Ruling 'the sick'
Sir-- The UN has now provided retrospective sanction to a preemptive strike. Its ill- fated predecessor, the League of Nations, at least had the decency to collapse after its charter was serially raped. Analogies with Hitler's blitzkrieg of 1940 are drawn without compunction by cheerleaders for the war. Thus, Max Boot in The Financial Times writes: "The French fought hard in 1940 -- at first. But eventually the speed and ferocity of the German advance led to a total collapse. The same thing will happen in Iraq." What took place in France after 1940 might give pause to these enthusiasts.
The lack of any spontaneous welcome from Shi'ites and the fierce early resistance of armed irregulars, prompted the theory that the Iraqis are a "sick people" who will need protracted treatment before they can be entrusted with their own fate (if ever). Such was the line taken by David Aaronovitch in The Observer. Likewise, George Mellon in The Wall Street Journal warns: "Iraq won't easily recover from Saddam's terror... after three decades of rule of the Arab equivalent of Murder Inc, Iraq is a very sick society." To develop an "orderly society" and re- energise (privatise) the economy will take time, he insists.
On the front page of The Sunday Times, reporter Mark Franchetti quoted an American NCO: "'The Iraqis are a sick people and we are the chemotherapy,' said Corporal Ryan Dupre. 'I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him.'"
No doubt the "sick society" theory will acquire greater sophistication, but it is clear the pretexts are to hand for a mixture of Guantanamo and Gaza in these newly occupied territories.
Sir-- 'The Arab condition' is a wonderful article by Professor Said (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May).
We should read more material like this, especially in the prohibitive American "free" press.
Seeking a leader
Sir-- Regarding Edward Said's 'The Arab condition' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May). I read of the appointment of Mr Noah to the position of 'constitution writer' and I too was shocked at the arrogance of such an appointment.
I did not read of the appointment in a US newspaper; I wish your article could motivate a real Arab leader to emerge because if not soon, I fear the continued demise of the Arab world.
Like the Democratic Party in the US, the Arab community needs a great inspiring leader.
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Gates of hell
Sir-- Reading Edward Said makes one feel sad and afraid. Sad because one part of the Arab nation allows the former and future colonialists to stage a 13th century invasion, and then helplessly watches the colonialists destroy the past, present and future of a 5,000-year-old civilisation.
Afraid, because the manner in which the Arabs have betrayed themselves has put at risk not only their nations (or whatever is left of them), but has opened the doors to the recolonisation of the Third World.
We the people
Sir-- While some in America strive to reverse religious prejudice, others thwart the effort. If "we the people" stand up and demand peace and social justice, we have a chance to reverse the current direction of chaos, poverty and domination by the world's corporate and national robber barons.
Pax vobiscum (peace be with you).
The real story
Sir-- Why does no one discuss the fact that Ahmed Chalabi/Bremer/Garner were all put forward by/vetted by AIPAC/JINSA -- the Zionist lobbies, with intensive contact with the "Likudniks" around Rumsfeld.
Their idea was to subjugate Iraq to Israel, starting with an Iraq-Israel oil pipeline. Why does this never make the Middle East papers in all languages?
Sir-- I enjoyed the analysis in the article 'From Amr Diab to Amr Khaled' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May), however I have the following few comments. The writer is drawing a link between Egyptian poor education and Khaled's words about hijab: "Even if you do not understand, you must obey." The writer does not use this sentence in the right context; Muslims, whether receiving a poor or excellent analytical education, do not question God.
Muslims, of course, have to understand every aspect of their religion and to be sure that it is not misinterpreted. However, once it is clear that a certain rule comes from God, Muslims do not question God and simply follow God's instructions. Muslims do not ask God to show scientific evidence that wine is harmful to health in order not to drink wine.
The writer states "At the risk of losing nuance, I only refer to some general trends including the crisis of Islamist rule where it was put into practice (as in Iran and Sudan)." The writer completely ignores the history of Islamic rulings that extended for centuries -- a civilisation that contributed to the welfare of the world by supporting science and education. Thus, neither Sudan nor Iran is the perfect example (although Iran is more democratic than all the Arab countries in the Middle East).
I disagree that Amr Khaled deliberately targets youth and women of the elite classes, because a preacher like Amr Khaled has no reason to target a specific class within the society; he wants to reach any and everyone. I view the fact that Khaled started his da'wa among the rich as a mere coincidence. Moreover, I disagree that Amr Khaled is targeting the rich class because they are "the people with influence". Historically, all the significant changes in societies were made by the low and middle classes, not the upper ones.
Accordingly, I disagree with the statement that Khaled's style makes the Egyptian rich feel good about their fortunes because I believe he simply reflects how Islam sees rich people -- it's not Khaled's unique "style". Islam is specific enough not to give preachers much space for creativity on those issues.
Finally, should the writer use a more simple language it would enhance the average reader's understanding.
Far and wide
Sir-- Thank you for writing about Aceh, Indonesia's troubled but oil-rich province, and the unbiased coverage.
We will always look forward to read about the latest issues of Aceh in Al-Ahram Weekly.
