Confirmed in opposition
Sir-- I have followed Al-Ahram Weekly for some time and I am very pleased to see that the growing anti-war sentiment in America is not escaping international attention, even if it is being suppressed by popular American media. Aziza Sami's assessment in 'When stars are shot down' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January) of CNN's ridicule and dismissal of any and all dissenting opinions to the war against Iraq was carefully articulated and precise in its analysis.
The deep disparity between the media's representation of American sentiment as unified behind the president and the increased activity of the anti-war movement signals a profound problem in our 'democratic' society. The 'free' press is more complicit with the present administration's ideology than with the democratic ideals and principles that make the unimpeded flow of information possible. While many political activists have long been appalled at the media's distorted presentation of the countless protests against capitalist globalisation, the recent handling of the anti-war movement, particularly the Hollywood actors who are our most visible representatives, should indicate nothing less than the slanted, conservative agenda underriding the very corporations who own these media giants.
There are numerous groups in major cities, university towns and smaller local communities who are organising their efforts to let Bush and the international community know that Americans are not united behind an unjust war against Iraq; that we do not support reckless attacks on Palestinian civilians nor the demolition of civilian infrastructure (much of which is funded by American tax dollars). If America still wants to present itself as the global icon of democracy and justice, it cannot approach the most volatile and fragile issues facing our contemporary moment through the cross-hairs of a gun; rather, we must understand our own culture, identities and very lives as intimately linked with those in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and all other regions of the globe (where none have remained untouched by US power). As Edward Said has stated elsewhere we are "of the connections".
Thank you again for providing such coverage and critique.
South Bend, IN
Sir-- We have just read your article 'When stars are shot down' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January) about our organisation Artists United to Win Without War. While detailing the names of those celebrities who have signed our anti-war petition you mentioned Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. Please note that neither of these stars signed our petition nor did their names appear in the New York Times advertisement.
Artists United to Win Without War
Sir-- In 'Things to come' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January), Graham Usher has succeeded, once again, in making a mountain out of a molehill. You criticise Israeli democracy, while ignoring the lack of it in the Arab world. No democracy is perfect -- just look at the 2000 USA election. But it's a heck of a lot better than what 99 per cent of the Arab world is forced to experience.
You make a big deal of Israel's Central Elections Committee disqualifying certain Arab candidates, for the very same reasons that Egypt disallows certain radical parties to run. The Palestinians want to drive the Jews out of the West Bank and Gaza, so I guess we won't see any controversies over radical Jews running for a seat in a Palestinian legislature, will we? Ever hear the saying "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?
Sir-- I agree with Bishara about the Palestinian right to resist occupation as mentioned in the article 'Things to come' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January).
Every American citizen has the right to resist occupation from invasion, and therefore Palestinians should also have the same constitutional rights that American citizens have. Ariel Sharon should stand trial for his war crimes of murdering thousands of innocent Palestinian citizens. Is the UN under political and economic control of USA and Israel? One has to wonder, does one country pull all the strings?
The real reason
Sir-- As an Iraqi citizen, I have read with interest the recent call by Arab intellectuals against the upcoming war against Iraq. I found the letter, however well intentioned, lacks any objectivity regarding the real causes of the suffering of the Iraqi people. The suffering of the Iraqi people under the current regime in Iraq is indirectly mentioned in point number seven, the last point of the call, when the current regime is named dictatorial.
No reference is made to Iraq's invasion of both Iran and Kuwait, nor the brutal campaigns by the current regime against both the Kurds and the Shi'ites in the south, or the persistent massive violations against Iraqis -- all well documented by both human rights organisations and the United Nations. I had expected much more from so-called intellectuals, but they totally failed to mention why my country is facing the current crisis. That reason is Saddam Hussein's policy against both his people and his neighbours.
In a nutshell
Sir-- Bush said on 3 January 2003 that a diplomatic route must be taken with North Korea, but a military plan for Iraq.
Why? The answer is because one, China will veto him on Korea and agree with him to fight Iraq; two, destroying Iraq is a green light to increase the power of Israel in Middle East.
Sir-- I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear agreements with the United States, throws out UN inspectors and sets off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a diplomatic issue". Iraq hands over a 12,000- page account of its weapons production and allows UN inspectors to roam all over the country, and -- after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous chemicals in 230 raids -- President Bush announces that Iraq is a threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded.
Feeding the war machine
Sir-- North Korea fears an Iraq-type threat from the US and so it is being provoked, by our current administration's rhetoric, to use nuclear deterrence -- all this after the "axis of evil" speech. This makes us wonder if our current regime is actually making the world a "safer" place, or holding humanity hostage under the shadow of "nuclear death" by provoking other nations to take steps in desperation.
The Lockheed Martins of our world wouldn't prosper if the world was a safer place. We can all be certain that illusions of the "lack of security" is their number one marketing concern, while provoking situations abroad ensures their survival and profitability. To the arms peddlers of this world, we are all expendable -- sooner or later.
