Ready to forgive
Sir-- We should remember that when Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel in 1978 after the great victory in 1973, Saddam Hussein called for an immediate Arab summit meeting to impose harsh penalties and severe punishments against the Egyptian people because -- as he said -- we committed a great scandal and a treacherous deed.
In that meeting -- to which all Arab kings and presidents hurried -- he led a fierce campaign and bared his teeth terrorising the participants with threats of reaching their bedrooms and killing whoever rejected any recommendation the meeting reached. He also exerted all his strength to force all Arab investors to stop their participation in the Egyptian economy and withdraw their deposits from the banks with the intention of disrupting the economy, starving the people and collapsing the political system.
Despite Iraq's offensive, hateful behaviour in the past, we strongly reject any attack on Iraq because -- as many reports have mentioned such as the article by Nyier Abdou 'Sizing up the damage' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December): "The Iraqi people are weak and vulnerable, particularly the very young and the elderly and thus are much less able to withstand the effects of another war."
We stand firmly behind our President Hosni Mubarak who dedicates most of his efforts to prevent any war in this region, because its peoples have suffered a lot and Saddam Hussein should know that Egypt is not only the cradle of civilisation, the beacon of gratitude and forgiveness but also the land of tolerance.
Mohiy Eldin Jamal
Beginning of the road
Sir-- I am a new reader of Al-Ahram Weekly and I admire it a lot. What I would like to say is that since Iraq has agreed to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, it should know that this is only the beginning of the road. Iraq has to walk this road to the end in order to protect the Iraqi people from a new and bloody war (which President Bush is still speaking and preparing for).
Sir-- Unlike the people who are against Bush's war drum-beating, I would like to thank Mr Bush because he has made us face ourselves, and look where we are going. Thank you Mr Bush, you have revealed all the hidden and secret plans to dominate the world and be its only guardian. The Muslim and Arab nations tried to pretend that they have no idea about what is going on in your administration regarding them; but you, Mr Bush, have made everything as clear as daylight.
Hosam Ramadan Abdel-Salam
Images of grief
Sir-- I watched on television a nine-year-old Palestinian boy, killed by Israeli forces, as his family was escorting him to his final resting place. I also watched three Palestinian children crying because their father was assassinated, and another young man laid on a stretcher as one of his relatives kissed him on his forehead.
Despite these images of grief, we are accused of anti-Semitism, while the true killers are destroying, killing and demolishing lives. My call is to all Arab media officials to invest and make the best use of these pictures to expose the truth to world public opinion, instead of spending our efforts on songs, dances and futile discussions.
To all Americans
Sir-- I am an 18-year-old Egyptian girl who is really shocked and confused about what is happening in the world. I am angry because of the silence and fear regarding the insults and oppression we face. I am shocked because we have no tongue to defend ourselves, and I am shocked how the peace-loving Americans have a war-loving government.
We are used to the voices of justice, democracy and equality to come from the US, and I always believed that Americans were not stupid. But I wonder how they believe all the lies that are said to them about us? At the same time, I want to thank all the American brothers and sisters who joined the demonstrations against injustice. Thank you all; you represent the American people whom we know.
Sir-- Referring to US officials as anti-Arab hawks is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Don't the Iranians pray to their God "Death to Americans." I've never heard an Arab say that was hawkish.
Sir-- We have a saying in America: "If you can't beat them, join them." Perhaps it is time for the Palestinians to adopt the tactic that proved so successful for the Zionists: build a state with the support and protection of the superpowers. The Palestinians should request a UN mandate for the establishment of a Palestinian state based upon the terms of Resolution 242; the border being that in place on 4 June 1967 and Jerusalem being under international control. A UN peace-keeping force (like in Bosnia) could help curtail terrorist attacks against Israelis while also protecting Palestinians from attacks by the IDF. The UN mandate would allow a peaceful growth of the mechanisms for self-rule as well as an orderly dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
Palestinians would be removed from the oppressive controls of Israel, and refugees who were not in the territories during Israel's 1967 census could return to their homes.
