Bengali speaker censored after threats of ‘disorder and violence’ in Tower Hamlets

Silenced: Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, 81, was prevented from speaking at the Idea Store
Silenced: Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, 81, was prevented from speaking at the Idea Store

A Bangladeshi writer was blocked from speaking at a Tower Hamlets library after threats of “disorder and violence” from an alliance of Sylheti “community leaders” and Christian fundamentalists.

Eighty-one year old Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, a journalist, poet, and freeman of Tower Hamlets, was booked to speak on a panel at Whitechapel Idea Store alongside Mayor John Biggs and others on Sunday for International Mother Language Day.

But the panel event was cancelled at the last minute after the council received a letter from the Greater Sylhet Council UK and Voice for Justice UK warning of “public disorder, protest and violence” if Mr Choudhury was allowed to speak.

The letter, signed by Nurul Islam Mahbub, chair of the Greater Sylhet Council UK, which purports to represent Bangladeshis from the city of Sylhet, and Kalam Choudhury, of the Biblical literalist group Voice for Justice UK, claimed Mr Choudhury made “defamatory remarks about our Sylheti Bangladeshi community, the founder of Channel S and other community leaders on live TV”.

It also accused him of making “anti-religion remarks”, adding: “Our community are so upset and furious against him. If you allow him to come at the Idea Store, there will be a public disorder, protest and could violence. [sic]

“So our humble request to you please do not allow him to come at the Idea Store.”

Mr Choudhury has defended his remarks, saying they have been misinterpreted.

However, politicians in Bangladesh have made hay with them, with the Jamaat-e-Islami saying it is the “duty of every Muslim” to “raise their voice” against him, and the more extreme Hefazat-e-Islam calling for his death.

A separate event at the Brady Arts Centre on Saturday where Mr Choudhury was booked to speak was also called off after the council denied permission to use the public building.

Writing to the organisers, council chief executive Will Tuckley said the decision was taken in line with the council’s terms of hire, which “as a general rule” don’t allow public buildings to be used for “controversial or sensitive” events.

He added: “In making its decision, the council does not make a judgement on any individual.  The decision was informed by an assessment of risk that the proposed event, taking place in a council building, may have become controversial or impacted on community cohesion.”

Nurul Islam Mahbub, chair of the Greater Sylhet Council UK, told the Citizen he wrote the letter to “keep peace and harmony” in the borough.

He claimed his group has 3,000 members, mostly outside Tower Hamlets, and wrote the letter with the Christian Voices for Justice group as two representatives of a broad “federation of community organisations”.

He told the Citizen: “The community is very angry about what he said. We don’t want violence. We want peace and harmony.

“We’re not going to make people go and make hassle to nobody. [But] he should not say bad things about the community.”

He added: “Nobody has the right to harm his life but he doesn’t have the right to harm the community.”

Mr Mahbub, who does not live in Tower Hamlets, said Mr Choudhury’s remarks had criticised former mayor Lutfur Rahman, who is also Sylheti.

“He said something [about Mr Rahman]. He said he made all Tower Hamlets the Islamic State. We’re concerned to the way he make with the present climate to make everybody a criminal. [sic]”

Mr Rahman was thrown out of office in April after being found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, including the “spiritual influence” of 100 imams telling Muslims it was their duty to vote for him.

Asked about freedom of speech, Mr Mahbub said: “I don’t have the right to criticise anyone’s religion.

“If you are trying to upset people, you are looking for trouble.

“If you are intentionally trying to upset people, that’s a crime, that’s not freedom of speech.”

Asked if he would be happy if complaints and threats were used to stop himself from speaking in public, he replied: “If I’ve done something wrong then I shouldn’t be unhappy.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “After very careful consideration, we decided that the event with poet and journalist Abdul Gaffar Choudhury at the Idea Store, Whitechapel, would not go ahead this weekend.

“The decision is no reflection at all on Mr Choudhury, and has been taken in line with established guidance on events that may be sensitive or provoke community tensions.”

When asked whether the council was allowing or imposing censorship, the spokesperson said: “On the issue of censorship, these decisions are taken carefully on a case by case basis on the available evidence and possible options.”

The council declined to say whether it was confident it could maintain public order in the borough or whether Mr Choudhury would be free to speak at future events in public buildings.

Do you think the council was right to cancel the events? 

Tell us in the comments below or email editor@eastendcitizen.co.uk

  1. rabbani on Tuesday 23 February 2016 at 6:11 pm

    The council has done utterly wrong!! Tower hamlet, Newham and some parts of west minister area have become the capital of muslims extremists. The council is actually represented it’s community, who are muslim, mostly deprived from main stream Britishness.

