Pope of peace
Sir-- I was deeply saddened by news of the death of Pope John Paul II. During his 26-year papacy, John Paul worked tirelessly for peace, human rights, social justice and solidarity between nations. I, as a Muslim, respect this man for his unforgettable noble stands against injustice in the world.
We cannot forget his firm stand against the US's barbaric war on Iraq and his support for the oppressed people of Palestine. We cannot forget that he strongly condemned the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims at the hands of Serb Christians. Also, no one can deny that the deceased Pope played an important role and helped avert a "clash of civilisations".
Consequently, I think that the absolute crucial achievement of Pope John Paul was promoting inter-faith dialogue and building new bridges with the Muslim world. This wise man realised that the message of all religions is tolerance and solidarity, not clash or struggle.
We hope the next Pope will continue to tread the path of understanding between the two religions the deceased Pope talked out. We join our Christian brothers in Egypt and across the globe in mourning the advocate of peace, Pope John Paul II.
Alaa G Abdel-Hakim
Ode to the Pope
Sir-- The Pope is dead .
We are all mourning him;
We mourn every time a human being passes away.
The Pope is dead.
We have known him over the years;
Many of us have disagreed with him;
Many of us have agreed with him.
The Pope is dead.
He lived and died as a man of principles;
And to him and to the workers of Gdansk in Poland millions in Europe owe their freedom.
The Pope is dead.
Whether we are Christians or not;
Whether we believe in that story or not;
We cannot but note the passing of a man who dedicated his life fighting;
fighting for an idea and for an ideal.
The Pope is dead.
In this hour of sorrow it is easy to forget that the story started over two thousand years ago;
In this hour of sorrow it is easy to forget that Karol Wojtyla's story did not just start in Poland;
It all started in the little town of Bethlehem in Palestine.
The Pope is dead and Palestine is the first to mourn.
Hassan M Eltaher
Defender of life
Sir-- Pope John Paul II will one day be proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church. The Holy Father was an inspiration and a model witness to the life of Christ; a Shepherd of Truth immersed in profound humility and immense love for both God and man.
His many writings and tireless, world-wide pilgrimages of faith have been a source of strength, encouragement, confidence, optimism and enlightenment not only to Catholics but to all men of good will.
A champion of the poor and ardent exponent of Christian unity, the Polish Pontiff was in many and such capacities as teaching, governing and sanctifying, both a beacon of light and salt of the earth.
Alongside his historic role in the fall of Communism, John Paul II was the world's most influential and uncompromising defender of the dignity of human life. His tenacious pleas for the development of a "culture of life" and parallel denunciations of the "culture of death" have been instrumental in rallying opposition to war, terrorism, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and embryonic-tissue research.
I pray for his well-deserved heavenly reward that is promised by the Giver of every gift to his good and faithful servants.
Sir-- Many media pundits, and even some Muslim organisations, are calling for an official apology from the Jersey City Coptic community for the attacks on Islam that followed the gruesome killing of the Aramoniuns family earlier this year. I beg to differ. True, some Copts used religion as the now-discounted motive for the murder; however, it would be unfair to ask the entire Coptic community to apologise for the mistakes of a few. This is the same unfair demand, which I, as an Arab and a Muslim, have to deal with every time an act is attributed to a Muslim militant or an Arab terrorist.
The real culprit in fuelling the tension between Arab Muslims and Copts is the media in all its forms. The American (non-Arab) media exploited the sectarian motives and the Internet threat rumours to completely obscure the true tragedy: It became the coming of Islamic holy war to America, not the massacre of an entire family. The media spared no effort to fabricate a historically baseless myth, which pits Arab Muslims against Arab Christians. Doubtless, there may have been sporadic tensions between members of the two religious communities, but there was never a Muslim pogrom against Christians. History books are replete with documented religious rulings and government polices mandating that non-Muslims be treated fairly and equitably and accorded complete safety of their person, place of worship and possessions.
The American media has succeeded in fuelling tensions and, in the process, thrust a human tragedy into the background. Only religious and community leaders -- not politicians -- may be able to heal the wound. For the media to regain its credibility, it can begin the process of healing and forgiveness.
President, New Jersey Chapter of American Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee
Sir-- I think that the recent decision that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, took to reform the UN is considered as the last chance -- not only for him but also for the whole organisation. The UN suffers from internal conflicts and US domination over it, which makes this a historic chance to rediscover the ability of the UN in facing the new challenges of the world.
I think also that this decision will serve Third World countries, since it aims to increase the number of countries in the Security Council to 24 instead of 15, and also increase the number of the permanent member on the Security Council. Of course, we hope Egypt will be one of these permanent members. Finally, we hope that this decision will be the beginning of a new era of UN leadership.
Sir-- In the article titled 'Impersonating stardom' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 31 March--6 April), Hani Mustafa compares the acclaimed famous black American actor Sidney Poitier with the immensely popular, recently departed, Egyptian actor Ahmed Zaki, and I am disappointed by the comparison. Mr Mustafa suggests that Sidney Poitier, like Ahmed Zaki, made audiences realise for the first time, on screen, that a black leading man (or non-conventional good looks) could be a leading man. This is a superficial retrospective of two extremely diverse and immensely talented actors.
Sidney Poitier was a black actor in a time when America was a country divided by serious race issues. The Civil Rights movement was during the height of Mr Poitier's career. Malcom X and Martin Luther King were demanding that the black American people be treated just as equally as white Americans. Sidney Poitier was a leading Black male in American cinema conveying a smart, strong, sexy black American figure who the nation could finally gaze upon adoringly without the guilt and shame of racism.
Yes, Ahmed Zaki was also a black actor. I remember watching a film (the black tiger) where he leaves Egypt, to find success aboard, and he is shocked when he is mistreated because of his colour. Ahmed Zaki was not a black Egyptian actor -- he was just an Egyptian actor. Ahmed Zaki felt so much like Egypt that he played Abdel-Nasser, El-Sadat and Abdel- Halim Hafez. Ahmed Zaki could have been any Egyptian's son, brother, husband, father -- he was every Egyptian man.
Both men were black, immensely popular, and talented actors but, unfortunately at that time in American history, Sidney Poitier was adored despite his colour and Ahmed Zaki was adored so much more because of it. That is the difference that Mr Mustafa forgets to mention.
Sherene F Rahman