The birth of Israel really occurred when the British issued the Balfour Declaration. Theodore Herzl finally had his superpower patron. The British mandate was solidified when Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them following World War I. When the League of Nations accepted the British mandate, the idea gained more widespread support. While the British may have been thinking only in terms of a Jewish "homeland", Herzl and the settlers in the Yishuv were clearly determined to create a state.
The British provided the Iron Wall (described by Jabotinsky) of military force behind which the Zionists could repel the indigenous population, while they built more settlements and developed their own military force. The Palestinians need a similar Iron Wall and only the UN has the power to provide it.
Last, the UN mandate must also see to the dismantling of Israel's nuclear arms programme and implement international inspections.
Against the clock
Sir-- I wonder at this strange world of ours. When an explosion occurs anywhere in the world taking the lives of innocent people, the Western media zooms in on the incident, analysing it, condemning it, trying to link it with Islamic extremists. At the same time, the same media views the massacre of Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis as a routine event.
We were all outraged at the bombings in Bali, but soon afterwards the West was pressuring Indonesia to take tough measures against certain Islamic groups, resulting in the arrest of an ailing old man whom they tried to link with Al-Qa'eda.
Fighting terrorism should be done through uprooting its causes, fighting poverty, instilling justice, solving disputes through international bodies, not through sanctions, embargoes and collective punishment.
Sharon has jumped on the bandwagon of the American war on terror, killing as many Palestinians as he can before time runs out, and the US turns its attention once more to the peace process. By then, there won't be any Palestinian people with a problem to solve.
Ahmed Noubi Moussa
Prayer for peace
Sir-- I am an Egyptian Christian and I have scores of beautiful Muslim neighbours and friends. My husband has a Muslim friend in Alexandria who has corresponded with us for the past 45 years, though we never saw or met him. Yet he has never missed one Christmas or Easter when he writes to wish us well and of course we return his good gestures by congratulating him on Ramadan and Bairam feasts. 4 January 2002 was the Friday night before our eastern Christmas (7 January), I was in the street during the Friday noon prayer and I could hear the sermon through the microphones. It was on "Suret Mariam", the chapter of the Holy Qur'an that tells the dialogue between the virgin Mary and the angel. I was so touched I could not stop my tears; the Cairene Muslim population was sharing with us the story of Jesus's birth. Why can't other people live like us Egyptians where we say "religion is for God and the nation is for everyone." And I know that the Holy Qur'an says "you have your religion and we have ours." I love to watch and listen to the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayed Tantawi. I even learned from him a sentence that I use daily in my prayer: "O God, lead us to what you love and accept and help us to accept it as well."
Our world would be much better with love rather than hate and peace in place of war. I call upon President George W Bush to pray earnestly about the war he is considering. May the whole world pray to God to heal Iraq of its cancer and rid the Arab world and Middle East of Saddam and Ariel Sharon and Bin Laden. God is certainly able to do miracles.
Sir-- Just a quick note to congratulate you on such a comprehensive, diverse and informative paper. Like no other publication, it keeps me fully appraised of events in the Middle East and reactions to current events.
More importantly, its value stems from its investigative astuteness; there have been many a story that I first came across in your publication -- and I live in London, which is not at all short of resources.
Sir-- Thank you. Keep up the good work and long live Egypt and the Arabs.
Sir-- Thank you for your excellent Web site where I can read about Egyptian views. Your search engine is especially well-designed to understand historical events as they happened, and can be a good historical record in the future.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- Your article 'A cloned Arab' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 December) quotes "Italian gynaecologist, feminist and Radical Party activist" Mirella Parachini as saying, "Let's not confuse ideological and religious positions here. If you equate destroying an embryo with murder then there's nothing left to say." Her argument is fallacious; equating destroying an embryo with murder is not necessarily a religious position. My own beliefs are proof of this. I am an atheist, but I believe that destroying an embryo is murder. An embryo is a human being in its first stage of development. Why should human lives be protected by law in some of the later stages of development, but not in the earliest stages? Simply because the nervous system is not yet fully developed? The nervous system is also not yet fully developed in an infant three months after birth. Should such an infant therefore also be fair game for destruction to harvest its organs? I should hope not.
