22 - 28 August 2002
Issue No. 600
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Sir-- By calling Iraq an "enemy until proven otherwise", President Bush has turned the core legal principle of the United States on its head.
The long standing principle has always been "innocent until proven guilty". Bush, with all the immense intelligence resources available to him, cannot find the slightest evidence that Iraq is a threat to the United States. Therefore, Bush has found it necessary to change the rules.
If Bush is able to throw out centuries of legal principle and declare war on countries without evidence of threats -- all in the pursuit of United States 'national interests' -- then the entire world is in great danger. May God help us all.
Sir-- Striking Iraq is all the rage now in America -- if not in the whole world. A few days ago I watched President Bush in his weekly televised address to the nation expressing his reasons to strike Iraq. His reasons are that Iraq has a nuclear, biological and whatever weapons; Iraq is a threat to its neighbours; Iraq refuses to receive UN inspectors.
I have a question here: what about Israel? If we apply the same criteria, we will find that Israel has the most dangerous nuclear arsenal in the region; poses a threat to the whole region; and has refused to cooperate with the UN fact-finding committee about the carnage in Jenin. So, what is the difference between the two cases?
I assure Mr Bush and his administration that the more this bias continues, the more terrorist acts will escalate. It is the only way for these people to express their anger, despair and sense of injustice because their cries always fall on a deaf ears.
A Western education
Sir-- As an American and a Christian, my fondest wish is to see the Muslim world enter the 21st century and find peace and prosperity.
Per capita GDP is declining in the Muslim world, and many Islamic states now face mass starvation. Western countries fear a violent reaction from the so-called Arab street, if the present trend continues. But, what can Western countries do?
Just take the cases of Pakistan and Palestine as examples of how difficult it would be to reverse this trend, without a radical shift in cultural values. Both states claim that massive aid from the West is necessary in order to stave off mass starvation and political chaos.
But direct foreign aid can never replace foreign investment in these countries, and foreign investment is hampered by murder, sabotage, expropriation, and terror. Facilities in these countries are not safe places to work for Westerners, who fear kidnapping and murder. And the foreign nationals, who would otherwise staff these facilities, have no real skills.
Nationals have graduated from madrassas, where they learn nothing but the Qur'an and jihad; and Shari'a law is not friendly to business, and is subject to the whim of the local mullah. Meanwhile, political instability makes it difficult for these facilities to promise delivery of goods in a timely manner.
Both the West Bank and Pakistan have per capita GDPs of approximately $1,000 per year (which is close to starvation point) -- and Egypt, Syria, and Iran aren't doing much better. In Saudi Arabia, the average per capita GDP is a mere $10,500 per year (less than half of what it was a decade ago), and that averages in the income of the royal family, which comprises a large percentage of the total.
The current leaders of these countries have no understanding of economics, and after several years in power on the West Bank, the closest thing Yasser Arafat has to an economic development plan is a scheme to counterfeit Israeli currency.
Even direct humanitarian aid is hampered by corrupt warlords, corrupt politicians, and local Islamofascists, who threaten the lives of aid workers.
There is no way to achieve a stable peace under these conditions. No amount of good intentions will reverse the decline of the Muslim world. Only a total adoption of Western values, the total commitment to transparent, non-corrupt, pluralistic and democratic government, and a total renunciation of Islamofascism will reverse this decline. Without some direct intervention, these conditions will only get worse.
War with Saddam Hussein is a good first step to give democratic government a chance. If we achieve our goals and get rid of Saddam Hussein, Iraq will be our best ally in the region. They may not love us, but they are smart enough to imitate us, if they are given half a chance.
As for the other states in the region, progress will only be possible when there is a viable, democratic Arab state to follow as a role model. Then, and only then, will a stable and lasting peace be possible in the region.
But we don't have much time before a major conflagration erupts. We must act quickly, while the opportunity for a peaceful settlement still exists. And I hate to say it, but the path to peace is war.
Sir-- I was in the United States recently on a teacher training programme. It was great. I talked to as many people there as possible. I never knew that the media there has all this incredible impact on ordinary people, and has succeeded in painting a horrible picture of the Arabs in the minds of most Americans.
What should we do to rectify this situation and restore our good image? The Arab media, I am sorry to say, is almost absent there. Something has got to be done to make people there understand that the Arabs, and Egyptians in particular, are against all forms of terrorism.
One day I was walking with two other friends and a passerby looked back, pointed at us and shouted, "Oh, they are terrorists." What I want to say here is that we have got to explain everything to those people.
