UPDATE from Brenda West on Shoaib Choudhury posted at New English Review ( go here>> for entire article)
Brenda West (July 2011)
Can we admit that we have been scammed? Many of us in the Western world believed the Bangladeshi journalist and publisher, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, when he called himself a “Muslim Zionist.”
Choudhury presented himself as devoted to Jewish people and Western principles of democracy.
He won international acclaim and generous financial support as one of the few Muslims who affirmed our values by playing on the hopes and fears of the West in the post 9/11 world.
However, this in-depth investigation reveals that he has been exploiting his supporters and is creating national security risks for both Israel and the West.
The Legend of Shoaib Choudhury
An earnest fan club has gathered around Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. His image was of a noble, highly moral person who was willing to face imprisonment and death in support of minorities, especially Jews, in his Muslim rule country. In November, 2003 Choudhury defied a ban Bangladesh had placed on its citizens preventing them from traveling to Israel, and was arrested. Choudhury was on his way to a media conference in Tel Aviv organized by Dr. Ada Aharoni, the head of a group called the International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace (IFLAC). Very quickly, word got out to an American friend, Richard Benkin, with whom Choudhury had been communicating by email and telephone for almost a year. Through Benkin’s intercession, the Internet was soon awash with Free Choudhury petitions and articles denouncing his imprisonment and demanding his release.
An international movement was born, and Choudhury was eventually released from prison on bail.
In the United States, Choudhury won endorsements from Congressional representatives Mark Steven Kirk, Nita Lowey, Peter King, Joseph Crowley, and Anthony Weiner. They pushed through Congressional Resolution 64 in 2007 to demand that the Bangladeshi government drop all charges against Choudhury and no longer insist that he show up for court appearances; the European Parliament took a similar action in 2006, as did the Australian Senate in 2007. A Canadian Member of Parliament and international lawyer, Erwin Cotler, provided pro bono representation. Choudhury received a cash award from the Prince of Monaco at a ceremony attended by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel in 2007. Many Israeli newspapers and institutions sang his praises with weekly articles. The Wall Street Journal carried admiring articles about him, as did many other newspapers, and bloggers flooded the Internet with their awe stricken appreciation of what looked like Choudhury’s dedication to Western humanistic principles. He was a celebrated lecturer at Yale University, Rutgers, and the American Jewish Council, among others.
Choudhury’s fame brought him donations from well-funded institutions such as the Middle East Forum and the Hudson Institute, as well as from many individuals. With a gentle, charming manner and a gift for empathy, Choudhury inspired respect, love and even adoration among many.
For those concerned with antisemitism, there was a rush to be part of the “in” group that knew about the “Shoaib saga”, almost like the frenzy that developed around Bernie Madoff when some Jews, trusting Madoff because he was one of them, competed for status in gaining access to the Great Man. As if held in a kind of hypnotic spell, the collective media first of the Jewish community and then of the larger Western world failed to heed many disquieting rumblings about Choudhury from his Bangladeshi compatriots, those who knew him best.
The Legerdemain of Choudhury- His Hidden Islamist And Criminal Past
The spell was broken for me when I realized he had defrauded two of his most devoted female, Zionist supporters of large sums of money.
After viewing the documents involved, the New York Police Department charged Choudhury with Grand Larceny via Fraud. Not only did he bounce three checks, break a contract, and send countless email promises to repay that were never kept, but Choudhury founded the business relationships on an elaborate deception. He tricked the women by inventing elaborate stories about the businessmen he was dealing with – a Mr. Yun, David Jones, Sagir Ahmed Bhai – to convince the defrauded women that their money was involved in legitimate transactions. But the problem is, the associates never existed. For over a year, Choudhury maintained these ruses. When the women wrote that they suspected fraud, Choudhury threatened to sue them for slandering his good name. Furthering the deception, and demanding their continued trust, he created elaborate email exchanges between the women and the fabricated associates. The fake partners wrote to the women that they thought the world of Choudhury on both a personal and a professional level.
Choudhury mailed one of his victims an obviously counterfeit check, signed by the fictitious David Jones, by way of indicating that he would pay her when the check was cashed.
A close look at the check shows that the city and the bank do not exist, and the numbers do not make sense. The money was never paid to the women who trusted him. It is one thing to meet with business reversals and need more time to repay a loan made in good faith. But if the entire premise of the loan is dishonestly conceived, then the transaction is a fraud. Choudhury appealed to his Zionist friends’ sympathy by claiming he could not get a regular bank loan because he was persecuted due to his support of Israel. This claim turned out to be dubious.