There are plenty of ways to obtain stem cells that do not involve destroying additional embryos -- for example, placental stem cells, and existing lines of stem cells. Why not advocate using these sources of stem cells? It seems Parachini, for some reason, wants embryos to be unnecessarily destroyed.
Rights for all
Sir-- The article 'To feel safe, again' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December) about human rights abuses continuing in Egypt, shows that Al- Ahram Weekly staff have an unreasonable attitude about human rights. Whether Egypt's human rights record is improving or not is not enough, any human rights abuse on a scale that qualifies to be called torture should elicit outrage in any reasonable human being. I don't know why you are defending the Egyptian government on this issue.
I know we are far from democracy in Egypt, but at least we can start by having respect for ourselves and others, and not tolerate physical and psychological abuse from any government body. If you care about Egypt, you should acknowledge the problem because that is the first step towards solving any problem, and then assert that it is unacceptable for people to be treated this way -- especially for an Egyptian to be treated so by the Egyptian government.
If such an incident happened to an American by Egyptian police, the subsequent apologies and compensation would probably be effusive. Why then is it acceptable to torture even a single Egyptian? Are Egyptians any less human than Americans, and don't they deserve the same treatment?
Sir-- I just read the noteworthy article 'World heritage at risk' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December). Among the threats facing many sites was war, but I couldn't find the slightest notion of a fresh example, namely Iraq with all the US-bombed sites and the looted treasures by US troops in the first war on Iraq.
In an upcoming war against Iraq, the threat against some of mankind's oldest cultural treasures will take on much bigger proportions. Under this pretext, the Arab nations could make a strong point opposing going to war against Iraq.
In Khaled's defence
Sir-- With reference to an article on the site of El- Moheet, mentioning part of an article written by Mofeed Fawzi in Rose Al-Youssef magazine insulting Mr Amr Khaled, saying that he is the Arab Rasputin, that he is thanking God that Merna El- Mohandess took off the veil, and that all the actresses who put on the veil should take it off because it is a sign of retardation. I think retardation is to deviate from holy instructions.
I hope that since you interviewed this respectable preacher in 'Preaching with a passion' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 - 4 November), you would reward his efforts in amending the brains and thoughts of the youth by simple words, by defending him when he is attacked by the media for being a "good guy".
Sir-- It reflects very negatively on the management of Sabah El-Kheir magazine that they would allow such garbage to be published in their magazine. With the constituent readers being more than 90 per cent Muslim, how can they imagine they can get away with this insult? It is time we bring intelligence back to media, rather than publishing works for "anyone who can write." Mofeed Fawzi needs to be banished from writing what he knows little about -- Islam.
Sir-- A few weeks ago I submitted the letter 'Bad behaviour' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 November) that was severely critical of the Palestinians and of the continual attempts by many Arabs to rationalise anti-American hatred and radical Islamic terrorism, essentially by saying everything is the fault of American policies. Some people have decided to call me a "racist" for making these comments, so I feel a reply is in order.
Although I did not pull any punches in denouncing what I consider to be some truly repulsive characteristics of modern Arab societies, I never said that all Arab Muslims are killers. I certainly do not deny that many Arabs are good people, but that cannot and should not obscure the ugly realities of recent Arab history, just as America's good points do not necessarily render unimportant her bad points.
