ASK A Muslim … Almost any Muslim, what they think about Jews and Christians, and they will likely instantly say something on the lines of: “Jews and Christians are the enemies of Allah”, writes Bangladeshi Newspaper owner, Shoaib Choudhury. If you ask them what they think about the Jewish State, they will say, “There is no Israel” or they will say, “It’s the cursed land of the enemies of Allah”. Such cruel hostility and anti-Semitism is everywhere in the Muslim world … Arab or non-Arab.
Welcome to Bangladesh! The second largest Muslim nation in the world where almost 80 percent of the 170 million populace are Muslims. The radical souls among them are filled with the poison of anti-Semitism and religious hatred. But, defying such extreme adversities, only one newspaper has been confronting radical Islam and jihad, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism; openly defending the State of Israel; and promoting interfaith harmony.
For these “crimes” our office was bombed by the Islamist militants in 2006, our office was attacked a number of times, I was physically assaulted and even abducted, and was falsely charged with sedition, treason, and blasphemy by the government of Bangladesh. The state machinery had influenced the court in wrongly convicting me in these false cases. Even in prison, I was kept in the condemned cell alongside condemned convicts. I had to serve 7-year’s rigorous imprisonment.
Blitz began its journey back in 2003. At that time, the word ‘Israel’ was considered as a taboo while there wasn’t even a single copy of Jewish Torah in any of the local bookstores. I took personal initiatives in getting the Bangla version of Torah printed in Bangladesh while encouraged some book importers in importing English version of Torah. I am also fighting for the religious rights of the Bangladeshi Jews, who cannot proclaim themselves as Jews to date. Since 2007, I took initiatives in getting the only Jewish Synagogue released from government’s acquisition, which was acquired in 1948 by the then Pakistani government.
Blitz has extensively written against radical Islamic militancy groups Hizbut Tahrir and Hizb Ut Towhid as well as radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. As a result, Bangladesh authorities banned Hizbut Tahrir, Hizb Ut Towhid and Zakir Naik. Prior to this, due to our continuous efforts, jihad-preacher Zakir Naik was refused entry in the United Kingdom and Canada. Very recently, Indian authorities have banned Peace TV, which was run by Mr. Naik and issued arrest warrants against him.
In Bangladesh, we have been organizing the celebration of Rosh Hashanah every year which is attended by scholars, social elites, journalists, religious leaders, and Bangladeshi Jews. Blitz has emerged as a very powerful platform of confronting radical Islam. Of course, we still face challenges. Although we have over 100 thousand visitors in Blitz online edition and a few thousand subscribers of the print edition, none of the local advertisers place their advertisement in Blitz or its sister vernacular publication Jamjamat. Because, in their eyes, we are enemies of Islam.
But of course, nothing could and nothing can stop me or us. We shall continue fighting radical Islam and jihad. Because, I am also a Zionist – a Son of Israel.
Some people ask me why haven’t I left Bangladesh and took asylum in the West. I tell them, eight countries have offered me asylum and I never have accepted. Because I will fight radical Islam right inside the battlefield. The word retreat is not in my vocabulary. There is no dignity in retreat.