A Call To Retract My Post On Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury And My Response

On Sunday I wrote a post on Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a man who is facing sedition charges in Bangladesh. Late last night I received an email from Rabbi Sue Levy, a contributor to the Weekly Blitz, asking that I print a prominent retraction and an apology for my post. She said that if I did so, it would say a lot about my integrity and it would be the honorable thing to do. Below is the content of the email I received from Rabbi Sue Levy:

Dear Friend,
I’ve taken the time to go back and look at some of your past articles, and I can see that you are making an honest effort to tell people the truth. It appears to me that, in the case of Shoaib Choudhury, you have made a serious mistake, but one that was unintended if you wish to tell the truth. There are reams of propaganda being published in the guise of news in an attempt to discredit Shoaib. Some of this has been perpetrated by Arab countries, Saudi Arabia in particular. The Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington is another source.

If you are as sincere as I think you are, it would be gracious of you to print a prominent retraction and apology. It would say a lot about your integrity if you are able to do this.

You are writing about a man whose life hangs in the balance. Those of us who are trying to save him including Richard Benkin and Sheikh Palazzi are all volunteers. I agree with you that "interlocking directorates" deserve a great deal of scrutiny in the world of business where one hand is rubbing the other and dropping money in it at the same time. When you are talking about volunteer efforts on the part of people who share a common vision – even if it doesn’t happen to be your’s – there is no comparison to be made, and nothing to criticize.

Shoaib was not in prison before 2003. The story about his threatening Sheikh Hasina is a complete fabrication.

The problem now is that he is facing a judge who is a known member of a radical Islamic group and has already said publically that he sees no reason to acquit Shoaib. There is no jury, and there is no provision for defense witnesses or evidence on his behalf. Therefore, at any point in this travesty of a trial, the judge could find him guilty and sentence him to death.

Those of us who love and care for Shoaib are trying to generate enough international attention that the Government of Bangladesh will need to drop the charges if it wants to be seen as a part of the civilized world. When you discredit him, you make this effort much more difficult. Others will repeat what you say in their own blogs because they respect you. We are trying very hard to win a unanimous vote on the resolution pending in Congress in order to make a very strong statement to Bangladesh. So, please think again before you discredit someone whose life hangs in the balance. The charges of espionage are ludicrous, but someone might believe you because of your fine reputation.

I beg you to do the honorable thing and print a retraction.

While you’re at it, I would appreciate it if you would also print the comments I sent regarding your article. I will think less of you if you only publish comments from people who agree with you.

For additional information: www.interfaithstrength.com and Shoaib’s newspaper, www.weeklyblitz.net

Thank you,

Sue Levy

Below is the email response that I have sent Rabbi Levy:

Dear Rabbi Levy,

Thank you for emailing me regarding my post about Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. I regret to inform you that I am unable to comply with your request for a retraction or an apology. I do not believe I have reason to comply with your request based on the information you provided in your email. However, I will certainly correct any errors of fact that may be in my post if I am provided with credible news accounts to the contrary.

I am concerned by some allegations in your email. You assert that Saudi Arabia and the Bangladesh embassy are spreading propaganda regarding this case. Please provide me with news accounts that confirm your allegations. In my research I have not come across any such information. All the sources I cited in my post come from news accounts (for example, from The Daily Star, the most respected English daily in Bangladesh) or from articles written by Mr. Choudhury, Sheikh Palazzi, Dr. Benkin or others affiliated with the organizations they represent. If you are able to provide evidence of factual errors in the news accounts I cited or if the individuals I quoted disavow their own articles or the views expressed in them, I will be happy to note the corrections.

I am troubled by the misrepresentations in the press about Mr. Choudhury. He is portrayed as a moderate Muslim who is engaged in fostering dialogue between Muslims and Jews. However, his writings, his affiliation with the Islam-Israel Fellowship and Sheikh Palazzi suggest that he is not interested in fostering dialogue. I do not believe the extreme and incendiary views expressed in the commentaries published by the Islam-Israel Fellowship can be properly termed as fostering dialogue.