Growing up in America as a child of Iranian- Muslim immigrants, I was not only not taught to hate Arabs, I tended to identify with them precisely because most Americans know little about the Middle East, and rarely distinguish between Arabs and Persians. Thus, I agree that Americans need to exert themselves more diligently to learn about the complex nature of Islamic civilisation. However, it does not follow that greater knowledge of Muslims will necessarily lead to an adoring attitude towards them.
In sum, I unapologetically denounce the ugly things going on in the Arab world today, and I will not back down from my earlier statements. However, I will add that my genuine hope for the future is that one day soon all the Arab countries will enjoy democratic self-rule and economic prosperity. It's just that I don't believe this will happen without a dramatic increase in the Arabs' willingness to engage in unflinching self-examination. If that makes me a "racist" in some people's eyes, so be it. We live in a very politically correct world where accusations of racism are a dime a dozen.
The 'other' side
Sir-- Regarding the letter 'We will prevail' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December). A Michael Blair from Yonkers, New York, makes some rash statements about Americans identifying with Zionist/ Israelis. Since watching, in complete horror, the murder of 12-year-old Mohamed Al-Durra in September 2000, I have been searching for the truth in the violence that has cost the lives of so many in the illegally occupied territories of Palestine. As well, and as a result of these investigations, I have participated in many very spirited and heated discussions about who is the real terrorist -- some of these discussions resulting in nose-to-nose confrontations.
Mr Blair from Yonkers, and many like him, suffer from the same disease that is overwhelming the American public -- a virtual news blackout when a Palestinian citizen is murdered. The American media has become nothing less than a mere political mouthpiece, spewing forth what the elite feel will suit their needs. Virtually every reasonable person to which I have revealed the 'other' side of the Middle East news, admits they had no idea of the horrors being committed against the families in Palestine. What's interesting, is that they 'thought' there was 'something more' to the news they heard.
Mr Blair does not speak for the 'majority' of American citizens, the Zionist press is doing that.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Sir-- In response to Mr Michael Blair's letter 'We will prevail' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December), the American people's support of Israel is their choice. However, I just have to ask where is the good he refers to here? The Jewish people were wronged by Nazi Germany, and the Palestinian people were wronged by the Jewish people. Now, as we know two wrongs do not make a right, and I believe that the "terrorists" -- as he calls them -- are a product of this wrong, we cannot really put all the blame on one side and absolve the other completely.
Sir-- I would like to respond to Anthony Wood's letter 'Down to your level' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12- 18 December). I will not refer to the soiled history pages of the US and Bin Laden during his fight with the Russians, or to the numerous fabricated investigations of him once he became the 'bad guy'. I have only one hope for this American reader. Before you talk about Islam and suppressing facts, you should read the history of the crusades launched against Muslim lands, and how Muslims and Arab Christians were treated at the time; or find out about the state of affairs in Europe before and after the Arab conquests there.
I expect that as a result of the misleading media in the US, the image of Muslims is distorted for a large percentage of Americans, but your ignorance of simple issues is beyond belief. Before you mistakenly talk about issues which are above your level of knowledge, you should first go ask someone who is informed.
Ahmed A Boghdady
Sir-- I was really shocked to know that Sweden, which probably has the highest per capita income, also has the highest suicide rate, while people in many parts of Africa die of starvation every single minute. Isn't it a strange world? The real problem here is that we live in two entirely different worlds that have been apart for too long. Who can ever bring these two worlds together?
There have been heated discussions lately over the future of our Earth. The Johannesburg Earth Summit was a good opportunity for world leaders to stop and look back at what has already been done to solve our problems and make our world a better place. The painful fact is that what has been done so far is too little and the situation is getting even worse. All this fuss about such concepts as sustained development, structural adjustments, total quality management and free market economy will be meaningless unless all world countries cooperate to solve our chronic problems.
Mahatma Ghandi once said, "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve all the world's problems." Our world needs concerted efforts to implement the ambitious plans put forward at the different Earth summits. We really have to do something before it is too late.
Essam Hanna Wahba