Sir-- I wonder if you would be kind enough to allow an ancient bibliophile to congratulate you on your new Cairo Review of Books.
It feels and reads just like the British and American book journals I subscribe to and the choice of books is far more topical to us.
When to bow
Sir-- Thank you for Hani Shukrallah's excellent interview 'Change or be changed' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 June) with Alieddin Hilal, a leading member of the National Democratic Party.
I would like to refer to Mr Hilal's words concerning the role of Islam in the political debate in Egypt. He says "religion is a point of reference for all of Egypt's political parties. They all uphold the constitution which stipulates that Egypt is an Islamic state and that Islam is the main source of legislation. The prevalent point of view, to which I personally subscribe, is that it is inappropriate to allow for the establishment of a political party the political discourse of which is religious rather than civic. How can I engage in political debate with a person who is holding the Quran aloft? Faced by the Quran I can only bow my head in homage."
True; but I must point out that this is precisely how I feel, as an Egyptian, by the status quo of the current regime holding itself aloft, and before which we can only bow our heads in homage. Surely this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Whether it is religion as a source of absolute authority, or a tyrannical system of government, there is really not that much difference between them.
Why don't we opt for a genuine democratic system where all voices are heard and represented in an equitable and modern-day civilised manner? Is it really asking too much to say that, in the 21st century, Egypt is in dire need of a reformed system of government which would bring it up to date with the many other once oppressed peoples of the world?
Expats or bust
Sir-- With reference to 'Expats told to wait' (Al-Ahram Weekly 16-22 June) how can a government, under any pretext, exclude just under 10 per cent of its people from voting on such a decisive matter?
This election cannot be fully legitimate under that set of circumstances.
Middle East mayhem
Sir-- Bush's illegal and duplicitous war has taken the lives of 1,676 US soldiers and wounded 12,861. And anywhere between 22,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have been killed as well.
Here are some other poll numbers that spell trouble for Bush: "Two-thirds of Americans say the US military there is bogged down, and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth the price," according to a Post article.
And there's more: The chief reason that Bush cites, at least these days, for the war is to make the United States safer from terrorist attacks. But a majority of the American people are not buying that one either: 52 per cent say it has not contributed to long-term security.
Maybe the Downing Street memo is finally sinking in America: the reality that Bush hoodwinked the American people into war.
But more likely it's the daily, grinding image of chaos in Iraq and the immediate, devastating news of young Americans from every county in America dying in this useless war.
The real question now is how long it will take for the US government to get them out of this war that the people now disapprove of. The lag time will be a true measure of unresponsiveness and lack of any concern whatsoever for the mayhem caused in the Middle East by Bush.
Dancing with Satan
Sir-- Mustafa El-Labbad's article 'In the running' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 June) was informative in many ways. Unfortunately, it missed an opportunity to zero in on the real issue Iranians face: reconciliation with the United States.
The Iranian economy has been a disaster since 1979, even with two large run-ups in the price of petroleum. Only when free market access is permitted, with a good dose of Western expertise, can a rebound occur.
American culture and values would be less damaging than the mullahs profess, too.
It is up to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the heir apparent in this election, to cut a deal with "the Great Satan" he loves to vilify. We in the United States can get along just fine without his blessing; can his country say as much?
Sir-- The desecration of any religious article is profane, unacceptable, and condemnable. The US government has vigorously investigated the matter and punished the foolish perpetrators publicly.
As an American I was offended and embarrassed and, much like many other Americans, I forcefully communicated my heartfelt sentiments to my duly and freely elected congressional representatives.
Each of my congressmen have responded in writing and stated they were equally upset by the reports. They also promised to use their influence to insure that such behaviour is curbed and punished.
Sir-- This is a good article, 'Think continental' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 June) and one that I highly recommend in terms of what its impact will mean for the whole of Africa. Thanks.
Sir-- You bet. Your last paragraph in 'In clear violation' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 June) could not put it more explicitly.
How come, then, when two-thirds of the world agrees with you, and those who do not are in a definite minority, the world cannot stop the crime from being committed in front of our faces.
The free world writes about it, talks about it, reports about it and discusses it; we all say how disgusted we are; we are abhorred by abuses in prisons of Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Syria and who knows where else but regardless of how ashamed we say we are, the abuse continues as we talk.
Where is our outrage, and more important, what happened to the authority which is mandated to bring the transgressor under the rule of law and within the borders of the civilised world? When is the world going to say "international law has to be applied across the globe, regardless of who commits the crime..."
Are you kidding?
Sir-- I am writing in response to the letter from Roger McKinney regarding Anwar Abdel-Malik's article entitled 'Southern awakening' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 May). I have to ask Roger, "are you kidding?"
Have you heard of the Monroe Doctrine? The USA has a long and consistent history of meddling in Latin America affairs. Let's see -- the US invaded Cuba in 1899; invaded Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century; engineered the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile; engineered the military coup in Brazil in the early 1960s; invaded that "great threat" to democracy Grenada in the 1980s; and tried to overthrow the democratically elected Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Why is it that the Latin American countries that receive the most aid from the US have the most abysmal human rights records? Let's face it. The US wants Latin America to keep the business and investment arena open to US corporations at any cost. How else could you have a US corporation attempting to buy all the water rights (including rain water for heaven's sake) in Bolivia.
Latin America would do well to decrease interference from the US.
Part of it
Sir-- My former friend Azmi Bishara 'The art of waiting' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 June) forgets to mention that he is also part of the system he criticises and he himself doesn't offer a real alternative.
The basic problem that should be more directly addressed is why the Palestinian resistance movements with their armed actions or otherwise have never threatened Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
Actually it was Bishara himself with his slogan, "Israel is the state of all its citizens and not just the Jews" that for a while was a more serious threat to the Jewish state than all the armed actions put together since 1948/49. But this only for a while.
One of the central problems of the struggle against Zionism is that most of the actions aren't based on an analysis of the real weaknesses of the Israeli system but mainly on subjective populist considerations.