Sir-- It's a sad day in the history of Egypt that the assassins of President Sadat are released on the anniversary of his death. It's not enough for Karam Zohdi to call Sadat a martyr and apologise for his murder in order for us to forgive him for what he did. He can begin his quest for forgiveness by explaining to the Egyptian people what exactly made him and his comrades commit this crime against our country. The answers we have heard so far to this question are by all means unsatisfactory in proportion to the size of the calamity; we would like to hear in details his honest, sober first-hand confessions to the people of Egypt.
Sadat courageously and brilliantly led his nation in liberating its occupied lands and regaining its lost national pride. How did Zohdi help Muslims by assassinating the leader who made this possible? If Sadat were still alive, with his characteristic graciousness, I am sure he would have done the same in releasing these prisoners today -- if he hadn't done that even sooner. But I don't think history will ever forgive Zohdi and his men for the terrible crime they committed against Egypt by assassinating one of its greatest heroes, on the occasion of one of its greatest triumphs.
A great man
Sir-- Anwar Al-Sadat was a beacon for the whole world. Thank you for commemorating him in 'Taking a seat in history' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 October).
Sir-- Regarding 'Selling America to the Arabs' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 October), I have grave doubts that there will be any reconciliation between Arabs and Americans as long as Arabs think as is cited below: "[Khaldoun] Al-Naquib explained that like most other studies of Arab public opinion, this report failed to address the real reason behind anti- American sentiments. 'The real cause is simply the injustice meted out to the Palestinians, the support for the terrorist Likud government and the occupation of Iraq,' Al-Naquib said."
I believe the situation is far more complicated than he suggests and I think that it is racist to believe, as he apparently does, that all would be changed if the US were to eliminate the principal reasons for Arab anger he cites.
I am no stranger to the Middle East and I ridiculed Samuel Huntington's Clash of civilisations when I first read his treatise. Now, I am not so sure he is wrong.
Sir-- A normal TV viewer or radio listener or periodicals reader senses a neo-con anti-Arab, anti- Muslim slant and distortion by a certain "repetitive" gang of neo-con or neo-con-subjugated journalists, whether in broadcast or print or both. One of the "home bases" of this grouping is to be found at the Jewish World Review whose Web site is www.jewishworldreview.com which is interlinked with the other Zionist pressure groups, such as AIPAC, JINSA and the neo-con group the Foundation for the Defence of Democracy.
Two quick points should be made to elucidate this world. First, the difference between the Zionists and the neo-cons lies in the fact that a Zionist wants Israeli hegemony and hates the Third World, while a neo-con hates the Third World and wants Jews to prevail over the Third World. There is a strong overlap, but the "causal chain" is not identical.
Second, the Zionist/neo-con alliance is extremely tricky; though it desires as many dead Arabs and Muslims as possible and as many square miles for Israel as possible, it uses "gentility tricks" or "pseudo-gentility tricks" to hide its aims from Bush and the Cheney/Rumsfeld catspaws by constantly wrapping its recommendations in three misdirection layers. These are that they simply want to implement Woodrow Wilson's credo, "make the world safe for democracy", their actions -- such as the Iraq invasion -- are really calculated to advance the Palestine/Israel peace process, and they're really friends of the Arabs and Muslim, fellow-Semites, and only oppose the fanatics.
In fact, the Zionist/neo-con alliance represents a radical revolutionary movement which wants to shatter the existing world order and replace it with an Israel/America hegemonic "new world order". This is what Bush can't or won't understand.
Sir-- Salim Tamari is to be commended for his sweeping analysis 'No obvious destination' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September) of the political and social dynamics which have emerged since the creation of the Israeli-Palestinian region following the Catastrophe of 1948. If only the story's conclusion had been written between 1988-1996 and secular nationalism emerged into a realised two-state solution. Instead, the Israeli extremist government continues a brutal suppression of the people, coupled with a sense of entitlement to the Palestinian landscape which is continuously reshaped through illegal territorial expansion, as well as the entrapment of Palestinians by the Apartheid wall and Israeli-only highway, the electrified razor wire fence and checkpoints.
