The Only Muslim Zionist in Bangladesh

Published: July 5th 2010
in News » World

Shoaib Choudhury
Pic: archive

Shoaib Choudhury is not your average newspaper publisher, author, movie director, peace activist and lyricist. He’s also a Muslim Zionist who lives in Bangladesh, the world’s third largest Muslim nation.


Last week Choudhury, the editor of the Bangladeshi weekly tabloid Weekly Blitz which he describes as the “only anti-jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world,” spoke to Yishai Fleisher of Israel National Radio.


He told Fleisher about his view that “political Islam and hate speech are our biggest enemies.”


He recounted the ordeal he lived through in 2003 when he started the newspaper and was later subjected to solitary confinement for 17 months when he tried to visit Israel.


“At the time, the Hebrew Writers Association in Tel Aviv invited me to take part in a symposium,” he said. “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 10 days, and then imprisoned me for 17 months in solitary confinement, until 2005.”


Since then, he has opened a Bangladeshi branch of the Israeli International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace. He has also written extensively on his views, criticizing the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic culture that is flourishing in Muslim countries. His 2009 book, titled Inside Madrassa, is an in depth analysis of the material taught in Muslim religious schools (madrassas); it details jihadist teachings, hate speech and other elements of extremist Islam common to the schools.


He described Weekly Blitz as the “only paper in the Muslim world in which you can find untwisted news about Israel.”


The print version of the newspaper has 37,000 readers but they still face “tremendous adversity” in publishing it.


“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,” he said.


It would likely come as a shock to many that Choudhury is so supportive of Israel and considers himself a Zionist, given his background and the country he lives in. However, he explained: “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.”


One of these Jewish friends is Dr. Richard Benkin, an independent human rights activist who is currently working on behalf of the millions of persecuted Hindus in Bangladesh who do not have basic human rights and whose lives are in constant danger from Islamists. Benkin, who believes Jews and Hindus need to work together to combat Islamic extremism, was instrumental in freeing Choudhury from prison.


He recalled that “Benkin 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.”


He is proud of the fact that he was able to get an anti-Semitic Islamic organization banned in Bangladesh. Another one will likely be banned soon. He said the problem is political Islam.


“(Political Islam) 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.”


That said, Choudhury sees the situation slowly improving. “Changes have been made. There are voices now in favor of Israel in Bangladesh, which would have been impossible in 2003.” 

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