Letters to the editor
Signals of hope
Sir-- I have been to Egypt on several occasions and am proud to number several people there among my long-time friends. When the US policy brings even one of my dearest friends to question me on US behaviour and attitudes towards Muslims and Islam, I can hardly be surprised at the growing cynicism of the entire Middle East.
As I told my friend Fatma, there is reason to hope -- not all of us are as blind as the present government believes us to be.
Recently, an article appeared in a Miami newspaper that proves as much. That the article appeared in Miami Florida, a very conservative state which is controlled by the Bush family and determined the outcome of our last election, is I think an impressive demonstration that our Bill of Rights is still operative, and that there is still hope for the goodwill of the American people to stop the insanity that has been ours since 9/11. I for one hope so.
Sir-- 'Torture in camera' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 24- 30 June) is a very good and brave article. I want to thank the writer Amira Howeidy.
As an Egyptian, I am sorry that torture takes place in Egypt, but I am optimistic because these type of articles published may be a sign that this practice will discontinue.
Nonetheless, until the Emergency Law is lifted, Egyptians will not have all their human rights
Sir-- It was with deep dismay that I heard the news about Iraqi civilians being targeted by suicide/homicide bombers.
If Arab terrorists have no regard for fellow Arabs, how can other people trust those countries that support such groups?
Delivering the message
Sir-- On Monday, 21 June 2004, I watched an Oprah Winfrey's Show titled "Life After War" on an Arab satellite channel. The show hosted some American soldiers who were injured in military operations in Iraq, including one who lost his arm, another who lost his leg, and two soldiers who were captured as POWs.
The show provided a detailed description of the "torture" they underwent while "protecting" their nation. In fact, the soldiers were presented in a way that would make the audience feel great sympathy for them. The US media is perfect at delivering the message to the widest number of people; the Oprah Show is watched by millions around the globe and is one of the most famous shows in the world.
Unfortunately Arabs do not have similar means of delivering their message to the world. Arab satellite channels are only watched by Arabs because all of them are broadcast in Arabic, which is not understood by people outside the Arab world. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison was not disclosed by Arab media, but the scandal sparked originally from inside the USA.
Arabs have to take a role in informing the world of the torture that Arab prisoners suffer in Guantànamo, Palestine and Afghanistan.
Sir-- For 12 years, dedicated African-American scholars, spear-headed by the Honorable Silis Muhammad, have waged a legal battle inside the United Nations to secure Human Rights and Reparations for all Afro-Descendants in the Western Hemisphere. Our African foreparents were brought in chains to America 449 years ago; today, we as a people, are still suffering from the lingering effects of plantation slavery and ongoing oppression.
By continuing to impose ethnocide and forced assimilation upon us, the US government is violating UN covenants. When diverse UN bodies, including the Human Rights Commission, have received a sufficient number of our interventions and when the UN increases its willpower to challenge the world's so-called "only superpower," we hope that the United Nations will place a Reparations Sanction upon the guilty USA. Once we secure our Reparations, many of us plan to return to our original homeland of Africa and to use our diverse skills to uplift the entire continent.
I am humbly requesting that Al-Ahram Weekly cover the seldom-publicised Reparations Movement, because systematic non-coverage by the White mass media has hidden the truth from many who deserve to know it.
Minister Malik Al-Arkam
Stories of desecration
Sir-- I wish to share with your readers two stories about the shameful uprooting of olive trees and the confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank by the Israeli army. To uproot and or cut down the olive trees is considered a great offense against God and a bad omen. In many countries road construction and buildings have to be diverted if they interfere with olive groves.
Thoughout the Bible, the olive branch represents a symbol of peace and redemption. For the Israeli government and military to uproot and destroy this sacred symbol demonstrates how they have forsaken their moral compass. The issue of security can never supersede our moral commitment to each other and neighbours.
The first story concerns Mr Mohamed Swaiti, a 75 year-old a farmer who was out in his fields working when a convoy of Israeli soldiers came and told him they would have to uproot and confiscate his land for "a security wall." When Mr Swaiti protested this injustice by telling the soldiers he had papers to show his land had been in his family for generations, the soldiers told him "that is the way it is."
Many Israelis I know in the USA and in Israel are ashamed of this policy too.
The second story came to me from a peace activist in the West Bank: This is her story: "I cried when we reached the olive grove. We marched as usual from the mosque, but instead of confronting the soldiers on the road, we walked down towards the grove. There we found what they had done, the Israeli army. They had uprooted all the trees and the ones left were naked, the branches cut off and lying on the ground. It was like a funeral, and instead of moving forwards towards the army line, people sat down on the broken trees and cried, men, women, children, Jews, and Palestinians, crying. A number of people tried to console the man whose grandfather planted the trees. He was inconsolable."
Sir-- After digesting Mr Abdel-Raouf El- Reedy's review Hans Blix's book ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 May), readers should remember that Blix is just another politician trying to save his skin.
