Letters to the Editor
Sir-- The recently launched military tribunals at the American military base in Guantanamo to prosecute non-American citizens, who are accused of terrorism, are contrary to American military legislation and the international judicial standards concerning a fair and independent trial. First, the distinction between American and non-American citizens is not only discriminative, but implies in practice lower process standards for non-American citizens.
Second, a military lawyer is appointed for the defence, and although the suspect has the right to choose a civilian lawyer, due to the high costs at the expense of the suspect, in practice this implies a serious restriction on his right to choose his own lawyer. Third, the military authorities have the right to monitor private conversations between the lawyer and his client, which is a serious violation of the right on confidentiality between lawyer and client. Fourth, the suspect can be denied access to the complete evidence, which is a denial of his basic right to confront the evidence used against him.
But the most alarming fact is -- and contrary to American military legislation -- the suspect has no right to appeal to a civilian court but only to the American secretary of defense, which is a flagrant violation of the right of independent jurisdiction.
It is therefore of the greatest importance that the American authorities apply the principles of international law concerning a fair trial.
Sir-- Well, it looks like the nutcases are on their way to getting reelected here.
That President Bush and the rest have even a ghost of a chance, let alone have the lead, is a condemnation of 100 years of our educational system.
Staying the course
Sir-- Regarding 'Manufacturing bugbears' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 2-8 September), M Shahid Alam ought to stick to economics.
If terrorism is indeed a response to American policies, that's the best reason to keep the policies unchanged.
Sir-- Is the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the efforts at the UN to end it never worth mentioning?
Please give fellow Arabs their rights by commenting and reporting the reality that Lebanon is enduring.
Sir-- Not surprisingly, Gamal Nkrumah's article 'Countdown in Khartoum' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 August - 1 September) makes little mention of the European Union. The noble French and Germans vociferously oppose the war in Iraq merely as a means to limit American influence, even when this influence is for the good of all parties.
The current humanitarian crisis in Sudan proves that the Europeans are pretty much worthless in acting on their own, and this has historical precedent. Hopefully, the Arab League can bring about peace in Sudan. We, in the United States, are not in the mood to have our methods or motives questioned in another troubled area.
West Paterson, NJ
Sir-- In response to Gamal Nkrumah's article 'Dragging feet over Darfur' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 August), where it is alleged that "many Sudanese express growing frustration with Arab governments and NGOs, in particular the wealthy oil-rich states of the Gulf who, following increases in the price of oil, are in a position to fund development projects and relief operations in Darfur." This would be the case if Arab, and particularly oil-rich Gulf states, had not contributed to the humanitarian effort in Darfur.
However, this could not be farther from the truth. The Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society has donated 24 tonnes of goods to the effort in Darfur, as well as over $1 million worth of aid. The Saudi Red Crescent Society, on the other hand, has donated more than 80 tonnes of medical supplies as well as having established a relief air bridge with Al-Fashir, Darfur. The NGO Islamic Relief has been influential and exemplary in its work in Darfur in the camps it runs -- Kirinding II and Al-Riyadh and beyond.
As regards the statement that the vast majority of the most effective Arab civil society organisations are Islamist in orientation, and that they rushed to the help in Bosnia through "material and moral assistance", this moral and material assistance is also being given to the people of Darfur. These so-called "Islamist" civil society organisations that are working in Darfur have the approval and consent of all Darfurians. For one thing, they are familiar with the customs and code of conduct. They also know the Islamic funeral rites in the event of a death. They do not have a hidden agenda of proselytising like some Christian aid organisations, as reports suggest.
Sir-- The most effective weapon both Israel and America use against the Palestinians and the Iraqis are lies. Israel calls the Palestinians who are defending their occupied lands terrorists. The Americans do not say the truth about their casualties in Iraq; had they said the truth, the war against Iraq would have ended with their withdrawal.
In fact, what wins wars and loses them nowadays is the media, however, millions of people know very well that both the US and Israel lie, and this is enough for their future defeat since right gains victory at the end of the race. This is what history teaches us, and this is what God in all religions told us.
I want to suggest to those who have had a loved one killed in the Iraq war while serving in the military, to meet and register the death of their loved one. This way, the American government will not be able to fool the American people about the number of deaths in Iraq by sending a consolation letter to each one individually.
The most powerful weapon
Sir-- How shocking it was to read about the two bus bombings in Beersheba that killed 16 people and injured over 100. Once again, innocent people the victims of a government that has failed to bring them peace, and two suicide bombers without hope. My sincere condolences to the families and friends and all those involved with this horrific event. Indeed, it's tragic for everyone.
While I condemn these murderous attacks by suicide bombers against Israelis, I must also condemn murderous attacks by the IDF against Palestinians. In July, the IDF killed 61 Palestinians -- over 20 of these were children -- and injured over 450 people. The preliminary figures for August are shocking too.