    It’s a shame that they have stopped Mr Chowdhury to speak freely. The council must apologies publicly for their poorly and unacceptable decision and invite Mr Chowdhury at public meeting to ensure freedom of speech and secular multicultural promises.



  2. Rubina on Thursday 25 February 2016 at 10:56 am

    This isn’t the first time this guy offended the community. I’m not from Sylhet but his comments were derogatory. I support council’s policy on this. No one has the right to insult a community. Freedom of speech comes with responsibilities.



  3. Ashman Hok on Thursday 10 March 2016 at 7:48 pm

    The fear of being offended, is not a reason individuals should be censored. Let this intelligent and valuable writer speak. Don’t let extremist win with intimidation and threats.



  4. tipo on Friday 11 March 2016 at 12:02 pm

    ISIS Wahhabi Relatives Jamaat E Islamis of Tower Hamlets Political Propagandist NOT ONLY misQUOTED What Gaffer Said, they Also Threatened Him with Violence, An 81 year Old Man who Openly Talks against the Jamaat Racist Fascist Politics in the UK, These Colonial Coconut Jamaat’s Threatened and Prevented him from attending a Bangladeshi National Language Day Function at the Brady Centre too, Basically they got a Smear and a Hate Campaign going against him,(Typical of them, they have been doing this kind of Bullshit since these Paki Terrorist were born in Bangladesh in Our Case After 1975, You See their Political Doctrines are like their Cousins the Zionists and the Freemason’s, they work underground) Their Threats, mean Violence Against Gaffer = Terrorist Threats and Terrorism, The Only Goons I know of who Possess these kind of Animalistic Characteristics are the ISIS Wahaabi Jamaat E Goons, Not Only In Bangladesh They also do it in the UK, For Example the Shahabagh Movement in Altab Ali Park in the UK February 2013, These Jamaat E Goons were Assualting the Women there, when the Women there were campaigning for The Death Penalty Against the Jamaat Fascist Paki Terrorists War Criminals Like Mollah Qaeder of the Genocides of 1971, Since these goons are too Chicken to fight men, They pick on Women instead !
    And Meanwhile in Bangladesh during the Shahabagh Movement February 2013 the Jamaats were Hacking Bloggers to Death, These were the Bloggers who were writing Against the Jamaat Politics in Bangladesh.
    These are ALL BNP Paki Agents,which are all Ziaurs Creations, which was after 1975 in Bangladesh and As For UK, Those War Criminals That Escaped from Bangladesh to the UK in 1971, Like Mueen Uddins and Golam Azom’s, These War Criminals are the Master Minds behind The Creations of The New Generations of Wahhabi Paki Jamaats in the UK which was After 1971, These War Criminals are The Patrons of Creating More Terrorist Fascist Goons in the UK from their ELM, IFE etc !!!
    Now Tell Me Who is Creating the DIVISION of Non Sylheties and Sylheties then ? (Just Wondering Why the Dominant Word here is Not “Non Bengalis and Bengalis” Why is it Non Sylheti and Sylheti ?, A None Bengali or a None Sylheti can Mean any Ethnic Group or Nationality around the World, How about calling it by its name, Between a Bengali and a Sylheti can you see, here is a sense of different nationalistic attitudes in play here,= Division isn’t it ? )
    Obviously these Jamaat e Love using the Sylheti Nationalism card, Notice Not Bengali Nationalism, since the Paki Jamaats don’t like Bengalis Just like their Paki Masters of Fuckistan didn’t like Bengalis either in 1971, hence the Break up of Jamaat Wahhabi Fuckistan in 1971.
    So Tell me Which Community is Racist the Paki Agents Jamaats or the Bangladeshis Who voted for Freeing the Nation from these Type of Racist Fascist Terrorist Paki Minded Goons from our nation and in our Community ?
    They Are Not Only Creating DIVISION within The Bangladeshi Community, which is by using Sylheti Nationalism which they are quoting Sylheti V Non Sylheti, if that is the Case we should have another Independence War and Separate so that all of us can live in Peace, maybe Sylhet can Join Assam or Even Pakistan and Make it into a Greater Sylhet (More Like Greater Wahhabi Zionist Israel ) that way these Jamaat Paki Wahhabis can make Khaleda Ziaur the PM and ask their American Masters for more Aid Dollars, and Allow them to Put a NATO Base on their Land Just like Fuckistan and Turkey Have, They can also Allow their American Masters to use their Air Space for AID Dollars, Instead of spending the AID Dollars to Feed the People of the land, Just like their Fuckistan They can Build Nukes instead with the Aid Dollars, That way America can use their Air Space to bomb their own people down init ? or even ask for more Aid Dollars to bring in Rohingya Migrants just like Turkey is doing for Syria Migrants for EU and American Aid Dollars, to Terrorise and Fight in their Land init, Seems like Separation and Then Divorcing is the logical Solution here, Then that way You can Fight within your Own Districts just like Fuckistan is doing today, and Not Blame Others, init ?
    That Way I think we can all live in Peace How about it Guys ?
    If So, Lets Get a Campaign Going in the UK for the Separation of Bangladesh eh, since you are allowing the Jamaat and BNP Political Wahhabi Doctrines to Brainwash You, to Isolate Yourselves from Everyone, Don’t You Think Separation is the Best Solution at the Moment Guys, You Jamaat Racist Fascist Colonial Coconut Wahhabi Criminals had Your Chance to Brainwash the Nation for a good 35 years with the likes of militant illegal dictators who loved your wahhabi petro dollars, by calling the Awami League Hindu Party, (Man if that statement isn’t a Paki Wahhabi Racist statement and also Judgemental, then What is ?) So How about it Guys ?
    These Jamaats are also creating DIVISION and ISOLATION in the British Community by using the “Wahhabi Jamaat Islamic Nationalism” Card Too, When One is a Racist and a Fascists they are ALWAYS a Racist and a Fascist, This means They are also a Racist and a Fascist to Everyone around them too, including their OWN kind Just like their Wahhabi Zionist Masters ARE ! Like in the Wahhabi House of Sauds and Zionist Israel !
    Just look at Jamaat Wahhabi Zionist Fuckistan, They are Fighting internally since 1947, First it was against the Bengali Race in 1971, Now its against The Balochistani Race incidentely Balouchistan Just like East Pakistan Wanted their Independence, and they are Still Fighting for their Independence still today,Jammu Kashmir Hindu side of India and Fuckistan, Afghan North East side of Fuckistan, South West side of Fuckistan = Sindh, and North West Side of Pakistan which is Iran, Why the Hell do You think the Iranians built a Huge Wall on the Boarder of Iran, the Iranian’s don’t want any of these Wahhabi Brainwashed Pakis to infiltrate into their Land of Shia Iran, Why do You think India has also built a huge Wall on their land too, They don’t want these Wahhabi Terrorist to come into their land to terrorise their nation either !