Xmas for all
Sir-- As usual, Mariz Tadros, my former student at AUC, excelled in presenting all sides related to the declaration of 7 January as National Holiday in 'A Christmas like no other' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January).
President Mubarak's decision is indeed welcome and deserves praise. God protect Egypt from all its enemies -- and they are many.
Sir-- I greatly enjoyed your article about the Coptic missions in Africa 'Bishop Antonious Markos: An African evangelist' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January). Seeing the Coptic Church helping and providing for the poor and adapting to the local music, tempo, and going beyond the usual rituals of Egypt Coptic churches is a breath of fresh air.
Thank you for Gamal Nkrumah's dedication to great journalistic essays in our beloved Al-Ahram Weekly.
Count your blessings
Sir-- I have just finished reading about the woman married to an Egyptian husband 'Mood Swings: An American perspective' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January). I also am American married to an Egyptian and my husband has been deported to Egypt, through no fault of his. I am now trying to have him returned to the US after being gone for one year. Life is very difficult for both of us.
I never imagined that I would marry and that someone could take my spouse away from me. My husband is the best person I have ever met, and I wait to hear from him everyday. Even though we cannot touch each other, our connection is very real.
Please tell the woman whose husband is angry to consider my life; imagine not being with your husband; imagine your husband miles away by forced circumstance. Please go make peace with him. You're a very lucky woman.
Sir-- As an American woman happily married to an Egyptian man, I would like to address several issues brought up in 'Mood Swings: An American perspective' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January). Being married to a foreigner is not much different than being married to a person of one's own nationality. There are those who embrace cultural differences and those who seek to erase the differences when entered into a cross-cultural marriage.
As for the statement "hoodwinked, charmed, bamboozled" into a marriage without "our knowledge", I have to say that this is not the stone age when it was believed a man simply clubbed a woman upon her head, and dragged her off to his cave by the hair to claim her as his property.
Let's be honest, if a woman feels she is not getting what she bargained for, there are legal steps to end a marriage, take them. This has absolutely nothing to do with being married to an Egyptian or being an American. Anyone with intelligence knows this is a ploy of the "victim" who does not want to accept his or her part of the blame for a failed attempt at marriage.
Another point is regarding the situation over the "stolen" money. The responsibility lies in the hands of the person who decided to keep the money in a drawer instead of a safer place -- a bank. The author of the article goes on a tangent about the American government and justice from this simple misunderstanding between a husband and wife, leaving me weary of the whole situation.
In conclusion, let me say that I do not speak for anyone other than myself and those friends I know who are married to Egyptians, both male and female. The one word lacking in the article was "love", perhaps this is the reason for the venomous attack upon the Egyptian population as a whole.
Sir-- Regarding 'Mood Swings: An American perspective' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January). Me thinks Wendy Jean Lee doth protest too much.
Sir-- Regarding 'Mood Swings: An American perspective' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January). Foolishness.
Never too old
Sir-- I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am that classes are now being held on the wonders of Ancient Egypt at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The heritage of the population of Egypt is like a precious jewel, envied by all who learn of it.
I wish to assure Isis El-Nakawadi quoted in 'Journeys to Ancient Egypt (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9- 15 January) that at age 74 she is certainly not too old to enjoy the discoveries each class will bring. I am also 74, and a day does not go by that I do not read up on the history of the country of my birth, Egypt. There are always new details presenting themselves for our enjoyment, and I never tire of them.
Moreen Le Fleming Ehly
Sir-- The article by Zahi Hawass 'Hidden treasures' and a 'Mission impossible' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January) were wonderful. I hope that you will continue to have his writings in Al- Ahram Weekly.
Kenneth M Cingle
Sir-- I believe that cloning a human is wrong. The people who are trying to do this must stop; it is the work of the devil. I believe if a woman wants to have a child she should adopt. There are too many needy children out there who need to be loved. I don't think that the scientists are considering the long-term effect that cloning is going to have on this country. Children are going to be brought to or into this world without a mother and father as God wanted.
Why clone? Do we not have enough tax money going to state- and government-funded homes for disabled children? What happens to these clones who become a genetic mishap? And by mishap, I mean, those children that are created not so perfectly. They are going to be shipped to a children's facility because like so many other "human" children, no one wants the responsibility of raising a mentally or physically challenged child. Then what? If God wanted an exact replica of a "human" he would not have created the different races.
Somewhere our society has gone very wrong.
Sir-- I have to disagree that the US has "banned" cloning. It only states that the FDA has control over it, and I would wager they've began a long time ago -- of course without our knowledge -- just as they have so many other "experiments".
Now Clonaid claims to have done so, but I don't believe this is actual cloning, as true cloning would be similar to re-generation -- one cell spawning many without fertilisation -- and no one has yet achieved that. That is what I believe the creator(s) has accomplished, which is divine and separates us from Him, Her, or Them.