Essam Hanna Wahba
Nation in transition
Sir-- It is very disturbing that we feel the end is coming. This feeling happened because of the rolling war machine of America, and the grinding machine in Palestine. Obviously the pace of the events is faster than the Arabs could make any difference to these chain of event.
I think we have accepted a civil life when we should be living like warriors; we have accepted a friendship which is not genuine friendship. We persistently fail to learn from our mistakes, accepting assurances of those who intended to kill us.
Recently, the hypnotic dose was delivered by the foreign minister of Israel who said: "Let us forget the past." Although Arabs are generous by nature, this time they are not going to listen. We are not going to forget the past; we are going to forge our future.
Fanatics in trouble
Sir-- I suppose you think it proper for some self-proclaimed martyr to get on a public bus with a bomb strapped to his body, and kill innocent civilians?
If these cowards want to be heroes they should direct their cowardly acts towards the military. However, such an act would take courage and mental skills they are sorely lacking.
No sir. All these fanatics want is trouble, and if these acts keep on as they are they will surely find it.
Sir-- I know it's hard for people of your stature to open an objective book and see for yourself that the Israelis have a legitimate right to Jerusalem. In the Six-Day War Israel was on the verge of being destroyed, but instead it took the initiative and conquered land. Many of the military leaders took land so that one day that land would be used in a peace settlement. Like the Sinai in 1978 with Anwar El-Sadat -- a truly brave, intelligent, intuitive man (unlike you, who embarrass all Muslim moderates around the world).
You also forget how Israel takes extreme measures not to kill civilians even in Palestine. You and I know if Israel wanted to actually make life hard for the Palestinians, they could. But they're choosing not to. Israel repeatedly gives medicine and food to the Palestinian people.
Few and far between
Sir-- On 13 August, in a repeated news clip on our national television Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), it was mentioned that Israel is demolishing homes of the relatives of suicide bombers as punishment. At the same time, Jews who bomb Palestinian schools or try to kill Palestinians, are getting away with a very lenient punishment -- that is if they get caught.
It was mentioned also that "Israel is expelling a brother and a sister to Gaza, for sympathising with their uncle for his minor role in a suicide bombing operation." I should also mention that the Canadian reporter described Gaza as a "large open jail for Palestinians".
Such factual report which exposes the tyranny of Israel and its hatred towards other races, does tarnish its image among ordinary Canadians.
So please be careful of accusing all Western media of being biased.
Telling the world
Sir-- A friend forwarded me Edward Said's cris de coeur about the Palestinian situation. Thank God there are rational men who are willing and able to tell the truth about Israeli policy.
I'll be forwarding this piece on to colleagues all over the world. Keep up the good work.
Road to success
Sir-- Al-Ahram Weekly has always been the articulate voice of the Arab/Muslim world. On occasion, one can even find a rare, introspective, self-critical analysis of the Jewish/Arab conflict. But more often than not, the editorial content always strays back to the constant demonisation of Israel, and Jews, that is ever-present in the Arab/Muslim press.
My greatest criticism of the Arab/Muslim press is that they tend to look at specific, isolated, Israeli actions as if they happen within a vacuum, without any context, and parade these situations as examples of the demonic nature of the Israeli state, and Jews in general.
Portraying the Jewish state in such a way only serves to inflame an already volatile situation. If the conflict's temperature is to be cooled, the Palestinians must understand that they share a lot of the blame for their own state of affairs. PM Sharon would not even be in power had Arafat not turned down the Barak offer, and the powerful Israeli peace movement wouldn't have disintegrated had it not been for the strategy of terror adopted by Arafat.
Where do we go from here? If Arafat was to fade into the background, and the terrorism was to genuinely halt, I can only surmise that PM Sharon would fade into the background as well. The road to peace is going to need time to heal the memories -- on both sides. There is going to have to be a period of trust building, and societal reconstruction on the part of the Palestinians. There has been too much damage done to the psyche of the young Palestinian on the street. They have to go to school, and be indoctrinated in the nuances of making peace, instead of hate and war. The rule of law has to have meaning in order to give their society the boundaries needed to build a new country, step-by-step.
Martin Luther King didn't succeed using violence, and Gandhi didn't succeed using violence. The Arabs won't succeed using violence. Until violence is renounced, not only in word, but in terms of a significant, concrete, attitudal shift, the odds of peace are slim and none.
There will eventually be another opportunity, down the road, for a movement on both sides to have enough momentum needed to create a durable peace. But the question is, will the two parties recognise it when it comes?