  5. Why are they so dumb? on Tuesday 4 April 2017 at 4:40 pm

    The sylheti community is so backwards and dont seem to understand the concept of freedom of speech. They are extremely uneducated and small minded. They all speak sylheti at work in front of non sylheti people which is just rude. They are intimidated by bengalis who are better educated and can speak english well- these kinds of educated bengalis are always mocked and made fun of in offices as coconuts. They are just embarassed and jealous that they are so stupid. The whole community has a thuggish culture where if you try to raise any social advancements or western values you are silenced by intimidation. The girls would rather buy a £500 handbag than spend the money on travel and expanding their cultural experiences. The sylheti community are becoming increasingly arabised and losing their actual bengali heritage; learning arabic is now more important than learning the mother tongue, saris are being replaced by abayas, and every other word is inshallah now. I am sylheti myself and have experienced this first hand. The borough needs more diversity, all this is allowed to happen because it like a little bangladesh there. They need to make friends with other nationalities to realise there is a whole other world out there.
    Its a shame, if they actually studied their own history they would see bangladesh has had many celebrated free thinkers.



  6. This on Tuesday 4 April 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Exactly, I agree. Why are so many sylhetis afraid of being insulted. All other nationalities and religions can take insult but it seems sylheti muslims get particularly upset about it. They need to grow up and let people have their say so we can engage in a rational debate rather than being silenced off the bat. Isnt that what dictators do?



  7. Zafar Sharif on Sunday 12 June 2022 at 4:26 pm

    I am reading racist comments towards my sylheti community.Surely it is the radical razakar and bengoli nationalist who have axe with sylheti,the most advance and progressive and successful community of bangladesh.First for those poster boy of Abdul gaffar choudhury.Hear it,what will you do in place of sylheti,when someone calls you poor peasants,when someone demonize your community as terrorist,when someone attacks personnel’s from your community.Remember,it is the sylheti community who are contributing to the growth of bangladesh.your own foreign minister abdulmomen comes from sylhet.By such racist comments,you are no different from British and Pakistani oppressor.



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