing even to recognize Israel’s right to exist? How can we have peace when we neither hear nor read anything to the contrary?…
Certainly, our initial steps are tentative ones, but they are yielding the early fruits of success. In Bangladesh, amid the monolithic anti-Israeli rant, a few voices are coming forward questioning the wisdom of that position. Quietly, a few brave souls are questioning what was previously unquestioned doctrine.
But our efforts are feeble and tentative compared to the great noise heard day after day from the other media giants. Muslims need to hear more voices of dissent, of reason, of decency. And a democracy like Bangladesh just might offer us a beachhead to join this epic battle….
The mosques, madrassas, and Muslim media have had absolute power over our hearts and minds for too long. Rather than ascribe evil intent – which there is among some; or ignorance -which also exists, let us pierce the iron curtain of ignorance and hate with the greatest power on earth: knowledge, information and the full and open exchange of ideas.