Sir-- Why is the presence of American troops in Iraq labelled "occupation"? From the get go, the military intervention was to be short-lived and aimed at ousting the Hussein administration. In my opinion, the resistance fighters are not the representatives of the Iraqi people, but remnants of Hussein loyalists.
The pattern of attacks around Baghdad, Falluja and Tikrit prove me right. These attacks are absent in the deep south and far north. American troops will not withdraw knowing that Hussein's spirit is still alive in the country.
The claim that the Iraqi "people" cheered at the downing of the helicopters is far fetched. These same "people" cheered when statues of Hussein were toppled and aided American intelligence in capturing some of the central figures in Hussein's administration.
New York, NY
Sir-- America the land of the free? Here is the truth of our democracy -- and you are welcome to import it in Iraq and Egypt.
The law-makers are all millionaires and it takes at least one million dollars to run for any office. Individuals need to sell their homes to get justice in any court; in other words, it is expensive to get justice. Students need to be in debt for the rest of their life to the banks to finance their education.
And you need over $300 million to run for the president of United States (if you get elected). Historically, the winner is the one with more interest group money, not the one who speaks for the people.
Sir-- We invite you in the Middle East to copy our democratic system. If you do, let's give you an idea about what you are going to get. In America, each law-maker is a millionaire, so you need to expect that laws are written to protect the rich. Each senator or governor elected is a son or grandson or nephew of a wealthy governor or president -- George Bush Sr's two sons got to rule Florida and Texas; the governor of Louisiana is the great grandson of another governor, etc. So expect some type of monarchy.
Third, the best person never gets the job. Secretary of State Powell got his son appointed to a high level position in the federal government, etc.
Lastly, if you have problem expect to lose in the court. Judges are elected and depend on corporations and wealthy people to be re-elected. If you are an immigrant or minority, you are the last to be hired, and the first to be fired.
Welcome to America and you are welcome to copy our system.
Scent of freedom
Sir-- Regarding 'Against the common enemy' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November), it is sad that here again, as always in history, people are not considered people unless met face to face. With regards to religious and political factions, it all boils down to political interests. Our boys went into this war for a just cause, so they believed -- and so many still believe what their mind was trained to do.
We cannot stop politics easily, unless we really take out of office those who only act in self interest and not for the common interest of the people of Iraq. Culture clash galore and many obstacles lay in the path of a nation for people with integrity and independence.
At this point, I wish for Iraq and its leaders to have the wisdom and foresight to govern their country as a nation for the people, in which people can live in peace and harmony without terror and threats. I also pray for the patience of the Iraqi people, who have suffered so much, to use tenacity and wisdom to see themselves through these hard times.
And blessed be all those children going through these times now and may they smell the scent of freedom and self-governance when they grow up. No change comes fast, and it is with our continuous sacrifice and commitment that we shall see this nation rise and be a prosperous nation again.
Try to help
Sir-- If you want the Americans out of Iraq so badly, start trying to help them rebuild the infrastructure, stop saying that it was the Americans who destroyed it. Who were the ones who looted Baghdad to it's very foundations? The Iraqis. I don't believe the weapons of mass destruction pretext but Saddam had to go, and that was the only way he was going to go. This is the best opportunity you will ever have to rebuild Iraq, which was in pretty bad shape before the war.
Do you think these American and British boys are there for the sole purpose of occupying Iraq? Wake up. They want out of there as fast as you want them out, but they are not going to just up and walk away leaving behind them an even more catastrophic human tragedy than before they got there. They are trying to help.
What's the fuss
Sir-- Kudos to letter writer Steven Potempa of Arizona 'Land for all?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November) for breathing some common sense into this message board.
Griping about Zionism and the Jewish-American lobby and so-called Jewish pressure groups (an odd buzz-phrase for two or more Jews in the same room) grows old very quickly.
A J Zeitlin
Sir-- I take exception to the title of John R Bradley's story 'Suicide shock for Saudi' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 November). "Saudi" is not a name of a country. The full name of the country Bradley has in mind is "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", commonly referred to as "Saudi Arabia", and fondly referred to by Saudi Arabians as "the Kingdom". For those who like acronyms and initialisms, KSA and SA are acceptable. The need for brevity in a title is understandable, but "Saudi" is not an acceptable abbreviation of "Saudi Arabia" any more than "United" is an abbreviation of "United States". Both "Saudi" and "United" are the adjectival parts in their respective noun phrases. If someone wrote "Suicide shock for United", we would think the reference was to the well-known airline.
"Saudi" by itself can be used both as a noun and as an adjective in reference to a Saudi Arabian citizen. Abdullah is Saudi, or Abdullah is a Saudi. English-speaking workers in Saudi Arabia have been known to reminisce about their experience in "Saudi" when they go back to their countries. This incorrect usage is probably an attempt to create a parallel term to the Arabic term As-Su'udiyya ("the Saudi entity"). The one-word term works fine in Arabic, but not in English because of the vast structural differences between the two languages. We tolerate such infelicitous expressions as "I want to go back to Saudi" from ill-schooled oil workers, but not from Al-Ahram Weekly columnists.
