Sir-- Last week, Lieutenant General William Boykin, the officer leading the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein told evangelical Christian audiences that God was on the side of America's war on terrorism and said that Muslims worship an "idol". And that the Muslims' god is not a real god.
For one thing, as a Muslim I know I don't worship an idol, nor do I think that God all of a sudden has taken sides in killing and slaughter done in his name. Only people with serious delusions and all kinds of mental problems think that God is a cheerleader for killing and is a bloodthirsty God.
I would have to say that such blatant racism and ignorance should not have a place in the US Armed Forces or be a part of US official policy. Boykin needs to resign his position in order to first maintain the integrity of the Armed Forces, second to send a signal that racism and bigotry is not going be tolerated in this country, and third to show that the US war on terrorism is not a war against a religion, but rather against extremist terrorists regardless of their religion.
But I was not too surprised to hear those ugly and racist comments. After all, there is an undercurrent of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments fomented by right-wing Christian evangelical groups in this country, which unfortunately seeps through the administration's official thinking and decisions.
Imagine if the general said the same words about any other religion in this county. Of course, hell would have broken loose and the general would not have lasted until the end of the day in his position. But sadly, to be an anti- Muslim in this country is tolerated, and often times encouraged by extremist propaganda all over the place. What does that say about our country? Are we a nation where hatred of religious and ethnic groups has evolved to become a common currency?
In some quarters, yes, and I would not have been too shocked if those comments came from the likes of Pat Robertson, who has just recently said that the US State Department should be "nuked". But to hear these racist comments from an army general, represents a dangerous trend in the US Armed Forces -- long considered a less segregated institution.
General Boykin's comments have already been publicised around the Arab and Muslim world, and would definitely increase the perception that the United States today is a country bent on waging wars against Islam. This type of perception, however, would not be very helpful to America's image around the world, especially if Muslims start realising that the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly Syria and Iran are nothing but wars against Muslims and their religion. This would doom any US policy in the Middle East or in the Muslim world.
Moreover, the general's remarks would give Bin Laden's argument -- that the United State is waging a war against Islam, Arabs and oil under the guise of fighting terrorism -- an air of credibility. Right-wing Christians groups, too, would see the general's comments as a vindication of their anti-Muslim hatred campaign and a step in the right direction toward an eventual Muslim- Christian war in the Middle East. A crazy idea as it sounds, but that's an eventuality crazed extremists on both side are rooting for.
Level-headed Americans of all colours and religions need to make a courageous stand against all forms of racism and extremism, and to make America a better country.
The United Arab American League
Guns for hire
Sir-- While Graham Usher's reporting on events in the Palestinian territories is normally quite accurate, his recent article 'Widening the conflict?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 October) about the explosion which hit the US convoy in the Gaza Strip, contains at least one significant mistake. Mr Usher reports that the explosion killed "three US officials" and that "among the dead were junior diplomats and CIA agents". In fact, all three dead Americans were members of a private security force commissioned by the US government. These private security officers were employees of the DynCorp company. There were no US officials killed, those that died were mercenaries hired by the US.
Of course, this fact could perhaps be interpreted as insignificant if we are to ignore the record of DynCorp's work. But to do so would be illogical. DynCorp is the 10th largest private contractor on the US government payroll. The company focusses on information systems, weapons training and maintenance, special operations, and security. Among their weapons- related activities, DynCorp mercenaries specialise in maintaining Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. The same machines Israel uses so effectively against Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The company is also in charge of carrying out Washington's scorched earth policies in Colombia. Here, DynCorp employees work with brutal paramilitary organisations targeting rural and indigenous Colombian communities. The effect is increased access for American oil companies seeking to exploit Colombia's significant resource base. In addition, DynCorp hired guns patrol the US border with Mexico. The policy of these "guards" to shoot first and ask questions later is well known in California and Mexico. DynCorp is active in nearly every US endeavour, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, and has recently signed a contract to send its mercenaries to Iraq.
As an American living and working in the Gaza Strip, it is obvious to me that these facts help clarify interpretations of the recent explosion. Publications such as Al-Ahram Weekly should be asking specific questions about what in fact was the origin of the explosion (the "fact" that it was a Palestinian initiative does not seem strikingly evident to me). However, I must also insist that Al-Ahram Weekly clarify other facts about the incident. The Americans who died were not official representatives of the government or the people, they were mercenaries from a private company that is itself stained with the blood of the innocent.
The occupied territories
The real culprits
Sir-- The attack that killed the three Americans is part of a pattern. Whenever Israel starts getting bad press in the US, a few Americans have to die to get the US back on board. The previous case was the 1000 pound bomb that killed all the children, which was followed by killing the students.
Instead of denying Palestinian responsibility for this attack, Arafat should accuse the Israelis of responsibility for it. Instead, the US is rushing to judgment and blaming Arafat. Reasons to assume Israel was responsible are the following. First, Israel has complete control over the Gaza Strip; second, if the Palestinians had this capability they would have used it on Israeli tanks during the recent incursion; third, Israel controlled the route the convoy took; four, Israel controlled the timing on the convoy's trip; five, Israel is the only possible beneficiary of this attack.
