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My struggles for Bangladesh-Israel relations

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Back in 2003, the word ‘Israel’ or ‘Jew’ were almost considered as taboo in Bangladesh, the third-largest Muslim country with 160 million people. During that time, no one could find a copy of Torah in any of the bookstores in the country. Despite the existence of a slim Jewish populace in Bangladesh, they could not openly proclaim their religious identity. Most importantly, during that time, Bangladesh was ruled by an Islamist coalition comprising Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-e-Islami and a number of radical Islamic parties, who were openly patronizing jihadist groups such as Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), while the government was not only supporting Palestinians, it was also sending locals to fight against the Jewish State.

The situation in Bangladesh was no better than today’s Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban and their jihadist cohorts. Defying all of these odds and adversities, in 2003, I openly spoke in favor of normalizing relations between Bangladesh and Israel. As first step, I wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post advocating establishment of relations between Bangladesh and Israel. In the same year, I was invited by the Hebrew Writers Association for attending an international peace conference, which was jointly organized by the US Department of State, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew Writers Association. But unfortunately, on my way to Tel Aviv, I was arrested at Dhaka international airport, taken into police custody, tortured during interrogation and sent to an isolated cell inside Dhaka Central Jail.

Since then, many people in Bangladesh and even in the US had asked – why being a Muslim I had openly spoken in favor of Israel and denounced anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In response I said, since my childhood, my father Ghulam Ather Choudhuri had taught me never to hate religion of others and view the world as a human being. I keep on saying, Israel is the blessed land of the God gifted to the Jews, and for this particular reason, being a practicing Muslim, I feel proud to proclaim myself as a Zionist.

While my determination and support for Israel never got dented, I had to serve 7-years rigorous imprisonment in Bangladesh for the “crimes” of........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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