Sugar Land, TX
Sir-- I was impressed with Mohamed Hakki's article entitled 'It's Palestine, stupid' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 October).
I used the same title for a letter that I wrote to Congress.org last February, which reads as follows: I believe that targeting terrorism misses the point. Terrorism is not the cause but an effect of time-honoured hatred. Sect versus sect.
America has descended into Judeo-Christian theocracy. The Jewish state has taken full advantage of this. The Islamists are reacting to this madness with their own brand of insanity.
We need to elect more secular oriented leaders; leaders who realise that America will remain vulnerable to faith-based fanaticism as a direct consequence of Israel's relentless persecution of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the "holy land".
IRA is terrorist
Sir-- To comment on the interview with Sheikh Yassin 'Hudna, resistance and war on Islam' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November), I would like to note that the IRA is listed as a terrorist organisation.
Sir-- Howard Dean's recent gaffe about the Confederate Flag could be dismissed as a "Johnny Reb" type support of the rebel that lies in the heart of most Americans, or it could be a sign of something more sinister -- covert racism.
What is particularly troubling is his nearly unswerving support for Israel and its policies, as well as the presumption that Israel's enemies, namely the Arabs, are America's enemies. Not once has he brought into question Israel's 36-year-long brutal occupation of Palestine. Why doesn't he condemn the superhighways that cut through the heart of Palestine which are for Israelis only, while Palestinians are forced to use dirt roads or ones that have been dug up and made treacherous? Meanwhile, people living in the West Bank are even prohibited from owning a car.
The racist Apartheid Wall makes cities into ghettos where people are kept under lock and key. It is twice as high as the Berlin Wall and three times as long, and is not built on the border but deep into Palestinian territory. There are 482 checkpoints which effectively cut the country into prisons. Routine closures of cities and villages are enforced by tanks, with Palestinians suffering deadly military incursions and open-fire attacks on residents on a daily basis. Farmers are prevented from tending their land; shops, homes, apartments and government buildings are bulldozed, killing innocent civilians and causing chaos and homelessness. But they're mostly Arabs, so perhaps it's OK.
Water is severely rationed to Palestinians, while illegal Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill their swimming pools. According to the United Nations, the average Palestinian now has one meal a day and lives on $2 a day. Why aren't Israel's policies examined as incitements that spawn the deadly rash of suicide bombers? Aren't they the real terrorist?
Until such time when Howard Dean can prove himself to be an honest broker in terms of peace in the Middle East, considering him the "peace" candidate is a cruel joke.
Genevieve Cora Fraser
Egypt and NATO
Sir-- I would like to post a response to Mohamed Sid-Ahmed's article 'Egypt, Iraq and Israel in NATO!' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November) about the possible inclusion of Iraq, Israel and Egypt in NATO. I must say I disagree with Mr Sid-Ahmed's position on this issue. I read Mr Friedman's article and thought it was very well written and that he brought up excellent points. I sent NATO an e-mail asking them to explore the issues further.
Mr Friedman is absolutely right about Iraq, given its bloody history, and NATO will be there to back it up in times of conflict. An Egyptian inclusion in NATO will bring awesome economic and political benefits to Egypt. Egyptian companies will benefit from excellent intra-NATO relations. If Egyptian soldiers were asked to work side-by-side with forces from other NATO countries, they would gain precious training which will lead to the rise of Egypt as a military power.
Also, let us not forget that NATO will also help Egypt in times of trouble if it becomes a member state. Egypt's inclusion into NATO would most of all give it extraordinary political influence world politics. It could push forth issues important to the Egyptian heart, help Arab causes and propel Egypt forward economically, socially, and politically.
Egypt would be the second-largest country in NATO after the United States, which would make it a power to be reckoned with. In including Egypt in, all I see are positive results.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- Your article 'Egypt, Iraq and Israel in NATO!' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November) seemed well argued, although it would be a truly difficult task to bring about.
However if it is truly a glaring contradiction to the current state of affairs, I can hardly think of a greater recommendation.
Include the Brothers
Sir-- Last week I read a long essay written by a fair Al-Ahram Weekly analyst, Amr Elchoubaky. I would like to ask how can the ruling party neglect the Muslim Brotherhood when they wanted to talk with the opposition?
It is true that they do not have a political party, however, they have more members in the People's Assembly than all the ailing parties in our political life. Do they not represent the people who elected them? Is it fair to neglect them with all their weight in the street?
The NDP should be more open and honest and hold true to the meaning of its name, just to make us believe a few of the slogans that fill our media day and night.
Ali El-Sharkawy Omar
Piece of cloth
Sir-- The veil is a simple, colourful and offensive piece of cloth which we Muslim females use to cover our heads. For us, it is a very important symbol of faith which affects on our lives.
I am wondering how a great country like France -- which is supposed to be one of the most democratic countries in today's world -- prohibits the veil and describes it as a threat of the republic's principles of citizenship.
How can a simple thing like a piece of cloth create so mush harm?