A Fatmi Abdul-Aziz
Leaf from The Times
Sir-- I am a regular reader of the New York Times. Despite its often anti-Arab postures, I love it. I especially like the Obituary section since it is a place to remember special people and pay tribute to the lives well lived. The Obituary section of the New York Times is a high calibre news section to make sure that those who "lived lives well spent" are not forgotten. I wish we had the same for the Arab men and women who live and die each day without being recognised for their achievements.
Let it be scientists, artists, writers, academicians, firsts in their fields, singers, actors, painters, statesmen and women, politicians, or whatever -- they should not be ignored.
It is true that there are biographies of some Arabs but there is no one place to look at all the Arabs who have contributed locally and globally, past or present. The Arab American Institute has started a very modest section on its Web site dedicated to notable Arab- Americans. I believe that Arab-Americans will only be strengthened by stronger Arab countries and Arabs everywhere. I hope that Al-Ahram Weekly will one day help establish a biography web for all the special Arabs through the ages.
In the midst of all the negativity surrounding Arabs and Muslims it would be a very constructive step to follow by starting our own Biography Channel (on the web to start with). I searched the web for a site designed for celebrating Arab personalities through history to no avail. Whether in life or after their death, some people have shaped and continue to shape the Arab culture. We should inspire our youth by our own home-grown heroes and heroines. Otherwise the void will continue to be filled by imported idols from the West, furthering the problem of low self-esteem we already have.
I hope that your esteemed Al-Ahram Weekly will one day rival the NY Times in celebrating the "Arab lives well lived".
Sir-- I found Azmi Bishara's article 'The road to Washington' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 May) on how the Arabs should approach lobbying to be really well written. I would only take to issue one point -- his last statement on "waging battle with Zionism". I hear this term (and more derogatory ones) all the time in certain circles. Although I am Jewish, I knew nothing about Zionism but I did some research and found out that Zionism, like Arab Nationalism and Islam has some fanatics and bigots, and some who are more clear thinking.
Considering how many countries are officially Muslim (and treat non-Muslims like second class citizens), and how in so many other places Muslims are fighting to create new Muslim homelands, I will not criticise these Jews for wanting a homeland. What should be done is to criticise those (of every ethnicity and religion) who believe that it is acceptable to victimise other people in order to achieve their goals.
I have heard there are some Zionists who are strongly against Israel's behaviour because, while they believe in a Jewish homeland (not necessarily in Israel), they also believe that it is better not to have one at all than to go about it in a way that causes injustice and suffering. Instead of "waging battle with Zionism" you should be waging battle specifically with those in this group who don't care about the human cost to others on their way to achieving their goals.
Apparently not all Zionists are like this, and not all people like this are Zionists. Aren't there even quite a few Muslims and Arab Nationalists in the bunch?
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- 'One defeat too many' by Reda Helal (Al- Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May) is an excellent article. Mr Helal demonstrates unusual insight into the problems facing Arab armies and societies. Will anyone listen, or will Arabs continue to blame the US and Israel for all of their problems?
I found one thing curious: Why did Mr Helal begin his analysis of Arab defeats with 1945? Arab defeats are the continuation of the Ottoman failures which began in 1688 with their first major loss at Vienna. Arabs keep making the same mistakes that the Ottomans made from then until the disaster of World War I.
Broken Arrow, OK
Simple yet interesting
Sir-- Hani Shukrallah is one of the best writers out there because his style of writing is quite simple and yet interesting.
He is one of the best writers you've got, so keep up the good work.
Six feet under
Sir-- There is one important thing I will do to support my President George W Bush. I will help him to do what he continues to do best: dig his own grave.
Will someone hand me a shovel?
Mary D East
Off to war
Sir-- We now find ourselves in the mopping up the blood phase of our current war, I really can't remember which war this one was. Every time I turn on the news or pick up the paper the message seemed to change, let me see if I've got this right. I believe it began as Bush's new preemptive doctrine supposedly aimed at averting a perceived threat that Saddam posed to us and the rest of the world, then there was the alleged weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be found.
Then there were Saddam's alleged links to Osama Bin Laden which have neither been proven nor substantiated. While amid all this lack of clarity of purpose, our grand self-sacrificing need to liberate the people of Iraq became our justification for Operation Iraqi Oil, I mean Petroleum Freedom; oh, that's not it, it's Operation Eternal Warfare. Yes, that's it.
Beware! -- any country who may harbour, help or arm terrorists, we will take you out (never mind that we funded or armed many of them ourselves). To help legitimise all this as being humanitarian in nature, we claim Iraqis will be able to govern themselves (with the puppet of our choosing in place), that Iraqi oil belongs to the people of Iraq (the proceeds of which will pay the exclusive list of US contractors waiting to rebuild what we have destroyed).
So I guess this war business is good business, it's a win-win situation. On to the next one.
Hi-ho, it's off to war we go; boy we do this war stuff really good but when it comes to that peace thing we just can't seem to get it together. Hi-ho, hi-ho.
President as god
Sir-- The American law makers in the Senate slavish loyalty to George Bush is further evidence that what we have now is not democracy.
It is a cult of the individual, which requires worshippers not voters.