I am deeply troubled by comments made by security personnel to "burn the fact of defeat into Palestinian consciousness" and "reach the bottom of the barrel of terrorism". This is no way to solve human problems. I recently attended an overcrowded meeting at a local synagogue where people expressed their deep concerns about the army's violence. They felt Jews had not made it this far in the world by oppressing other people or by being top gun, but rather by representing a great social and moral conscience.
Therefore, I call upon the IDF to stop these belligerent remarks and acts between Israelis and the Palestinians. They only add fuel to the fire. Also, I call upon Mr Sharon and Mr Qurei to start a comprehensive cease-fire; that's the right thing to do. Non-violence is the most powerful weapon; it helps mend a broken heart and a broken people by allowing them to be fully human.
Farce must end
Sir-- Mamdouh Hamza appeared in court last week charged with intending to kill several members of the Egyptian government. The prosecution's case is based on a witness called "Tommy" (whose second name is no doubt rot). In time, I expect "Tommy" to be identified as a member of the "intelligence" community. Many people in the UK do not consider that there is much intelligence in the UK security following the resounding success of their recent work.
Let's pause and consider events: Mamdouh Hamza is arrested on the way to a garden party given by the Queen. Now our Queen is very careful and is unlikely to invite a master criminal. Secondly, Mamdouh is held at Belmarsh Prison which is usually reserved for terrorists and murderers; Belmarsh is one of the highest security prisons in the UK, and where a number of individuals have been and are still held without charge. After a fairly short period, Mamdouh Hamza is released without bail.
This just does not happen and does not add up. If a man were guilty of these charges, it is unlikely that he will be released. In the unlikely event that release was sanctioned, bail of a substantial sum would be required; the British justice system is not soft on serious offenders. Not that long ago, starving felons would be transported to the antipodes for stealing a loaf of bread. Things have not really changed that much.
However, the British legal system is faster than the Egyptian, but still slow. The result is that Mamdouh will be effectively detained for many months. The question that should be asked is who benefits from his detention? I have no doubt that when the case is finally brought to court for a hearing it will be dismissed.
I urge everyone to write to the British Prime Minister Mr Blair to protest against this farce.
Sir-- I am puzzled by a discrepancy between the official policy of Egypt concerning human rights, and my experiences with government officials turning their back to a case of probable violation of human rights. President Hosni Mubarak advocates admirably, and on several occasions, the important issue of human rights. At the same time, my local group of Amnesty International writes its fingers blue to Egyptian government officials, asking information about the fate of a "disappearance".
A shopkeeper (Mr Nabil Mohamed Ali Hassan El-Battygi) in Beni Sueif was arrested on 7 July, 1996 by officers of the State Security Investigations Department, and brought to the headquarters of this department in Cairo. Upon questions of his relatives, who heard nothing from him anymore, notice was given later that the shopkeeper had been released on 27 July. But no sign of life was received from him anymore. He simply has "disappeared".
Amnesty International suspects violation of the human rights of the shopkeeper and wants to know what exactly has happened with him. Our local group of Amnesty International has written many, many letters to a whole range of government officials, expressing our deep concern about the fate of the shopkeeper and asking information on his whereabouts. It is bitter to experience their indifference; we never got any answer to our questions.
One can imagine how puzzled we are, reading in among others your weekly that human rights is an important issue in Egypt.
Marijke M A Brunt
Sir-- Would you please consider an article(s) dealing with the following proposition: that the root motivation of fanatic Islamist terrorist leaders is the belief that Islam is under attack by the West, and that Western insistence on separating political and religious spheres is seen as deadly to Islam. Therefore, any country or group which supports the establishment of secular political authority should correctly be seen as an ally in a real war of ideas on terror. This would turn things upside down because it would include Syria, Egypt, even Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
By this logic, the invasion of Iraq, although it could be justified as a tactic, was a strategic mistake (hey but who knew that then, and Americans would always rather do something than nothing). In fact, by this analysis only Iran would qualify as a supporter of Islamist terror.
I would really appreciate seeing some of your writers dissect this. Your paper is a great forum for the vigorous exchange of ideas. When I reflect on it, it's amazing how much more I know about the Middle East than I did three years ago. Keep up the good work.
Homage to the letter
Sir-- In his 180-page book titled Long Live the Arabic Language and Down with Sibawayh, Sherif El-Shoubashy elaborates on how much negligence the Arabic language suffers. He compares between Arabic and other languages in aspects like number of speakers and participation on the Internet. In fact, the book is a good attempt to face the current pathetic conditions of the Arabic language.
The grammar, syntax and morphology of Arabic are based on books that were written more than a thousand years ago, meaning they were designed for people who don't belong to our world. In order for Arabic to spread, it has to be simplified and modernised on the basis of what our ancestors have founded.
El-Shoubashy, unfortunately, didn't pay homage to our old grammarians in the very name of his book.
Sibawayh is a renowned Basra-trained Arab linguist, who provided the Arabic grammar with its cornerstones in accordance with the requirements of his era. Now, if we want to make Arabic suitable for the second millennium, we shouldn't mock the founders of Arabic grammar, but rather we should complete the work that they started more than a thousand years ago.