Sir-- The Muslim and Arab communities in the US are growing into a more cohesive political force and one to be reckoned with. This has been demonstrated by the attendance in October of all democratic presidential candidates, except for General Clark, at the AAI meeting of Arab- American political and grassroots leaders which was held in Dearborn, Michigan. The Bush administration was also represented through the secretary of energy Mr Spencer Abraham, an Arab-American, and the former chair of Bush- Cheney 2004, Governor Marc Racicot.
The conference attendees have proven once and for all that the Arab-American community is born and maturing into a healthy partner in the country's political discourse. From being barely a concept to being conceived, from untold labour pains to finally being born, the Arab-American has emerged onto the political scene. Not that we were not visible before, but we were kept fragmented and had no substantial direct involvement in domestic and foreign politics.
Fighting negative stereotyping from a propagandist media, our energies were exhausted in fending off distortion and misrepresentation from the likes of the neo-cons, and the powerful Israeli lobby, to name a few. Our donations to political candidates were rejected. Our political participation was curtailed and discouraged all together. The Christian and Muslim communities of Arab descent were pitted against each other. Of late, civil liberties of Muslim American and particularly Muslim Arab American, is fast becoming the new tender in homeland security parlance. To add insult to injury to our community we lost one of our most outspoken and gifted Arab-American, Professor Edward Said.
In this struggle, however, we are not alone. Other communities find themselves aboard the same boat, coincidentally, in the middle of a perfect storm. This collective predicament has given new fodder to the idea of uniting otherwise divergent groups to support and effect changes that will better steer this nation in the 21st century.
The Arab American Institute, as well as the Muslim American organisations in the US are, in my opinion, the best means to help address, and redress our internal concerns and those of our people abroad. By focussing our efforts in educating our respective citizenry and presenting them with our own historical acumen to the unfolding events, we will be better able to instate viable alternatives to our current political climate.
That is the challenge facing us today.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- Regarding 'Hard act to follow' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 6-12 November), I for one shall miss Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed. I sincerely hope you will still let us hear from him, and what a shame there aren't more of him. Everything he says about the West is absolutely true. Is it a crime to tell the truth these days?
I think there is a lot of jealousy in the criticism he receives from other countries. You can be sure the West underneath it all rather admire him. All the crawling you are doing to America will not save you; anglo Saxons hate it. I know because I am one of them and I know how they function. Take a leaf out of his book, before it is too late.
Your paper is the highlight of my life. I spend at least two hours a day reading it. I have read and studied every copy that is on the net. It has given a lot of information and background for my study of Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun -- a book I feel should be compulsory reading in every school in the world.
Live and let live
Sir-- The peril of conversion happening in Tamil Nadu is very saddening indeed. When analysed, the dalits are the actual people to be blamed here. They even have an organisation, as mentioned in your article 'Crisis over conversions' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December 2002). They have failed to realise that the caste system is social, not religious or biological, as portrayed by these ignorant upper class Hindus. It is against the basic doctrine of Hinduism. We (Hindus) are taught to love and not injure every single living organism, (ahimsa), as we are all a drop of soul from the great Ocean of God, so how can someone be called a dalit? And yet they still feel inferior compared to the upper class Hindus. They've failed to realise that the so- called classification was based upon a certain trade, or social hierarchy, not religiously or biologically. This is the cause for a constant fight for social liberalism.
Conversion would only make it worse because it is happening because of lack of education. An educated Hindu would never call someone a dalit, neither would he convert. A Hindu who condemns another religion or caste is not a Hindu; a so-called dalit who fails to understand this is ignorant -- and will still be ignorant no matter what religion he converts to. But an educated so- called dalit, would never see himself any different from the upper class Hindus, neither would he convert. India should be spending more time on education and eradicating poverty amongst the poor and desolate, rather than waste time on these silly bills and acts.
We would all want to live in a world where we are proud of our past and heritage, be it Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu. Every culture and religion is beautiful in its own way. We must not be embarrassed by our roots; for once the roots decay, the tree that bears the sweetest of fruits will die too. But an apple tree should be an apple tree, and try to bear sweet apples, rather than fruit bananas, wouldn't you say? We should play a role in preserving our own religion and culture, and if we can, others too. Never condemn another.
Conversion is the easy way out, but India will suffer culturally and religiously. At the same time, everyone must have the freedom for conversion, for purely divine spiritual purposes. Live and let live.
Sir-- I want to thank you very much for 'The radio phenomenon' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 June-2 July).
I am not connected in any way to the Nile Radio Production Company, but I am a great admirer of those who have good ideas and create things that we really want in Egypt.
And thank you for covering the story fairly.
Sir-- I think your newspaper is an extremely valuable source of news, opinion and perspective. I greatly value the online version; please keep it up.
I don't agree with everything you write, by any means, but I learn a lot. However, I do feel that your articles tend to be a bit too long, wordy, not tight enough.
Life is very busy, and I just don't have time to plough through many of your articles. Perhaps you could consider including executive summaries of some of your articles.
Sir-- Al-Ahram Weekly's issue dated 23-29 October was my first, and will not be the last.
Your publication is very good on topics and the extent of freedom it has. Keep up the good work.
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