Choudhury operates a shady website called Jethro Conglomerate, for which a scam alert has been posted by an organization that regulates the business dealings of the commodities Choudhury sells. (In case you are curious or are impressed with Choudhury’s interest in things Jewish, Jethro is the Hebrew word for Choudhury’s preferred moniker, Shoaib.) Choudhury states on the Jethro Conglomerates website that he represents a company called Noca. Noca itself does not seem legitimate. It is not licensed. It provides no information about who owns or runs the company. The representatives they do list could be of interest to law enforcement. The Noca site says it is located in Canada but it gives an unpublished Nevada phone number. There is an odor of mobster activity connected with this enterprise, as well as Choudhury’s involvement in it. As we shall see in Choudhury’s published resume, Choudhury worked closely with the indicted mobster, Aziz Mohammed Bhai, who fled Bangladesh in 2009 to avoid imprisonment for various charges, including murder.
Amazingly, for all the nearly eight years that Choudhury has been in the international eye since the well-publicized arrest in 2003, no one has bothered to check on his biographical data. Most of this information is clearly posted in his resume on the website owned by Richard Benkin, and can also be seen on Wikipedia.org.
Choudhury was born in 1965 and has said elsewhere that he attended Saint Joseph’s College in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He claims to have gone on to graduate from a Master’s program in journalism at the London School of Economics in 1989, and then worked for the Soviet news agency Itar-Tass from 1989 – 1995, quickly rising to the top by becoming its chief correspondent in 1993.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury’s Official Resume
1989-1993: Correspondent, Itar-Tass News Agency(Russia)
1993-1995: Chief Correspondent, Itar-Tass News Agency(Russia)
1995: Special Correspondent, The New Nation (English language, Dhaka)
1995: Translator (Bangla): The Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Dynasty by
(Iranian) General Hossain Fardoust; Iranian Embassy, Dhaka
1995-1999: Founder and Managing Director, A-21 TV , Bangladesh’s first private television channel,
1999: Bangladesh government (Awami League) forcibly closed A-21 TV after coverage of opposition news.
1999: Charged with sedition, imprisoned, and tortured. (October 10, 1999)
2001: Released from prison and all charges dropped.(January 10, 2001)
2001-2002: Special Correspondent, Daily Inqilab, Dhaka, Bangladesh (Bangla)
2002: Partial Owner, Managing Director, Inqilab Television
2002: Removed from office, shares seized after refusing to attend Inqilab sponsored and organized pro-Saddam Hussain, anti-US rally in Dhaka.
2002: Founded Weekly Blitz (May 2002)
2003-2005: Charged with sedition, imprisoned, and tortured after writing articles warning Bangladeshis of the rise of Islamists, urging Bangladesh to recognize Israel, and advocating religious equality and interfaith dialogue; and after attempting to travel to Israel. (November 29 2003 – April 30, 2005)
The first part of this history is totally made up and the rest is spun to hide things he would rather you not know about. First of all, Choudhury did not go to college. A Google search shows that Saint Joseph’s was only a secondary school until it added on a college wing in 1999, long after Choudhury would have been there. Choudhury claims to have earned a Master’s degree in journalism at the London School of Economics in 1989. However, correspondence with them revealed that they did not have any kind of media program in 1989, and they never heard of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury at all. The administrators at the London School of Economics were very diligent, even searching by the complete birth date known, January 12, 1965, but nothing came up for him. Similarly, an email and telephone exchange with Itar-Tass, and a very thorough search on their part, revealed that not only had they never heard of Choudhury but they never had a branch in Bangladesh either.
So what was the young Mr. Choudhury doing from 1983 or so, when he would have presumably graduated from high school, until 1995? That leaves about twelve years unaccounted for. What does appear on his resume as the next work record, after an alleged brief stint at the New Nation newspaper, is a deep involvement in Islamist activities. Choudhury’s own record states that in 1995 he worked under the tutelage of the Iranian Embassy. Iran had already become a regime of theocratic mullahs that called the United States the Great Satan and Israel the Little Satan. Choudhury’s job was translating The Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Dynasty, written by former general Hossain Fardoust, an Iranian contemporary of Shah Pahlavi, and Ali Akbar Dareini, a reporter for the Associated Press. As you will remember, Shah Pahlavi was the last monarch who ruled in Iran before the mullahs took over.
There is no doubt about the veracity of the next leg of Choudhury’s Islamist sojourn because it was well noted by the outspoken secular anti-Islamists of the day, outraged as they were by the actions Choudhury took against them. He worked for A-21TV and a newspaper called the Daily Inquilab. What Choudhury does not tell us is that these outfits were run by the most malevolent men in Bangladesh at the time, which would be known to anyone who either lived in Bangladesh or who had studied its politics. One was an open Islamist while the other, a Mafia don, worked with people who supported Islamists. While Choudhury does admit that he was formerly an Islamist, he does not tell his foreign supporters what that entailed.
