Is Shahidul Alam now an asset to promoters of radical Islam?


Shahidul Alam is now an asset to promoters of radical Islam

Nitish Baruah

The name Shahidul Alam may not be anymore unknown to a large section of people in the Indian subcontinent, Asia and beyond. This British-Bangladeshi photographer was arrested few months back in Bangladesh for inciting a civil coup. Though he never been either a journalist or a prominent rights activist, his arrest had already turned Shahidul into a “journalist” and “prominent rights activist”. Amnesty International, which always is enthusiastic in defending any anti-Semitic individual with its poster title ‘Prisoner of Conscious’ had done it again. The first individual from Bangladesh who has got this title was Shahriar Kabir, a firebrand activist defending the rights of Hindus in Bangladesh. Mr. Kabir has always been active in providing regular feedback to the Capitol in the US as well as Western policymakers on the “extreme repression on Hindus” in Bangladesh. He had enjoyed warm hospitality, patronization and even beyond from the Hindus in Bangladesh, India and rest of the world. But his monopoly in this field was first smashed by Richard Benkin, a Chicago-based Hindu rights activist and then Mendi N Safadi, an Israeli Druze. Interestingly though, Richard Benkin was a paid lobbyist for radical Islamic – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – Mendi Safadi has been receiving US$ 25 thousand every month for continuing anti-Bangladesh pro activities. Again this amount is being paid by a leader of BNP, Aslam Chowdhury. It should be mentioned here BNP considers Hamas and Hezbollah as its allies.   

On December 6, 2018 the First Post, is an Indian news and media website. The site is a part of the Network 18 media conglomerate owned by Reliance Industries, which also runs CNN-News18 and CNBC-TV18 published an interview of Shahidul Alam. The interview captioned ‘Where sycophancy is norm, truth is viewed as a sickness‘ has projected Mr. Shahidul as a champion defender of freedom of expression.

Before going into the details of the interview, let me say, Shahidul Alam hails from a family that opposed the war of independence of Bangladesh. More precisely, they are Pakistani collaborators. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned Shahidul’s deceased great unclde Abdus Sabur Khan, a former government minister who opposed Bangladesh’s independence and allied with Pakistan. She told the Reuters, “He opposed our liberation war, he joined Pakistan, he didn’t accept Bangladesh. In 1971 he was with the Pakistani occupation army,” Hasina said. “Sometimes blood speaks, you understand that.”

Most interestingly though, while Al Jazeera and many of the pro-Pakistan media are enthusiastically giving coverage to Shahidul Alam, several prominent Indian media as well as internationally known individuals like Noam Chomsky, Arundtati Roy, Naomi Klein, American playwright Eve Ensler and Indian journalist Vijay Prasad and others are extremely vocal in defence of this Bangladeshi photographer. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen along with 11 other Nobel Prize winners had also spoken in defense of Shahidul.

In a letter to Shahidul Alam through PEN International, Arundhati Roy wrote: “Here in India, our rulers have dropped all pretense of the secularism and socialism that are enshrined in our constitution. In order to distract attention from the catastrophic failures of governance and deepening popular resentment, as institution after institution—our courts, universities, banks, intelligence agencies—is pushed into crisis, the ruling power, (not the Government, but its holding company, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,) is alternately cajoling and threatening the Supreme Court to pass an order clearing the decks for the construction of a giant Hindu temple on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood before it was demolished by a rampaging mob. It’s amazing how politicians’ piety peaks and troughs with election cycles.”

She added saying, “This is what we are up against, these neat definitions of the perfect nation, the perfect man, the perfect citizen, the perfect Hindu, the perfect Muslim. The postscript to this is the perfect majority and the satanic minority. The people of Europe and the Soviet Union have lived through the devastation that these sorts of ideas caused. They have suffered the matchless terror of neatness. Only recently Europe marked the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht—the event that marked the beginning of the Holocaust. There too it all began quite slowly. There too it began with elections. And there too the old murmurs have started up again.”

In her letter, Ms. Roy has brought the issue of general election in Bangladesh and India scheduled to be held in 2018 and 2019. This exactly is the reason of massive hue and cry centering Shahidul Alam. Religious bigots and enemies of interfaith harmony are united in a blame war against Bangladesh – more precisely, the secularist ruling party in the country.

Let us first of all take a glimpse on the background of Shahidul Alam. According to the Wikipedia, Shahidul studied and taught chemistry in London where he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of London. In personal life, he is living together with Rehnuma Ahmed and the couple never got married. During his days in UK, Shahidul Alam drew the attention of both British intelligence agency MI-6 as well as pro-Pakistani society in that country. He was reportedly recruited by the British intelligence while had spent a very colorful time romancing and sleeping with many of his female colleagues and students. During his London days, Shahidul Alam simultaneously dated with Scottish-born Karen and Indian born British national Nandini Mehta. As a result, Nanditi got pregnant. But Shahidul betrayed her and left United Kingdom very abruptly. Later, Nandini Mehta and even her family members contacted Shahidul in Dhaka with the request of marrying the mother of his child. But, he did not pay any heed to it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the personal character of the “champion defender of freedom of expression” Shahidul Alam.My curiosity here is on why the Indian newspaper First Post is so much interested in giving media coverage to this man. As we know, Narendra Modi and India are no more interested in Sheikh Hasina and had secretly joined hands with Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, is it the same nexus that is continuing media offensives on the secularist Bangladesh Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina?

***IBG NEWS does not agree or disagree on the views expressed here.***

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