Facing the raw aggression of Israel, with little the PLO can do to buffer its impact, a spiritualisation of Palestinian identity through the Islamic movement serves to create a national psyche of courage, the exercise of will against the threat of impending annihilation. But, as Tamari notes, that does not make for a system of government shaped by and accountable to the people... a self-determined nation of Palestine positioned to take its place in the 21st Century. Sadly, the suicide bombings serve to mask Israel's tyranny; whereas, the recent display of national courage in the face of Israel's threat to assassinate Arafat has won Palestine a moral victory in the eyes of the world.
As Tamari correctly asserts, Palestinians never before have had such an "urgent need of coherent political leadership".
Genevieve Cora Fraser
Fact of life
Sir-- For over 50 years the world has had to endure the costly results of Israeli and American rejectionism of the Palestinian people. It is time to accept the facts of life. Palestine is for the Palestinians.
Sir-- In response to 'Hard times ahead' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September), there are hard times ahead only if we allow them to materialise. Nothing will unhinge the Arab and Muslim resolve against occupation and aggression. The belligerents have to restore security and infrastructure until the local government can take over.
The unfurling of divisive elements in the Iraqi conflict, such as the theoretical schism between the Sunni and the Shi'ite, has opened a new front to the enemies of Iraq -- whether it's religious pedigree or otherwise, the indigenous population will eventually assume control.
We (the local population) have to realise that we will prevail against aggression and occupation -- our family's squabbles ought to be squabbles and no more. Control of our destiny ought to be inborn and forward looking; the new consciousness that is emerging allows for justice and peace to take hold, so would the Iraqi aspirations be attained.
As an Arab, I am more concerned with keeping Iraq united, so make sure it is, otherwise the region will go to the dogs. Sunnis, Shi'ites, Muslims and others, get it together or be dominated.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- What Iraq seems to be encountering is the racist element of the union of the Jews, Americans and British. They intend to rule the world by force. There seems to be an idea that oil will be the only fuel and that anyone who wants to opt out of the US oil companies' strangle-hold on the marketplace, is to be exterminated. Freedom for women will reveal itself in teenage pregnancies, abortions, prostitution, drug use, increased crime, and the spread of the prison-industrial complex.
The spread of the "American" way of life requires that someone be exploited for capital gain. Americans will not be happy until corruption is the prevailing order of the day. Enron and Martha Stewart are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking at the native American Indian, the Arabs should be able to see what good fortune will soon bless them. See how the line of countries aided by the US have women at their helm. Beware as the conquering armies try to make all of your men homosexuals and your women lesbians. Politics and money make strange bedfellows. Freedom to commit the legalised sins come with taxes. Freedom to watch pornography should not be guaranteed by the constitution.
Liberty to chose
Sir-- The more I see the Iraq situation evolving, the more I think France had the order of events (if not the time frame) right. First, and immediately, affirm the sovereignty of Iraq as a country and recognise its right to decide for itself not only who will govern it, but what kind of government, economy, society it wants. For instance monarchy, socialism, community or democracy, capitalism, individualism. This would be instead of setting conditions according to which Iraq will only be free when it has obeyed the orders and followed the patterns of its American invaders. Second, frame these decisions into a constitution and submit them to a referendum. Finally, hold an election (if the people's choice is democracy).
Any other process is hypocrisy and an attempt at controlling what people should think. The fact that I am for democracy and individual freedom must not mean everyone else has to -- or liberty has no real meaning.
Sir-- There was never any question in my mind that the Iraqi war was wrong from the beginning and is still wrong. I was never convinced by the evidence of WMD. When the bombing began over Baghdad ("Shock and Awe"), I was unable to contain my emotions. Once again, I felt helpless -- like on 9/11. Yet, I could not blame this on some strange terrorist group, when it was US forces who created this Hell on Earth.
That night, I listened to a BBC World Service radio report from a Baghdad Hospital and heard the real horror on the ground. The young reporter had to raise his voice over the horrific cries of screaming children who had sustained twisted fractures and burns from the flying debris. One young girl (four-five-years-old) lay motionless in her bed. She was recovering from emergency surgery to her spine from the debris. The attending doctor said he didn't think she would be able to walk again. We were the now "evil doers".
We have since inflicted terrible harm on many innocent Iraqi people. We have destroyed the fabric of their lives and have left many communities in shambles. Public health concerns are still a grave matter and many public utilities are still desperately in need of repairs. The environmental damage from the bombings has left a high level of toxins in the air and soil -- especially those from depleted uranium -- placing more innocent people at risk of various types of organ damage and cancers.
