… “The Media and a Culture of Peace” (To have been delivered by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury to IFLAC’s writers’ symposium; Tel Aviv, Israel; December 2003)
Published on Interfaith Strength, by staff, not dated. (If the Choudhurys were in Europe during the Holocaust, they would have refused to drive the trains. Richard L. Benkin).
Shalom and Salam! …
(3 excerpts): … But let us also be clear about something else. A true Culture of Peace is not merely the cessation of hostilities. It is far more than that and includes Justice and Tolerance for all people. A true Culture of Peace is one that allows each person to have pride in one’s own faith, while respecting the pride that courses through the veins of those who follow other paths to God.
Unfortunately, too often, that goal seems far out of reach. Who can fail to be moved by the news of innocents – children – being cruelly murdered while riding a bus to school; or the thought of infants being blown to bits, along with their mothers in whose arms they lay? How recently was it that entire families were wiped out by a terrorist’s bomb in Haifa? The litany could go on and on.
To make matters worse, these atrocities were carried out by those who claim – falsely, I must add; dishonestly – who claim to be acting in the name of Islam, and in the name of God – of God!
I asked who could fail to be moved. I have an answer: most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, that’s who; the delegates who applauded Mahathir Mohamad’s anti-Jewish rant; and too many others, that’s who. But why? Do these people have no heart, no soul? Are we Muslims incapable of feeling your pain? Of course, that is not so.
We are all – you and I included – prisoners of the world in which we live; and the Muslim world, unfortunately, still remains captive within that Culture of Death …
… Many of you might remember when Bangladesh was called East Pakistan – part of the Moslem portion carved out of the former British colony. In fact, Bangladesh today is about 83 percent Moslem, and with a total population close to 140 million, that gives us one of the largest Moslem populations in the world. But Bangladeshi Muslims are known for being among the most tolerant Muslims on the globe. Perhaps that is because we are located away from the monolithic Moslem territory of the Middle East. Perhaps it is because we are the most religiously diverse among Moslem nations. Compare us with Pakistan, which is 97 percent Moslem, Egypt 94 percent, and Iran which is 99 percent Moslem. We Bangladeshi Muslims have learned to respect other faiths. And we are also – in contrast to those other countries – a democracy.
The greatest number of non-Muslims in Bangladesh are Hindu. Others adhere to other so-called “Eastern” and “tribal” religions. But we also have a small Christian population, and I want to share our experience in Bangladesh with my distinguished listeners, because I believe it is very instructive.
Christian missionaries, as we know, are active throughout the world, including several Muslim countries. They operate churches and schools with the goal of convincing people to embrace Christianity – of “spreading the Gospel.” Moslem leaders have not always welcomed them. In Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, they have been attacked, arrested, and expelled. But among the tolerant Muslims of Bangladesh, some 400 such missionaries operate free of such harassment. And they have been successful in converting some 500,000 members of tribal groups and various minorities to their faith. Do we Bangladeshi Muslims consider this an offense against The Prophet? Do the converts face legal or other disabilities? No, because that is not our way.
Quite the contrary, we recognize the missionaries’ charitable work and positive efforts among the people – our people. Just outside Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, are the areas of ‘Bhaluka’ and ‘Pubail.’ Most of the residents are converts to Christianity, and I have personally visited the area several times …
… Bangladeshis need to hear more voices at Weekly Blitz. And while Blitz enjoys some success among our English-speaking elites, it leaves the mass of Bangladeshis untouched. Other media in the vernacular, Bangla, will help bring the truth to millions. New television networks would also counter the disinformation fed our people. The media could play an effective and dynamic role in spreading the cultural heritage of the Jewish community, their religious festivals and rituals in Muslim countries, much as it did with Christianity in Bangladesh.
While I am no expert on cost, it seems to me that a newspaper would be a better investment than a missile, and a television network more effective than a few fighter jets.
Dear Brothers and sisters, there is an old saying in English. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The mosques, Madrassas, and Moslem media have had absolute power over our hearts and minds for too long. Rather than ascribe evil intent – which there is among some; or ignorance – which also exists; let us pierce the new, yet also old, iron curtain of ignorance and hate with the greatest power on earth: KNOWLEDGE, INFORMATION, AND THE FULL AND OPEN EXCHANGE OF IDEAS.
May G-d bless the people of Israel, the Jewish people throughout the world, and the whole of mankind. May we through our efforts, be worthy of those blessings, and may there be an ever-lasting peace in this part of the world, and elsewhere. May God give us the strength to be victorious over hate and ignorance. Amen! (full long text).