Where Does Choudhury Really Stand In The Political World?
Although Choudhury likes to promote himself as the only Muslim Zionist in the world, it just is not so. The Italian Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi established a group in 1997 that has quietly – without drama or requests for money – been teaching that Muslims should accept Israel as a Jewish state, according to the scriptures of the Koran. Choudhury joined the group and was given a place of honor, which was later rescinded when Sheikh Palazzi learned about the swindles. He booted Choudhury from his group and posted a notice to that effect on his website, which reads in part, “It has recently come to our attention that Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, whom we thought shared our pro-Israel sentiments for noble reasons, has been opportunistically defrauding at least two of his devoted Jewish supporters…”
Choudhury Is Feared And Despised Among His Own Countrymen
Choudhury would be hard put to find work among his own Bangladeshi people to support him in the manner to which he has become accustomed. I have communicated with numerous Bangladeshis, both ex-patriots in the US and Bangladeshi citizens in their own country. Here is a compilation of what they say about Choudhury: “Total liar and cheat. Opportunist. Very evil. A common criminal – he belongs in jail. Womanizer. He lives like a prince so why does he need to borrow money? Double agent. A secret Islamist collecting money under cover of being for Jews and Israel. A pay for hire journalist. You people in the West are too good to realize how bad he is.” An official at the Bangladesh embassy described him as a “total fraudster” and confirmed that Choudhury was generally despised in Bangladesh for his dishonesty. As one Bangladeshi blogger wryly put it, “Many close observers of this chameleon think he was the best con man Bangladesh could ever produce.” Choudhury took advantage of the inscrutability of the Internet to gull the Western world into thinking he was the exact opposite of what those who know him close-up have to say about him.
Choudhury’s Conversion From Anti-Jewish To Pro-Jewish Does Not Make Sense
When asked about how he changed his mind from an anti-Jewish position to a pro-Jewish one, he replied that after he worked with Russian Jews at Tass, he got to like them. But this makes no sense! As you will remember, the Tass reference he gives on his resume turns out to be bogus. Besides, even if he had gotten to know Jews at Tass from 1989 to 1995, by his own account he went directly to work in 1995 with virulently anti-Jewish people at A-21 TV, followed by Inquilab. That would mean that right after meeting Jews and liking them, Choudhury went to work against them. Choudhury was brazen enough to tell another lie about his resume while being videotaped at a speech he gave at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism in October, 2009. He had himself introduced as earning a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, which we have shown to be untrue. Then Choudhury went on to tell a tall tale about the oppression of the Jewish community in Bangladesh. He claimed that a community of 3,500 Jews was so oppressed that they were not allowed to have their own synagogue or cemetery and had to use the facilities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Choudhury even went so far as to solemnly intone that the antisemitic Bangladeshi government would deny those figures but that he, a special friend of the Jews, will speak out on their behalf.
You can watch this at the 1:36 minute mark on this video.
When I fact checked this with Bangladeshi associates, they broke out laughing. “But there are no Jews in Bangladesh,” they told me. This was confirmed by a well- established religious organization dedicated to the welfare of the Jewish people worldwide. After doing a thorough search of their international records at my request, they reported that they are not familiar with any Jews or Jewish community in Bangladesh. Adding to the lack of credibility about Choudhury’s much proclaimed change of heart regarding Jews, he has written not one word explaining his feelings or thoughts about going from extreme Jew hating to extreme Jew loving. Yet he is a man who writes thousands of words a week, some of them about his inner world, as in this piece about not being able to attend his mother’s funeral because he was imprisoned.
Another Look At The 2003 Arrest Story
But, you will ask, what about the famous arrest at the Dhaka airport in 2003? What about all the suffering Choudhury endured afterwards? Did he not act selflessly for Jewish people?
I suggest to you that Choudhury made a reasoned choice to jump start a new leg of his career by contriving to get himself arrested for trying to visit Israel. My take on this is shared by Sajjad Jahir and other Bangladeshi writers. Choudhury’s income stream from his employer, Inquilab, was cut off when they accused him of stealing from them. So he would need another source of money.