Can the Palestinians get any evidence? Samples of dirt from the crime scene for analysis of residue may indicate the type of explosive which may be something that is available only to Israel. Also, recent IDF incursions used this route, and other recent activity in the area. It is not enough to deny something. You need to go on the offensive.
Over the past week, the US press has had a reasonable amount of coverage of the recent peace proposal, and that Israel return to the 1967 borders. Always in the past, when there is a proposal on the table, an explosion of some kind takes it off the front page. This incident is part of the same pattern. Denial is not enough; Israel has both the motive and the capability.
Sir-- I'm having difficulty understanding why any press -- Arab or otherwise -- is not asking a very simple question: who would benefit the most by a complete breakdown between the US and the PA, and/or Palestinians in general? The assumption, despite the denials of the primary militant factions and the current one under investigation, is that Palestinians are automatically responsible for the attack on the US diplomatic convoy this week.
Of late, information regarding a rise in the number of Israeli extremist groups has been readily available in the Israeli press despite military censors. Even as recently as last week, an Israeli was arrested for manufacturing and selling bombs to people seeking them. The inference in Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post was that he sold to "Arabs" because someone posing as an Arab approached him, and mob bosses. Since I have yet to read about any mob-related bombings in Israel, I would suggest that he probably sold to anyone that approached him including Israeli extremists.
Again I go back to the question of who has the most to gain by driving an irreparable wedge between the United States and the Palestinians? If it were simply a question of vengeance directed towards the US, would we not already have seen this type of action in the last three years? Even considering the horrendous destruction in Rafah, which was much like what occurred in Jenin, Nablus and Rafah previously, the consistent UN vetoes, and the position of the US on the Apartheid Wall, I still find it inconceivable that any Palestinian in their right mind would purposefully target a US diplomatic mission. Much as they may want to, due to the United States completely unbalanced "brokering", it would be politically disastrous for the Palestinian people.
People need to be asking more questions rather than assuming guilt where guilt may not lie.
Sir-- I have just returned from a trip to Palestine. What is taking place there is simply astounding. Being erected is an apartheid wall, eerily reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, which will turn Palestine into the largest prison in the world. Claiming its existence is essential to protect themselves from suicide bombers, the Israelis have begun the process of bulldozing homes and confiscating fertile land and water supplies in order to install their "fence". Farmers are being separated from their land and are unable to secure a livelihood. Israel has managed, once again, to disrupt the lives of the people of Palestine.
While being detained at one of the 500 checkpoints and roadblocks, I had the opportunity to observe the humiliation, intimidation and frustration the Palestinians have to endure on a daily basis. I watched as ambulances, with their lights flashing, were held up at checkpoints. I myself was arrested for taking photographs of the dramatically beautiful landscape, and was taken to an Israeli military post where I was held for many hours in the blistering sun.
The reasons for my arrest varied from soldier to soldier, but one thing remained clear: until the people of Palestine are treated with dignity and respect and given the opportunity to live normal lives and prosper, there will always be unrest in the Middle East. And to continuously group over one billion peace-loving Muslims into a category with Muslim extremists will only intensify misconceptions about the Muslim faith, which is based on peace.
If anyone is interested in seeking the truth, they need only go to Palestine, where they are sure to find it.
Sir-- Regarding 'The attack on Syria' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 16-22 October), it is not important what the Americans do. What is more important is what the Arab countries can do about it.
They don't care
Sir-- 'The six-month mark' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 October) is a very interesting article.
I would like to pose a question: when you read how the Americans are treating people from your countries in the US itself, how can you believe they care about the Iraqi population?
Sir-- Russia, France and Germany have extended qualified support to the US draft resolution on Iraq.
This is proof that in the end the West will spare no effort to exploit the Arab nation(s).
Sir-- The UN Security Council has given its unanimous approval to a US-drafted resolution authorising its occupation of Iraq. The question is: what happened to France and Russia? Did they get their share of Arab wealth? Or was it a game from the beginning to show that the West is not really against the Arabs.
We know that the US did not need help to destroy a weak army such as Iraq's. Since 1948, the Russians, French and Chinese, did not use their veto to give the Arabs any breaks.
Al-Qa'eda did it
Sir-- In response to Diaa Rashwan's 'Inconclusive evidence' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 September - 1 October), you are quite wrong on multiple accounts relating to the information that is available regarding the perpetrators of 9/11. There are voice recordings from the plane that ended up crashing into the ground instead of the intended target, whatever that may have been. These recordings have been publicly available; one can clearly make out the voices of the Arab terrorists and their alarm that the people were fighting back in an attempt to regain control of the plane. Due to the timeline of attacks on the twin towers and the fact that many people had cell phones, the rest of the people on the plane knew that it was not just a hijacking, but was in fact an Arab terrorist suicide mission.
If you dismiss the excuses and the Zionist conspiracy theories and replace it with common sense that is based on fact, you will be faced with truth. The fact is that the majority of the Arab hijackers were from Saudi Arabia; the fact is that even though Bin Laden may not say, "I am responsible," it only takes a little common sense. Bin Laden's tape recording shows him bragging that the hijackers did not all know it was a suicide mission.