The display of Saddam's murdered sons was shameful and a violation of international agreements. The Iraqi people continue to suffer under US occupation, and this places our service people in the line of fire as they experience first hand the opposition to their presence. Many Iraqis are still afraid to walk their streets and their children are still fearful about attending school. Some "liberation" this has turned out to be.
Many people like myself in the US are distraught over what our government has done to innocent people; we will never recover from this unnecessary and horrific war. It was most unfortunate that President Bush did not cooperate with the UN, or listen to the demonstrators in the streets who were pleading with him to avoid this war. His response to the worldwide protests in February was: "I respectfully disagree." Today, as the president and his men begin another round of public campaigns to convince people that this war was "right", I wish to say: "I respectfully disagree."
Sir-- The article 'Dialectics of terror' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 October), by Shahid Alam is indeed an extremely brilliant essay. However, the last sentence, appears not to be correct. All the theatrics we have seen in the last three years are just a prelude to more important events to come. The Muslim world, although seen by a Westerner as backward, is the way it is because of the deliberate choice by Muslims. If the words of a Muslim scholar such as Imam Khomeini is paid attention to, the fight of the Muslims is not for wealth, modernisation, or anti- Westernism; the fight is for non-interference.
Things, ideas, civilisations come and burn themselves and then disappear, but Muslims have chosen a way of life that has carried them healthily for the past thousands of years, and is bound to carry them healthily for thousands of years more. Foreign interference is a destructive obstacle in this way of life.
Sir-- Edward Said was above all things, a citizen of the human race. His arguments in books and articles were supposed to force all peoples to recognise their kinships and responsibilities to each other. The greatest challenge for him was to make the world understand that the Palestinians are "victims of victims". It was a degenerate historical role for both Palestinians and Israelis which was destructive for one and self-destructive for the other; it was a relationship that neither people should accept, nor could it be sustained.
Dr Said's book Orientalism describes how Western Europe's cultural and military imperialism in the "Near East" served to define and bias the perception the Orient, in terms that would amplify and validate Western Europe's policies towards the southern and eastern peoples of the Mediterranean. Western academics still fill the bookshelves and classrooms of universities with opinions that Dr Said has so effectively refuted here in 1978.
Dr Said has passed into a world that offers him a peace he had so hoped may one day be the condition of his long-lost homeland in Palestine. Nevertheless, he has passed on to us a treasury of thoughts and observations which may with our care and commitment make his dream one day come to pass. I will miss him -- we will miss him.
Kew Gardens, NY
Sir-- I was shocked when hearing the bad news of Edward Said. Not only was he one of the most prominent writers in the Arab world, but also he was mainly preoccupied with matters of people's liberation all over the world. Dr Said was a freedom fighter and a defender of human rights. Inspite of his disease, Said did not stop writing which is evidence of his absolute belief in his cause.
Dr Said, you will not be absent; your soul is living with us.
Mohamed Ibrahim Fraig
Within their right
Sir-- I am an English student studying archaeology, and regarding 'Dig days: In response to Fletcher's theory' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 October), I agree that the article in the Times was very biased. I believe that archaeology belongs to the Egyptians. It is up to them whether they allow foreign archaeologists in their country to dig or not. We already have plenty of archaeology here in Britain that needs research. I also propose that if an Egyptian team of archaeologists expressed a wish to excavate a site of equal importance, such as Stonehenge, we would express the same sentiments.
Zahi Hawass is quite justified in his actions. I am a degree student and I know that the research that Dr Fletcher proposed was not sound. It was unreasonable to put it in the papers as she did, as it seemed to suggest that she had other evidence to prove this when in fact she did not. I hope that Zahi Hawass does not change his mind and helps preserve Egypt's archaeology for the future.
Bring them home
Sir-- Regarding 'Dig days: In response to Fletcher's theory' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 October), I think it's a shame that so many statues, obelisks, jewellery, frescos and other valuable and precious artefacts have been stolen from the country where those antiquities belong: Egypt. I fully support Dr Hawass' struggle to retrieve all those stolen antiquities back to where they belong: in Egypt. It is sad to stand in front of the Luxor Temple and to see the remains of the missing obelisk, which is located now in the heart of Paris at the Place de la Concorde. The Rosetta Stone, the obelisks, the Nefertiti portrait, the immense statues of Ramses II and so on. They should be brought back to Egypt.
