Sir-- Your editorial 'Change policy, not presentation' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 October) is, alas, what the rest of the world and, unfortunately, less than half the US voters, have been telling the Bush people for years.
Thankfully, there are now signs that the White House can no longer arrogantly claim it "creates its own reality" through media manipulation, as various chickens come home to roost. Hopefully the US will then still have enough friends around the world to help pick up the pieces of the people's lives it has shattered.
How could you?
Sir-- How could you support Saddam Hussein 'Change policy, not presentation' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 October)? Please review the history and efforts of Middle East countries to eliminate Saddam.
Truth be told
Sir-- If Detliv Mehlis's final report on the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri will have any credibility at all, then Mehlis and his team of investigators must move immediately to investigate Ghazi Kanaan's death and the circumstances that led to his alleged suicide. If Mehlis does not move promptly to investigate this event to the full extent of his authority, then his final report must be treated with doubt and scepticism. Kanaan was his primary witness and possible suspect. If Mehlis does not or cannot investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Kanaan, then he must be replaced by another investigator who is capable of bringing out the truth.
Sir-- Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi recently wrote an article, 'Now it's up to the Palestinians' in The Los Angeles Times, after the Gaza withdrawal, saying that if the Palestinians "end up with a truncated West Bank, they will have no one to blame but themselves."
Both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples deserve peace and justice and non-violence. And the equation of right and wrong does not tilt all the way towards the Palestinian side. But this does not mean there is an equal balance of right and wrong either. A little perspective is called for. It is a basic perspective, but it is unknown to all too many Americans, that if the European Zionist movement had not pushed into Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century and taken over so much of the Palestinians' ancient land, the Palestinians would right now be peaceably enjoying the entirety of their country, the whole of Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea coast all the way to the Jordan River, and no one would be criticising the Palestinians, or any other Arabs, and no one would be saying that the Palestinians would "have no one to blame but themselves".
Israel has 80 per cent of the Palestinian land; Palestinians 20 per cent. If foreigners had come and partitioned the United States and had 80 per cent of it, and squeezed most Americans (all ethnicities and religions including Jewish Americans) into a 20 per cent corner, does anyone suppose that we Americans would not have a lot of defiant official and non-official organisations trying to get our country back? And how many of the 150 Third World countries in the immediate post-colonial era were expected to act like Swedish-style democracies, or to have completely transparent and clean-as-a-whistle administrations, in order to "receive" their state? No. They were simply entitled to their states. And how many were told not to resist invasion and settlement and displacement? None.
This is an inherent natural right. Is it only the Palestinians among all peoples of the world who are not supposed to resist outside takeovers? And how many Third World countries have enough trouble with their states and societies without their people also having been squeezed into a 20 per cent corner of their land, covered with camps of their own refugees, and with their administrative infrastructure repeatedly smashed to pieces by an external settling and occupying power? How can Yossi Klein Halevi, who is a good and sincere man, nonetheless be so self-deceived, and on so many levels of analysis, to be able to tell Americans in Los Angeles that if Palestinians end up with a truncated West Bank, they "have nobody to blame but themselves"?
Sir-- I enjoyed reading 'Tradition breaks the time barrier' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 October). Yes indeed, and to quote Patricia Crone, "religions do not spring fully fledged from the heads of prophets, old civilisations are not conjured away." The concept of historical discontinuation is a fraudulent concept that cannot be accepted. I wonder sometimes how many Muslims or Copts in Egypt realise that 92 per cent of today's Egyptians are of Coptic stock and how many Copts in Egypt realise that their religious practices are nothing but a continuation of the Egyptian religion with a Christian patina and how many Muslims would be surprised to know that Mulid Al-Sayid Al-Badawi is nothing but the old celebration of the birth of the God Horus and that the celebration of Mulid Al-Nabi is prohibited in classical Islam. And how many Copts and Muslims in Egypt know that they are the same people.
I also wonder how many Egyptians know that when they call Al-Qahira Masr that this was the name of the very ancient city that was located in the area of old Cairo centuries before the Arab invasion of Egypt. Yes, Egyptians need to know more about themselves and their country.
Matters of the heart
Sir-- I write in appreciation of Essam El-Safty's 'The heart of the matter' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6- 12 October). This article offers a fresh perspective on how Muslims actually celebrate the holy month of Ramadan whether in the homeland of Islam in the Middle East area or in the Muslim Diaspora abroad. The title is, I believe, both clever and ironic as he is far from attempting a presentation of the "essence" of Muslim fasting. He focuses on matters of the heart rather than the "heart of the matter". To him "the concept of the divine, rests within ourselves: social or cultural manifestations are but conventional accessories to its tangible forms."
This said, Professor El-Safty courageously takes the bull by the horns and deconstructs the stereotypical presentation of the spiritual East versus the materialist West. He levels criticism at "corporeal indulgence" in the land of Islam but recalls in nostalgia the brighter Ramadan moments. He refers to the "seemingly mechanical way of live in Western society" but extols the spiritual endeavours of Muslims in Europe.
Professor El-Safty's article is a gentle reminder of the unlimited potential of religious observance once it is freed from dogma and conventionality. He leads us on to explore "more room in [our] heart for a true test of devout fortitude and moral strength." I am sure Muslim and non-Muslim readers welcome and look forward to more articles along the lines proposed by Professor El-Safty.
Sir-- I'd like to congratulate you on a job well done and long due. It's about time Al-Ahram Weekly celebrated Ramadan by allocating a special page for the most revered month, for both Muslims and non-Muslims to read about and enjoy all the same. I felt so proud reading those wonderful edifying words about Ramadan, knowing there are people all over the world gaining new knowledge and insight about the true core of Islam and its rituals.
The article by Essam El-Safty 'The heart of the matter' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 October) is a true piece of art and the language is sublime; wrapping scientific facts in a cloak of decorous language is both entertaining and very enlightening.
Being a teacher of English, I will indeed urge my students to read your page as I expect they'll vastly benefit from those brilliant articles and information provided.
Sir-- We had the misfortune of staying at Ahmed's Desert Camp in Bahariya three weeks ago. I'd like to pass on my impression of Ahmed's camp to interested readers. Ahmed's camp is a foul, disgusting, filthy, littered place. It's not really fit for human occupancy and if Egypt had a board of health it would immediately close Ahmed's Desert Camp as a hazardous site. The food is laced with flies and unfit for consumption. The staff is surly and disinterested. There are 100 projects started and none finished. Campers beware.
Books, old and new
Sir-- The education minister has proposed that students who keep their books intact and deliver them to their schools will be exempted from school fees the following year. This is a good proposal but I would like to ask the minister whether the students who will receive these second-hand books will be psychologically affected. They used to get new school books at the beginning of each year.