It's well known that Saddam Hussein agreed to inspections only on the condition that Blix lead them, so I doubt that Blix was impartial. And Blix admits that he directed most of his efforts to stopping the war rather than finding WMD.
As to the ineffectiveness of the UN's inspectors, readers should remember their failure to detect North Korea's nuclear programme while they were inspecting North Korean facilities and their recent failures in Iran.
Today, it's clear that the only reason that France and Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was bribing them and Kofi Annan's relatives with billions of dollars.
Many Americans didn't think the first gulf war was over. The US stopped short of Baghdad in the first war because Hussein signed a treaty agreeing to perform certain actions. He never complied with the treaty. He murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The US and Britain established no-fly zones to protect the Kurds and Shias, but Hussein had troops shoot at our planes daily for 12 years.
The UN put sanctions in place to force Hussein to comply with the treaty but they failed. Hussein tried to assassinate the former President Bush. Now we learn from the Russians that Hussein had planned numerous terrorist attacks inside the US.
Also, a vast amount of evidence links Iraq with the Oklahoma City bombing in the mid 1980s.
We had plenty of reason to go to war without the threat of WMD. Blix's efforts to save his buddy the mass murderer would be comical if not so disgusting.
Broken Arrow, OK
Sir-- The world needs peace, humanity and truth. You are referred to an article on the continuing, horrendous mortality in Afghanistan and Iraq that was published recently by the news agency News Central Asia www.newscentralasia.com.
The authors want all people to know what is happening. Salient facts: "excess (avoidable) mortality" since 1950: 5.2 million in Iraq, 16.2 million in Afghanistan (from UN data) -- cf. WW2 Jewish Holocaust (6 million) and "forgotten" WW2 Bengal Famine (4 million Muslim and Hindu victims); excess mortality in Palestine Occupied Territories since 1967: 340,000. 2001 under-5 infant mortality: 109,000 in Iraq (population 24 million), 277,000 in Afghanistan (population 22 million) -- 1000 in Australia (population 20 million) (UNICEF data).
Mass mortality in conquered, occupied countries is a war crime; ignoring such mass mortality is holocaust denial (see: www.control.com.au).The world needs peace, humanity and truth.
Macleod, Vic 3085
A new history
Sir-- Reading Al-Ahram Weekly, one finds well- informed articles about the realities, contradictions and dynamics of the Middle East political-security situation and role of major powers in the region. The Arabs, may lack a military balance in the region to defend their rights and lands, but their ability to uncover the fascist and ignominious policies of Sharon and his superpower ally Mr Bush has been consistently remarkable and enlightening. For over five decades, Palestinian resistance, determination and undeterred love for their motherland has written a new history in the struggles of national liberation and freedom. There is not a single day when one does not feel the pain and sorrow which the suffering and struggling Palestinians -- and now Iraqis -- are going through.
I feel that as long as the light of reason and argument, along with struggle, keep burning, victory will be for the oppressed and suppressed people. When it's time for invincible empires to collapse, we must be sure that injustice has no more future.
We salute the Palestinians and Iraqis for their right of self-determination, and condemn Israelis' so-called right of bombing Palestinians towns, assassinating Palestinians leaders, demolishing their home, and America's misguided notion of imposing democracy in Iraq through their puppets, defended by over 100,000 soldiers, gunships and armoured vehicles.
Mushtaque Ahmad Rajpar
Solution for Syria
Sir-- With regards 'Change in Syria' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 24-30 June) the only logical solution to the Syrian question, or I should say the Syrian problem, is the following. First, all current ideologically-base political parties must dissolve themselves for the simple reason that none of them, ever, represented the Syrian people and their interests. These include, but are not limited to, the Syrian Baath Party and the Syrian Communist party and all their branches, the Muslim Brotherhood and all other Islamist "movements" and their affiliates, the Syrian National Party and all other socialist and pan-nationalist parties that come in all kinds of colours and shapes.
Second, Syria must undergo a period of peaceful rehabilitation of its society and culture and return to the norms of civilised behaviour, founded on the basis of truthful acknowledgment of its ancient past. This step can only be achieved if Syria is under a United Nations trusteeship. Meaning, only the United Nations has the power to rule Syria until Syria acquires an independent judiciary, independent parliament and an independent executive branch. Third, a new constitution must be written which takes into account that Syria is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. The constitution must guarantee that all citizens of the Republic are equal before the law, free to express their opinion without fear from state prosecution, and above all, the constitution must guarantee that all citizens have the right to live with dignity and liberty.
Finally, a new Syrian constitution must be protected by the United Nations and any attempt to tamper with it would require the immediate intervention of the UN Security Council, NATO and any other military power that can be established for the purpose of protecting Syria from going back to the state of anarchy that prevailed over the past 42 plus years.
Sir-- Regarding 'Unsavoury alliance' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 24-30 June) Israel -- in its usually manner -- systematically attempts to disrupt any Iraqi progress that it deems unfavourable to the glory of Israel.