The men at Inquilab were Islamists with mobster ties. They would deal harshly with someone they believed defrauded them. According to Bangladeshi journalist Saleem Samed, an Ashoka fellow, who has a blog called Bangladesh Jihad Watch, collecting money in Bangladesh through a civil law suit is not very likely to happen. Consequently, creditors resort to other means, such as seizing the thief and forcing him to hand over the money. Prison might have been safer for Choudhury than being out on the streets. Choudhury was no stranger to imprisonment. He had been locked up sixteen months previously for threatening to kill the Prime Minister and those associated with her. Prison was something he knew he could endure. Investing time in another prison term would be the equivalent, for him, of spending time at a junior college in order to open up future job opportunities.
Choudhury’s photograph at the top of this article reveals him smiling in a self-satisfied way at the moment of his arrest. Who smiles when they find themselves unexpectedly overtaken by police, and arrested? Most people would be scared, angry or ashamed. Choudhury’s happy expression upon being arrested is very suspicious. However, the photograph served a purpose for him and he made sure it reached his potential backers. He emailed the photograph to Dr. Ada Aharoni, the organizer of the Israeli conference. When I spoke to her on June 15, 2011, she expressed anger at being duped into helping Choudhury fool the rest of the world, after he had invited himself to the conference. Dr. Aharoni disclosed that Choudhury asked her to help publicize his planned departure for Israel by announcing it to officials. She stated that Choudhury told her he had already written to officials about his departure. In addition, he asked her to write to the ambassador of Singapore stating his travel plans and asking for the ambassador’s permission to travel through Singapore to Israel. He knew travel to Israel was forbidden, so why did he announce his travel plans to government officials unless he wanted to be arrested? How is it that an associate of his was there at the ready to snap a picture of the arrest?
Six years after his release from prison, Choudhury publishes freely. No one denies him the right to express himself. In fact, his media interests are expanding to the cinema. His latest use of media is producing a movie called “Black” that is supposed to protest Islam’s oppression of women. That is highly ironic, considering his emotionally crafted exploitation of female financial victims, and the many online comments calling him a womanizer seen here and in other places.
Did Choudhury’s attempt to break Bangladesh’s ban on travel to Israel have a good impact? Probably not. According to an article in an Indian newspaper on June 25, 2003, five months before Choudhury set off to break the travel ban, Bangladesh was considering recognizing Israel anyway. Bangladesh’s motivations were twofold: to gain more trade concessions from the U.S. and to further world peace. The secularist Awami League, the one that Choudhury has usually been at odds with, was for recognizing Israel while the communists were against it. The uproar caused by Choudhury’s quasi attempt to travel to Israel actually may have set back the cause of recognizing Israel.
Choudhury: A Clear And Present Danger
As we have seen, Choudhury is now supporting North Korea, the nuclear buddy of genocide seeking Iran, which has vowed to destroy both Israel and America. Additionally, Choudhury is showing support for other communists in South East Asia, withdrawing support for Israel, and allowing wild hatred to be expressed in his newspaper towards Christianity and the United States. Relying on a fraudulent platform of being a great friend of the West, he continues to take money from supporters, both as voluntary donations and as grand larceny via fraud. Where this money goes is a mystery – an alarming one.
Also very troubling are Choudhury’s ties to Islamists, Mafia type criminals, and dictators in Iran. The FBI is aware that terrorists, mobsters and dictators, although they may have different ideologies, will do business with each other in “grey markets” where they can raise money for their nefarious purposes. Choudhury may be operating in the area of grey markets, which can be either on the ground or online. As we have seen, Choudhury has had and still has ties to all three categories of these antisocial persons. His website, Jethro Conglomerates, has been flagged as a scam operation, and this should be further investigated. Choudhury has shown that he is skilled in using the Internet for criminal activities: the death threats made against Prime Minister Hasina, the many deceptions involved in creating and maintaining the myth that he is a persecuted friend of the West, the defrauding of the two Zionist women, and now Jethro Conglomerates. What we have seen so far may be just the tip of the iceberg, and I hope authorities investigate Choudhury’s activities thoroughly.
To date, none of the well-known American figures who made Choudhury famous have responded when they were told directly about his financial crimes. They could have publically withdrawn, or even modified, their uncritical support for him. By failing to do so, they are continuing to empower an individual who is harmful on many levels.
Since writing the first part of this series on Choudhury, I have received numerous emails from Bangladeshis fed up with Choudhury’s many years of chicanery. They are not Islamists or anti-Zionists, as Choudhury would like to say, dismissing anyone who criticizes him. Rather, they ask me not to let Choudhury’s hateful actions poison inter-faith relations. What breaks my heart is that they are afraid to speak out because they see Choudhury protected by American diplomatic forces, and under that cover, getting away with all manner of offenses. How revolting that that our government’s power would be misused to protect evil. It must end.
Brenda West is an occasional commenter on the political scene. She can be reached at BrendaWestNYC@aol.com.