Bangladesh's new game plan
Sunita Paul - 8/18/2008
Bangladeshi government, which has heavy Islamist influence as well anti West and anti Semitic notion for years has silently changed strategy in handling the case of courageous Muslim journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
Before I go into detail on this topic, let me first give a brief description of how best I know Bangladesh. I know this since much before it was born in 1971. I know the people and of course, know something that many of the Western pundits or analysts will take time to realize.
The former government having heavy ties with Islamists brought sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury for promoting inter faith understanding, confronting culture of religious hatred and for demanding relations between Bangladesh and Israel. Since Shoaib was arrested, one particular human being in United States, Dr. Richard L Benkin became active and did almost everything possible on his part in setting Shoaib free from prison. And Dr. Benkin attained highest admiration of many, including me, when he finally succeeded in setting Shoaib free from Bangladeshi prison, after seventeen months. Through this effort and work, Dr. Benkin came to lime light, from being an ordinary US citizen to today's high profile human rights activist. This is the beginning virtually of a new life for this extremely admirable man. But, as he came to the lime light, he too had to confront series of propaganda centering him or his activities. It was rumored that former Islamist coalition government hired Dr. Benkin as their lobbyist in United States. Some people even gave references of Dr. Benkin's registration with the department concerned in United States for such services.
If Dr. Benkin did accept assignment to work in favor of Bangladesh, it should not be seen in any wrong way. As we know, he is a man of firm commitment, who works tirelessly in defending Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
The current military regime in Bangladesh continues efforts in creating cracks within political parties by buying some of the extremely important players. As the government has recently started trial of Shoaib case, it is highly anticipated that the government will surely apply the same trick in buying the voice of the most important player, who plays important role in defending this courageous Muslim journalist. And in such case, the only potential name, Bangladeshi regime would actively consider is Dr. Richard L Benkin.
I read the article in Jerusalem Post by Michael Freund, where Dr. Benkin, made positive remarks on the trial process. I failed to understand what Dr. Benkin would say, if the same court or even the same judge will convict Shoaib with death sentence? Should he then say it was also justice done to this courageous Bangladeshi journalist? What was the hidden reason for such hurried remarks? I can well sense cooling down of the voice of the website www.interfaithstrength.com on Shoaib's case. I have sensed something that has suffocated the voice of the main defender of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. I wish what people in power in Dhaka continues to say are false. I know, for a highly esteemed human being like Dr. Richard Benkin, it is impossible to trade with the life of a courageous Muslim journalist, even if it is wealth equivalent to Himalayan. But, as Shoaib's trial is proceeding, voice of his supporters are getting louder in favor of boycotting Bangladeshi goods. I personally although do not support any boycott anywhere in the world, but, for the sake of saving the life of an extremely precious wealth of the global family, it is even important to boycott Bangladeshi goods till the government does not ensure justice to him.
Bangladeshi government withdrew police protection from Shoaib's house, thus living him at risk of attack at any time. Members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) looted valuables from Shoaib's office while abducting him at gun point in March while neither the looted goods are returned nor there is any action against the culprit RAB men. The additional public prosecutor on August 6 (during beginning of the trial) drove Shoaib out of the court, although he was sitting in a chair fixed for the journalists and Shoaib was having high fever and headache. Lately state patronized media blackmailing and image maligning game began by a notorious newspaper, and the government remains silent, despite written complaint by Shoaib. And in all such cases, interfaithstrength.com has finally turned extremely silent! Why?
I knew Dr. Benkin would never abandon Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. At least money cannot but Benkin in this particular case. But, his silence would surely create a room for everyone to re-assess the entire episode.