Sir-- I have read your opinion carefully. What I do not understand is why Arab nations are sitting on the sidelines watching what is going on in Iraq rather than getting involved and assisting. Why would anyone believe that giving aid to the Iraqis is tantamount to aligning with the US? On the contrary, who understands Arabs better than Arabs?
Our president has made public statements affirming that Iraqis must determine their own form of government. The only requirement for the US to leave Iraq is that this government must protect all Iraqis -- Kurd, Sunni or Shi'ite.
All those against US occupation in Iraq should now come forward and help restore this country, without the blessing of the UN.
The Arab world should take a good look at what is happening in those areas where the UN is in charge of securing war-torn nations. They are in worse shape than Iraq because of all the "red tape" resulting from the UN administration.
Warning to dictators
Sir-- The feeling of immense relief at the downfall of Saddam Hussein quite overwhelmed me for the first weeks of this event. To see the kids of Baghdad, also the old men and the ordinary people, drag the statue of the once almighty ruler through the streets and to kick and hit his face with shoes and slippers, the ultimate Arab insult, filled me with a sense of triumph and release from years of hateful oppression.
I think that Arabic people, and I am one, are still reeling with the news of this big change in our perception of our tormentors -- the governments of our region.
It is a warning to all dictatorships, that this kind of governance will not be allowed by the new more globalised community of nations to continue unabated.
Sir-- As an American who lives in a Midwest farm community, I want to offer my perspective on the hostilities in the Middle East. After 9/11 we became angry -- and that's an understatement. But why attack Afghanistan and Iraq? Was it because of religious differences? No, that's a thing of the long gone past, at least as far as we're concerned. We would invite anyone from any religion into our houses, including Muslims.
The world has portrayed us as a culture of war, war, war, but we hate war and needless death. Unfortunately, that's not portrayed in the world media, much less our own.
We, as the American people, want only to give what we have and fought to the death for, which is freedom. In our eyes it is unthinkable to allow a tyrant to torture and kill his own people because they disagree with him. That is simply not freedom.
If you don't like democracy, then find your own way that works; but we'll be damned if we let countless innocent people die at the mere whim of a dictator.
Sir-- I read the article entitled 'Coptic studies hold key to legacy' by Jill Kamel (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May), and fully agree with the necessity to incorporate Coptology into the complex of disciplines which study the Egyptian past.
I consider the most important points are the preservation and registration of the monuments and publication of every performed archaeological investigation. Coptology should become an integral part of the curriculum especially in all Egyptian national universities.
Concerning my own field, anthropologists should be asked to collaborate in all excavations revealing human skeletal remains whose investigation can furnish detailed information on the deceased individuals.
The Czech Republic
Save the heritage
Sir-- Thank you for Jill Kamil's great article 'Coptic studies hold key to legacy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 May, 2003).
It is a forceful plea to save a long-neglected heritage. Gawdat Gabra's lecture seems to be a well-researched piece of work.
Sir-- With all my heart I want to apologise to my Arab and Palestinian brothers and sisters for the racism and the horrible crimes my country has committed against them. Our racism is evident in our news, our movies and television programmes. All the prophets of the Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an were Arab or from the African country of Egypt, and I am disgusted at our blatant racism against you when white actors and actresses play Jesus, Moses, etc. or our Christmas cards and Nativity scenes have a white Mary and Joseph.
I am also sorry that every Arab character on television or the movies is portrayed as a terrorist or someone with a weapon (never a police officer). I especially want to apologise for the blatant anti-Semitism of our news which calls anyone resisting Israel's horrible crimes against humanity a "militant" or "Islamic extremist" or "terrorist" without condemning the horrific acts of brutal military terrorism Israel's army inflicts on innocent unarmed civilians everyday, while it totally ignores the "Jewish extremists" who occupy illegal settlements and commit horrific crimes such as shooting at workers picking olives on their own farms, acts of vandalism -- breaking windows, looting stores, beating up innocent unarmed people, and in one case I know of, torturing a man to death for the crime of not being born Jewish.
With all my heart, I want to apologise for the racism and horrific crimes against humanity America has committed in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and our latest total violation of human rights -- the war in Iraq. With absolute irony we never condemned Israel's invasion of southern Lebanon, the West Bank of Jordan, Sinai of Egypt, the invasion and brutal occupation of Palestine.
Women in black
Sir-- I think Lina Mahmoud's 'What we know' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 8-14 May) is indeed a beautiful article. Women bring beauty to demonstrations and they bring beauty to culture as creators of tradition. Her article brought to mind Setif in May of 1945, right after the announcement that World War II was over. Spontaneous independence celebrations broke out in that Algerian city because General De Gaulle had led the Algerian people to believe that France would grant them independence in exchange for a minimum number of volunteers in the war against Germany. Algerians volunteered in droves, but the French response was a massacre, killing tens of thousands of demonstrators.
First the women all dressed in black to mourn the dead, but then their demonstration really got underway on the fourth day when they violated tradition by continuing to wear black and establishing it as the colour to wear.
Thus, they created a new tradition that perpetuates memory of the story of De Gaulle's broken promise and the blood price paid for it.