The morality of it
Sir-- Surely scientists cannot be allowed to experiment "unfettered" by questions of morality. If an experiment violates ethical norms by causing anguish and pain even to lower animals, it should be prohibited by society.
Too many perks
Sir-- As An American citizen I ask, Why not Egypt? US Jewish charities and organisations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel and $600 million in "housing loans", and has given $2.5 billion to support Israel's Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects. Israel buys discounted, serviceable "excess" US military equipment and uses roughly 40 per cent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for the purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli- made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defence Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or sub- systems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defence dollar the US gives to Israel.
American help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier, and weapons make up almost half of Israel's manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidised by US taxpayers. US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs. Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F- 15 fighter aircrafts to Saudi Arabia in the mid- 1980s which cost $40 billion over 10 years.
Quite a conundrum
Sir-- You must understand that Americans have little control over their government -- the best we can do is vote and hope. The plight of the people in the Middle East is an abomination. The way I see it, is that we basically have two choices, either to try and deal with the situation or to ignore it. Most people in America would vote to ignore, but ignoring is not the answer. Right or wrong, at least President Bush is trying.
I have spent some time thinking on the Middle East situation and I have to admit it is the first problem I have encountered which has no answer you can hope for. This is a no-win scenario all around. The best I can say is: I'm very glad that Colin Powell is the Secretary of State.
We shall avenge
Sir-- The Australians in Bali on October 12, 2002, the theatre-goers in Moscow, and the workers in the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001 did nothing to hurt Muslims. The United States of America and its allies have heard your warning shots and are prepared for war against your beloved murderers. We are not cowards like the Islamists who kill innocent people, and the terrorist- sympathisers shall cry when their own innocents are killed in the future, in response to whatever your terrorists have in store for the West.
I fear an atrocious attack on New York, London, Sydney, or Moscow will lead to a nuclear attack against regions in Muslim and Arab countries with strong Islamist sentiments; and the subsequent nuclear devastation of Mecca and all of Islam's holiest cities. Just be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
Sir-- I wish to thank you for providing a different perspective to the Middle East situation. I wish that the American media would give more (in this case, any) attention to your points of view; I find them very truthful and enlightening. It is imperative, in my humble opinion, that such perspectives regarding US policy should be made available to the American people who are sadly uninformed by their 'free' press.
As long as there are intellectuals of the calibre shown at Al-Ahram Weekly there is hope. I wish you the best.
Informing the people
Sir-- I just found Al-Ahram Weekly online. It is excellent, particularly the cultural news. The view of the Arab world we get in the West is often gloomy. If we believe the press and television, nobody has fun in the Islamic world. Fortunately, the Internet is available to give Americans a different point of view.
Some of your articles annoy me because the authors seem to think that everything that goes on in the world is controlled by the USA. This is a childish attitude. It feeds a false sense of victimisation; no serious thinkers here have time for this silliness.
However, the coverage of the Intifada is eye- opening; we need more of this in America. How can the United States lecture other countries about civil rights when one of its main allies abuses the norms of basic human dignity? My tax money is being used to hurt innocent people and in light of this hypocrisy, no wonder so many Arabs are mistrustful of the USA.
The Arab world needs to make its case to the people of America because the Arab view is not being heard over here. Most citizens here are unaware of what is being done in their name in Palestine. We need to hear from articulate Arab- Americans, too.
I do not understand why the traditional Arab talents of eloquence, logic and wit are not being put to use to persuade Americans that their aid to Israel is used, directly or indirectly, to trample on human rights. Without realising it, Americans are supporting activities abroad that they would never tolerate in their own country.
Dobbs Ferry, NY
Applause in order
Sir-- Allow me, as one of the principals of last week's Magic Flute at the Cairo Opera House, to respond to Amal Choucri Catta's review 'Excluding the magic' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). Though Ms Catta is free to dislike the production/costumes, I take offence to her out of hand dismissal of our Queen of Night, Rasha Talaat, who is one of our youngest singers starting out on her career with this role. We believe that she acquitted herself admirably of the difficult and demanding role with its two coloratura arias which Mozart has given it. This indeed is the opinion of the entire cast, the conductor Nader Abbassi, and the German team of specialists who helped to bring this production on stage.
To describe Ms Talaat's performance as "the worst Königin der Nacht anyone could have heard" is as unobjective as it is meaningless. The top notes of the Queen of the Night arias are not C's and D's but in fact top F's, and Ms Talaat did not miss one of them, nor did she go off key. I was left wondering whether Ms Catta really attended the performances at all. We would appreciate a more balanced and more knowledgeable critique of our singers' performances in the future, please.
I was also wondering why such well known terms as "Queen of the Night" and "Three Ladies" were not described as such in an English newspaper.
Our opera troupe were delighted to have three sold out performances (on 15, 16 and 17 January) which is a first for our company; the audience reception was warm and appreciative.
Raouf G Zaidan