Sir-- I am very saddened and sorry to say that those of us who know the distinguished Egyptian Professor Saadeddin Ibrahim, personally and/or through his years of service to knowledge and scholarship, deplore the unbelievably un-Egyptian foolishness of both the bench who pronounced the sentence against the professor, and the politicians who brought about this disgrace to Mubarak's Egypt.
Frankly and sorrowfully, we consider this pseudo-legal act not different from Zionist acts, sanctioning the destruction of Palestinians and the appropriation of their properties.
More than garbage
Sir-- The following comments are in response to the article 'Wish you were here' by Ms Gihan Shahine (Al-Ahram Weekly, 8-14 August). It is sad to hear that the different agencies and stakeholders are still cackling at each other regarding a simple issue like disposal of Alexandria's solid waste, and no one is listening or corrective action has been taken.
I do not see in the article any details regarding the site chosen for an open dump which I consider illegal. Are the EEAA the regulator or the permitting agency? Did they hold an open public hearing for the stakeholders -- namely the citizens of Alexandria who are the generators of garbage? Did they order environmental impact statements for this project and for the resort villages prior to their construction?
There was no mention of the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) or composting, by Onyx or the EEAA. Do they know what is in the garbage? Did they line the so-called land fill and construct leachates and gases collection systems? Do they allow domestic or industrial hazardous wastes with the garbage? I suggest that each of these professionals and politicians should put on their hard hats and safety shoes, and see for themselves what they are generating from the cradle to the grave.
I agree with Mr Nagi of NABI that the government needs to be more open about the reasons, and people are entitled to know the truth. Also, why was Onyx chosen? Onyx specialises in hazardous waste collection, transportation, treatment and disposal. Who is paying the bill? If the tax payers are paying, they have the right to know what is happening to their garbage and whatever else is buried with it. If Governor Abdel-Salam El-Mahgoub could not resolve this issue, no one will.
Treating the stench
Sir-- Referring to Gihan Shahine's article "Wish you were here", please note that the odours emanating from the new Alexandria landfill pose a challenge that does have a solution. First, an environmental regulation should stipulate that the landfill gas, which results from the decomposition of organic materials, should be collected and not left to escape. This is more relevant than the landfill location being at least 1,500 metres away from residential areas, and explains why in France the restriction is only 200 metres.
Secondly, this regulation should be enforceable through the concession agreement that was awarded to Onyx. The gas collection is a simple system of shallow wells along the trenches and PVC pipes that run on the surface to a gathering station. Its cost can be recouped by using the gas in power generation. This technology is widely utilised in landfills around the world. Your readers who wish to learn more can visit the Vancouver Landfill website at:
Mansour Kelada Antoun
Sir-- The tragic crime in which more than 20 people were killed near Sohag was never mentioned in the New York Times, and barely mentioned on CNN. It so happens that the feuding families were of the Muslim faith, but the news coverage would have been entirely different if one of the families was of the Christian faith. CNN and the New York Times would have had a field day exploiting such an incident to promote religious divisions in Egypt.
Egyptian Muslims and Christians have lived together for almost 14 centuries in the spirit of tolerance and love. I hope that the Zionist-controlled media in the West and the few fanatics on both sides will never shake the love that Egyptian Christians and Muslims have had for each other in their long history together.
Knowledge before judgment
Sir-- Regarding the letter 'No go' by Mr Derry Ledoux (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 of July), where he states: "Islam and democracy won't mix -- sorry". I beg the letter writer to accept these notes.
First, Mr Ledoux, I want you to read a book about Islam. I wish I could send you a copy of a good translation of the Holy Qur'an, our sacred book. Allah says in this scripture "And those who answer their Lord and establish worship and whose affairs are a matter of counsel, and who spend of what we have bestowed on them" (Verse 8 -- Shura "Counsel").
Second, I ask you to contact any Islamic Centre in the USA to get answers about the relationship between Islam and democracy, and I hope you find a book about the principle of consultation, "Shura" in Islam. I am sure, sir, you will find out that the Muslims are the ones who taught the world the fundamentals of democracy. Third, please do not judge the Muslims now, but rather study them when they were real Muslims.
Please Mr Ledoux, know all facts about Islam before you pass judgment. I acknowledge that we are weak now and that is because we are very far from the real great religion of Islam.
Peace be upon you Mr Ledoux.
Abdel-Mejeed Nazih Karakish
Letter from the Editor
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