You also attempt to portray the hijackers as Western Muslims. Your portrayal is a complete lie when we know that they had visas to study or learn to fly in countries in the West. The hijackers were not Western-born Muslims. It is also a major fact if you look around the world that the majority of Muslims are not tolerant of other religious groups, and resort to murder on a regular basis. Indonesia is a good example of the tolerance Muslims have for Non-Muslims. If you add the Muslim on Muslim murders, it paints a broad stroke of Muslims as being violent.
I am sure I won't change any Arab Muslim minds since Zionist conspiracies are prevalent in your culture, however, just be aware that other than the occasional Western civilised Waco, the majority of people find these types of theories laughable and typical of Arabs.
We, the mothers
Sir-- I am writing you about the new law concerning the children of Egyptian mothers and non-Egyptian fathers. In fact, I am an example since I am married to a foreigner. My question is, why does the government put the condition that the applicant is required to have resided in Egypt for 10 years? What about Egyptian fathers, their children are granted the nationality automatically, regardless of the nationality of his wife or where they live.
In my opinion, they should decide whether they want to grant citizenship or not. I don't buy their nonsense talk about security, and I doubt that a foreign mother would bring up real Egyptian children. Mothers are the ones who bring up children to love or hate, to belong or not; that is why we use the reference "mother tongue" and "motherland".
I was once in Mansoura and in one of the big squares was posted the picture of a fallaha (peasant woman) and at the centre of her heart was the picture of President Hosni Mubarak. From this picture, we can tell that Egypt is the real mother -- Umm Al-Donia [mother of the world]. We are all in her heart. I thought about this picture for a long time, and wondered whether the day will come when some one has the courage to protest that the offspring of non- Egyptian fathers are true Egyptians.
Whoever put that condition of 10 years, knows well how hard it is for some mothers to bring their children up in Egypt, having to pay in hard currency. I think if they are going to grant citizenship, there should not be any restriction.
We love our country; we are the ones who brought up the men, us mothers and no one else.
Sir-- 'Testing the waters' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 October) is very nice indeed. Grass- roots movements are the tools that help ignite the spark of change in a community, country or, for that matter, a region, respectively. One can only persevere in the face of strife to attain what is absolute minimum human rights and subsequent responsibilities. As members of a community, we have to protect, nurture and enhance the common good. Once that common good is spelled out, the road ahead becomes less murky and more defined. Decisions, then, become more insightful.
Citizens have to be made aware of and involved in the process and given full access to public institutions. People's representatives have to be held accountable and prosecuted, including the executive. If you proceed in a principled and organised manner, I don't see why the government's inertia can't be forced into motion.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- I commend Dr Hawass for setting the record straight in 'Dig days: In response to Fletcher's theory' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 October) on Joan Fletcher's unfounded claim that she discovered the mummy of Nefertiti.
I was shocked and outraged when I saw her work broadcast on the TV Discovery Channel, which in my view, was one of the poorest productions by a once prominent "educational" channel. The history of the 18th Dynasty period is one of the most intriguing in the history of Egypt. Joan Fletcher's work and Discovery Channel's production were mostly a historical distortion and fabrication of this period.
I strongly urge the Supreme Council of Antiquities to allow only highly qualified Egyptologists and archaeologists to study this period, and carefully review and scrutinise their work before it is published in the print or televised media. Neither Joan Fletcher nor Discovery Channel has the right to distort history.
Job well done
Sir-- I wanted to thank Lubna Abdel-Aziz and compliment her on the article 'Limelight: About Jack' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 January - 5 February) about Jack Nicholson. I was deeply moved by it. A friend just brought my attention to it yesterday, and after reading it I had to write her.
My name is Donna Rose, I am Donald Furcillo-Rose's daughter and Jack's half sister. It is the first time I have ever seen an article that spoke the complete and total truth of the matter. I am a broadcast journalist myself, news director at Press Communications in New Jersey, so the standards I set are probably higher than most readers. I really want to thank you and if my father were alive, he would have been happy that finally the truth is being reported. Your article was creative, moving and compelling.
To be honest, this is the first time I have ever written to any journalist about Jack. I wrote a book a few years back to try and set aside all of the fabrications that had been reported regarding Jack and Dad. It is called You Don't Know Jack: The tale of a father once removed. Proceeds of the book all go to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, since both my father and Jack's mother June died of cancer.
Again, I would like to thank you so very much for your well-written article. I have printed it out and will keep it always.
Sir-- We live on Road 199 and 198, Degla, Maadi. This area is newly built with over 120 buildings, each 10 storeys high. We have a serious problem when parking our cars because the construction company which sold the units is preventing flat owners from using the garages, unless we pay LE30,000 per flat. We need officials in the Maadi Municipal Council to come and investigate this matter.
According to the law, I know that we are entitled to use the garage under the building, but that is not the case here. Furthermore, the landlord of a neighbouring building has leased the garage of his building as a warehouse, which is illegal. Now, we have to escalate this serious issue as Degla is solely a residential area and should not be used for commercial purposes.
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