I am also troubled by the intervention of a foreign power in the judicial process of Bangladesh and the signal it sends to those who believe in the rule of law. Mr. Choudhury is currently out on bail and is pursuing his publishing career clearly without curbs to his freedom of expression. He has been accorded due process. I believe the Bangladesh government has an obligation to conduct a free and fair trial. I trust that you and the supporters of Mr. Choudhury will do your best to ensure that Mr. Choudhury is fully accorded his due process rights. I join Senator Dick Durbin, as expressed in his letter dated January 31, 2006, in calling upon the government of Bangladesh to ensure that Mr. Choudhury receives a fair trial. Mr. Choudhury’s guilt has not been established – he has only been charged with a crime. It is up to the court to determine his guilt or innocence. As Bangladesh is currently taking steps to ensure further independence of the judicial process, it would cause great harm to the judicial system if a case is abandoned because of political pressure. You state in your email that Bangladesh must drop the charges if "it wants to be seen as a part of the civilized world." On the contrary, only a free and fair trial, without the taint of political pressure, will ensure that Bangladesh is seen as a proud member of the community of nations.

You also suggested in your email that I have censored your comments on my blog. You should note that I do not moderate any of the comments that are posted on this site. The comments are posted immediately without being held in a moderation queue. Any reader of this site is free to post comments expressing their point of view. You should also note that there are many comments on this site which take positions contrary to mine, or which have insulted me personally. You have questioned my integrity by suggesting that I have censored your comments – I have done no such thing. If you had difficulty posting a comment on this site because of the spam check, as others have reported, please repost your comment. I have removed the spam check software because of the trouble it was causing my readers. The downside of course is that I am now having to deal with a constant barrage of spam. Until I install another version of the spam check, I anticipate that comment posting will be a much simpler excercise. If you plan to post comments regularly on this site, and I encourage you to do so, I recommend that you register using the link on the sidebar – it makes the comment posting much simpler.

Respectfully yours,

Mashuqur Rahman

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4 Responses to A Call To Retract My Post On Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury And My Response

  1. ZaFa says:

    This Shoaib Chy is a shady character. The allegations surrounding him are quite serious (based on media reports)- if proven he would/should be charged with treason. I absolutely agree with you that his case must see due process – and looks like none of his rights had been violeted.
    What I don’t like is that his allies/friends have been trying to pressure the govt of BD to withdraw all the charges against him. If he didn’t do anything wrong then why not just face the trial? What’s the worry?

  2. Mash says:

    Zafa, his supporters are carrying on an extremely sophisticated propaganda campaign trying to frame him as a moderate and the Bangladesh government as extremist and against freedom of the press. With all the legitimate problems in Bangladesh when it comes to press freedoms, the diversity of views expressed in the papers there is quite remarkable. Bangladesh has a long history of newspaper editors and publishers standing at the forefront of social change. The then Pakistan Observer stood with the Bangladesh Language Movement and was shuttered in 1952 against a repressive West Pakistani regime. Bengalis have never shied away from expressing their views.

    To suggest that somehow this guy is being persecuted only for his views is extremely misleading and disingenuous. Bangladeshi press spans the whole gamut of political opinion, from secular, right wing, left wing, communist, nutcases, etc. Yet they are all allowed to publish -including Mr. Choudhury’s Weekly Blitz. I would argue that in Bangladesh the press is much more willing to challenge the government position than in the United States where access journalism leads to self-censorship in the press. Even the Bangladeshi blogger community is extremely outspoken and minces no words when it comes to the government.

    Mr. Choudhury and his friends in the American neo-con movement and the far right of Israeli politics openly advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and try to pass that off as interfaith-dialogue. So far, they have been quite successful at it – to wit, the NYT editorial that bought their meme hook line and sinker.

    Whether there is cause for a sedition charge that supplements this propaganda machine is what I expect to find out if this trial ever sees completion. I suspect, however, the Bangladesh government will cave in to US pressure because the US holds sway over much of Bangladesh’s trade and commerce.

    In the mean time, it is important to get the facts of the case out in the open and replace propaganda with facts.

  3. ZaFa says:

    He should be tried by Fitzgerald.:-?
    (…bye bye Libby)

  4. Pingback: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying » Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury: The Conversation Continues

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