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Wednesday 01st of April 2015 A- A+

“Moderate” Bangladesh says human rights activist working for “interests of the Jews”: Dr. Richard L. Benkin

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Bangladesh likes to market itself as a “moderate” country, committed to principles of freedom and democratic rule.  But would a moderate country:

·         Be complicit in the ethnic cleansing of its non-Muslim minorities, reducing Hindus from almost a fifth of the population to an estimated one in 15?

·         Allow attacks on other religious minorities and attempt to change the ethnic majority where indigenous peoples have lived for millennia by flooding the area with majority Bengalis—much like the old Soviet Union did in the Baltics and elsewhere?

·         Have a Prime Minister admit to “anti-minority laws,” which the Bangladeshi PM did in 2009, then allow them to remain in force?

·         Charge writers and journalists with blasphemy, harass and imprison them for violating religious orthodoxy, and force many of them to flee the country in order to practice their professions freely?

·         Orchestrate attacks on human rights activists, including one courtroom beating with the judge’s approval, and ignore calls from organizations like the International Commission of Jurists to do something about it?

As if we needed more evidence that Bangladesh and its Awami League government are anything but moderate; they keep providing it anyway.  On March 10, 2015, human rights activist and attorney Rabindra Ghosh met with H. T. Imam, Awami League Advisory Council member and one of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's closest advisers, about the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh.  It is an issue I addressed with Imam four years earlier in Dhaka.

As he did when I met with him, Imam rejected any suggestion that Hindus face persecution under the Awami League government.  When Ghosh raised my name and my eight year activism on the issue, Imam dismissed the notion that any of it could be correct, instead responding that “Dr. Benkin is working for the interests of the Jews.”

Is he serious?  Does he expect a man of Rabindra Ghosh’s stature—or other world leaders and captains of industry—to have any regard for a government whose Prime Minister gives credence to a man who thinks like that?  Four years earlier, when Imam wanted me to get him financial help from Israel, he was as complimentary as can be about the Jewish people.  The Bangladeshis with whom I spoke about Imam’s insult recognized it as such and were not surprised to hear that it came from Sheikh Hasina’s confidant.

I wish I was there so I could have asked Imam what these “interests of the Jews” are; and if a poor elderly Jew from Kolkata has the same interests as a wealthy Jewish financier in New York?  Just what is that common interest that all Jews have?  Evidently, Mr. Imam knows, and it would be helpful if he shared it with us.  I want to know not only because of my involvement with Bangladesh and the fact that Mr. Imam is a very influential man there.  I would like to know so I can explain it to Doris and Robert Fisher, the respective founder and director of The Gap, the second largest importer of Bangladeshi goods in the United States.  I would like to be able to explain it to Senator Dianne Feinstein who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee and previously chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee; and to Senator Charles Shumer who is on the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade and is in line to succeed Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader.  All four of them are Jewish and no doubt would love to know what Sheikh Hasina’s trusted advisor whispers in her ear.

For years, Bangladesh has come more and more under the influence of radical Islamists who now control many of the country’s social institutions from banking to education.  Yet, the self-styled “liberal” Awami League has refused to counter that for fear of political backlash and the success of its opponent, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.  As a result, if there ever was a difference between the country’s two major parties, it long ago was buried under political interests.  Politics in Bangladesh would be comical were they not deadly.  Statements such as those made by Imam would be farcical if they did not reflect a common opinion among Bangladeshi policy makers even, as in this case, one of the Prime Minister’s closest confidants.

Countries whose donations prop up the dysfunctional Bangladeshi economy should demand that bigots like H. T. Imam be ousted from positions of prominence.  This includes the UN, which consistently awards Bangladesh more positions in its peacekeeping missions than any other country.  Companies including The Gap and other major importers of Bangladeshi goods should take their business elsewhere rather than use their business to pay the salaries of men like Imam and others in power who try to deflect their nation’s sins with outlandish accusations that bring nothing but discredit to their nation. 

And if she really is a civilized leader, Sheikh Hasina ought to tell Mr. Imam that his services—and his bigotry are no longer desired.

Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an American human rights activist who has raised awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Bangladesh’s Hindus, and is working with officials in multiple countries on taking action to stop it.  His book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus, is in its second printing as is available on Amazon

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