It is very important that museums all over the world get the assurance that they will be able to continue to loan original antiquities for expositions. This is the only way to enable non-Egyptians to come in contact with the ancient the Pharaonic culture.
Sir-- Further to the letter of Dr Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) regarding the "Nefertiti" controversy and related issues 'Dig days: No discrimination' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September), as an osteoarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist researching and teaching on Ancient Egyptian human remains, I have been appalled by the approach of the British investigation team and the film makers. Clearly the conclusions, that the younger woman is Nefertiti, are poorly reasoned and can be shown to be so by even novice Egyptologists. My own summer school students were able to identify the flaws in the arguments after only two weeks' tuition in Ancient Egyptian funerary archaeology.
There are so many options for the identity of this woman, so many royal women of the late 18th dynasty, that considerable research on this mummy and her two companions is necessary. Removal of the mummies from the uncontrolled conditions of the tomb to an appropriate laboratory where they could be studied by Egyptian experts with, perhaps, international colleagues of their choice, would seem to recommend itself.
More important is that the media circus surrounding the work is distasteful and disrespectful to Egyptian scholars and the SCA. Egypt welcomes legitimate scholars, but if the basic rules of professionalism and respect to a host country are not adhered to, it is reasonable for academic relations to be broken -- at least until the relationship can be renegotiated. This is not "revenge"; the UK would undoubtedly take a similar position towards foreign researchers who bypassed the rules granting them access to sites or material.
The Times article of 22 August is inflammatory, and takes up the tabloid position that every question has to be a confrontation. Few British archaeologists/ Egyptologists are likely to agree with it.
Sir-- I wish to send a few lines related to tourism in Egypt. On 27 September, I returned from Europe and arrived at Cairo Airport on time, and looked forward to going home. The airport was extremely full, more than usual, although the arrival time was 2pm, and I had thought we would get through rather rapidly at passport control. Only three of the check booths appeared to be operating, although the arrival hall was bristling with people.
When I finally got through at passport control, disaster struck. The friendly police officer took my passport, and said "just wait three minutes and you will take your passport back." The three minutes turned into three hours of an agonising wait. Egyptians and foreigners, we all milled around, and did not understand what had happened. Someone then told us that the computer system at the airport had broken down, and that all passports had to be checked manually. There is apparently no back-up system at the airport.
I noticed while waiting that improvements had taken place at the airport since our departure in mid-summer. The pushcarts were now waiting near the exit from passport control, and they were free. Porters were available, and the price was posted. Everywhere there were young men in light coloured shirts with ID tags around their necks, ready to help, refusing any tip. The luggage arrived in the meantime, and I decided to get my luggage at least onto the pushcart while waiting for my passport. I let the luggage wait on the cart near a luggage control counter, where a friendly young lady said I could just leave it, and not to worry.
Being a longtime resident of Egypt, where I have my home, I am always concerned that any tourist who arrives in Egypt should feel welcome and have the best time. But what a reception people had on that day. We were several hundred with foreign passports gathered in a huge crowd, and were told that our passports would be delivered at that spot. Two or three young men, one young officer and two others whom I thought must be of the airport service, took matters more or less in their own hands, and heroically climbed onto a bench, shouting names and distributed the passports for the next three hours.
Germans, Americans, Colombians, Romanians, Norwegians and Swedes, everybody cheered when a passport was found and distributed with great gusto by our heroes on the bench. I was among the very last, while a very sad Italian visitor was convinced that he would never see his passport again.
I wanted to thank those young men who with great humour and kindness faced a near-impossible situation. But I also wanted to rush out and to join my waiting family. So perhaps these young men will read this note to realise that we all appreciated their efficiency in a frustrating crisis.
But what about the tourists? I saw some who cried, some who were close to a nervous breakdown, shouting at their children and at police officers who just replied: "wait a few minutes" -- which was like pouring oil on fire. It was only by chance that I myself learned that our passports would be distributed on the side, and not rendered us by the police who had checked us through in the first place. I wondered and feared whether some of those tourists would ever wish to come back to Egypt, or even stay the time planned. In some 40 years of much travel, I have never seen a more horrendous "welcome" offered arrivals from abroad.
I hope the person or persons responsible for this catastrophic breakdown of order in the airport will be investigated thoroughly. Egypt wants her tourism to swing up, not down. Egypt deserves better from her authorities than this chaotic situation offered to arrivals at her gate of welcome.
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