Chalabi and his cadre of goons would have recognised Israel for one reason alone -- they really believed that to keep the American military behind them, backing Israel was a necessity. The Kurdish political parties, no true lovers of freedom and democracy, have now duped the world into thinking they are true Jeffersonian Democrats; far from it! The Kurdish parties are tribal parties kowtowing to their feudal bosses. They may talk of democracy, but they have their own city/states with each tribal leader gaining a foothold on all economic and political decisions.
How many times did Kurdish groups call in Saddam's troops when they were needed?
Now the Kurdish parties deny any involvement with Israel, which is hogwash. Israel and the Kurdish parties have been working together for years to disrupt the Arab nation. Israel was, and continues, to fund Kurdish factions which oppose the natural Iraqi Arab character. Iraq is, and will always remain, the heart of the Arab nation, therefore it is sad that our Muslim Kurdish brothers find it necessary to ally themselves with the brutal Israeli regime.
Corrections on Sudan
Sir-- There are a few factual mistakes that I would like to respectfully make evident to your publication in 'Tables turn on Turabi' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 24-30 June). First, the prison referred to as Al-Khobar Prison in Khartoum, Sudan is actually called Cooper. It was set up by the British colonial administration and served its purpose as a detention centre for freedom fighters of the independence movement.
Cooper Prison is pronounced in the local Sudanese dialect as 'Kobar' prison. As Al-Khobar is a city in the east of Saudi Arabia, I was very surprised at the frequent reference of Cooper as Al- Khobar in that article. Second, Dr Turabi's wife is Wisal Al-Mahdi not Wasila.
I hope that you will take note of these mistakes and pass them onto Mr Nkrumah; the respectful suggestion being that more thorough research on Sudan is conducted, with the aid of more 'genuine' sources.
Sir-- In reference to Dina Ezzat's 'Fortifying women's rights' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 17- 23 June) there are some points I need to comment on. The article quoted an Egyptian 26- year-old woman as saying: "Here I'm with a Law degree and I'm cleaning bathrooms." She adds, "if I were a man, I would have had a better job as a sales assistant or a cashier in a store at least."
I think the lady is just exaggerating; if she looked around her in the same facility where she works, she will probably find a man doing the same job she does.
Work opportunities in Egypt nowadays do not depend on gender, the job of a sales assistant is not confined to men as one may understand from what she said. Women now are judges, ministers, MPs, and professors, they work in almost all fields. The number of working women is rising, either in the government or the private sector. The status of women has improved much through the past few years, women now have organisations defending their rights and speaking in their name, on both national and international fronts.
The role of women is indispensable, this is a truth no one can deny.
Matchmakers on line
Sir-- I recently read your article titled 'Modern khatba?' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 June) on online matchmaking services for Muslims and Arabs. I was surprised to see that the article did not mention Naseeb.com.
Naseeb.com has over 120,000 registered Muslim users and 18,000 daily logins. More importantly, Naseeb has grown to its current size in just six months while the other sites your article mentions have been around for over 8 years. Zawaj.com has about one third the number of users as Naseeb; MuslimMatch.com has less than half.
I think that by not mentioning Naseeb.com in your article you have done your readership an injustice.
Al-Ahram Weekly has a reputation for printing high quality and well researched stories; your coverage of Internet Muslim matchmaking was disappointing.
Chairman & CEO
Naseeb Networks, Inc.
San Francisco, CA
Sir-- Although this doesn't exactly comment on any particular issue, I have a message for Egyptians regarding Euro 2004 -- one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. I'd like to encourage all Egyptians to support Greece in the Euro 2004.
This is for many reasons. Greece is a fellow Mediterranean country that is very close to Egypt physically; both Greeks and Egyptians are considered Mediterranean Caucasians; Greece and Egypt have extraordinarily long shared histories; the Greeks had a trading post in Lower Egypt before any other country; the Egyptians are said to have founded the Minoan culture inhabiting Crete -- or at least influenced it considerably.
At Alexandria, Egypt was the centre of the Hellenic world and the Greeks went to great lengths to assimilate into Egyptian culture.
We have always had strong cultural and economic relations and th e huge influx of Greeks in Hellenic times, and again in Ottoman times means that Greeks have contributed quite a lot to the Egyptian bloodline.
Also, both Egypt and Greece have revered ancient histories and very tumultuous recent histories filled with coups, wars and a remarkable rise from poverty to prosperity. There are also many cultural similarities: not only do Coptic Orthodox Christians and Greek Orthodox Christians have a lot in common, but Greek women also take to the practice of covering their heads in villages, and olives, onions, tomatoes and fish play a large role in the cuisines of both nations.
What I'm trying to say, is that Egypt and Greece are almost like cousins, and the least we can do as Egyptians to show our appreciation, is to cheer like hell for the Greek team to pull an underdog victory and capture the prestigious Euro 2004 trophy.
Los Angeles, CA