It might come true
Sir-- After reading 'Diverting the collision course' by Ibrahim Nafie ( Al-Ahram Weekly 23 February-1 March) I must say be careful what you wish for. If international law was to ban offensive language towards other religions and beliefs, then I can tell you many more Muslims would be in US and European (to a lesser extent) prisons. At rallies here in the US Palestinians often call for killing Jews and destroying Israel (the same thing). These statements offend many Americans as much as the cartoons offend Muslims. So will you accept the trade-off? Remember all laws in the West must be applied equally. Also we would have the right to charge many Muslim leaders and citizens in the Middle East who could then be taken to Europe or the US for crimes of "offending Jews" or "offending Christians". I believe what Mr Nafie calls for, international law that bans offensive language, would be morally justified but would lead to many practical problems that would increase the hatred between east and west.
Sir-- I am an American, in sympathy with the outrage of Muslims over the publication of cartoons which are offensive to the religion of Islam. I wish to convey to you that the vast majority of Americans feel the cartoons are offensive, immature, in very poor taste, and not at all funny, entertaining, or enlightening. I believe that the gulf between east and west is far too vast, carved through centuries of war, exploitation, misunderstanding, and lack of will on both sides to expect that this great divide will diminish in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children.
When we in America read that some of the top religious leaders in the Islamic world are issuing "contracts" to kill people, we Americans just cannot understand. Forceful condemnation and demonstrations in your streets against the shortsightedness and insensitivity of those in the West who have insulted you are understandable. Boycotting may even be an appropriate response. Calls for the killing of people, no matter how stupid those people may be, crosses the line of acceptability, and only deepens the gulf of understanding between our peoples.
Sir-- You know very well that the trouble in Iraq 'After Askariya' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 23 February- 1 March) is all aimed at not allowing the majority Shiite government (that rightfully deserves power) not to have power. You know that the US government does not like the Shiite government in Iraq, yet you failed to make this point and the point that Al-Qaeda in Iraq are launching their evil campaign to try derail a democratically- elected Shiite government, not to establish an Islamic caliphate. (If a caliphate was their aim, why didn't they fight Saddam's very un-Islamic regime and why would they ally with Baathists who were famous for jailing Wahabis?) You know very well that no one has more to gain in a civil war in Iraq than America, and not the Shiite government that would likely collapse. I cannot believe you did not even make mention that the overwhelming majority of deaths in Iraq's conflict have been Shia, not Sunni.
Where to look
Sir-- In response to the comment entitled 'Enter the death squads' by Firas Al-Atraqchi ( Al-Ahram Weekly 23 February-1 March), I wish to express my general agreement in so far as the phenomenon of death squads has become widespread in Iraq and all indications point to the Ministry of Interior. However, I should like to point out that the Interior Ministry itself is a creation of the occupying powers and despite numerous reports of de-Baathification it has retained both senior US advisors and high-ranking former Baathists among its staff and that the units most commonly associated with human rights abuses are the very ones built under US tutelage. If one wishes to locate the intellectual authors of the horrific spate of murders attributed to so-called death squads, a very good starting point would be to examine the outcome of US involvement in every other counter insurgency war.
No need to follow
Sir-- I don't agree with 'Opportunities gained or lost' by Gareth Jenkins ( Al-Ahram Weekly 23 February-1 March). I don't think that Turkey should always act in accordance with the EU, especially since Turkey is still not a member. Despite all the ruckus over Turkey hosting Khaled Mashal, it was a huge success. The Turkish media, which often speaks on behalf of others (mostly intelligence and big powers) criticised the meeting even more than the Americans and Israelis did. It seems that the writer has been clearly affected by the secular Turkish media. By hosting Hamas, Turkey lived up to its responsibility. Soon Russia will host them, so why don't people criticise Russia? Or is it different when a Muslim country does the same thing?
It's called profiling
Sir-- Arguably, security of our nations' points of entry is of paramount importance. However, the growing political jockeying to prevent an Arab- owned company from operating the logistical areas of our seaports is nothing short of political pandering and specious grandstanding. Importantly, in a time of increased globalisation, this posturing is, pure and simple, a form of economic profiling against Arabs -- all Arabs. It would be hard to underestimate the potential economic and political fallouts from our xenophobia.
Beware the icecap
Sir-- US concern over what form Middle East governments should take seems to me irrelevant. The irony is that the major horrors that have befallen this area are largely due to Western democratic governments acting as though they had a 'divine right of kings' to intervene outside their constituencies.
The greatest threat facing the world lies in the use of fossil fuels. Scientists tell us that the icecap is melting and that without action now a worldwide tsunami will one day strike. The US would then be struggling for its own survival like the rest of us. It would be incapable of helping others as it so generously does in times of catastrophe. But all governments appear to be playing the proverbial fiddle while these events take their course.
Sir-- I would like to express my sorrow at the loss of Mohamed Sid-Ahmed. Although I never met him, I had always read his articles in Al-Ahram Weekly. In the Weekly I have seen Iqbal Ahmed, Edward Said and Mohamed Sid-Ahmed leave us. It saddens me to see such great minds and comrades go, but it is the wish of Allah. I would like to offer my deepest condolences. I feel I have lost something very precious.
Sir-- I thank Omayma Abdel-Latif for her detailed exposition of the Syrian dilemma ('What now for Syria' Al-Ahram Weekly 23 February-1 March). To get out of the hole, Syria must offer full co-operation with the UN investigation commission, even if this means implicating a number of top officials in the murder of Al-Hariri. Saving Syria is more important than saving a handful of corrupt individuals. Equally important, Syria must accept that Lebanon is no longer a satellite nation and is entitled to complete independence from Syrian tutelage and interference. Meddling in the affairs of Lebanon must cease. Internally, Syria must embark on a genuine campaign of reforms and national reconciliation with Syrians inside the country and outside. It must accept that freedom and democracy are the only way to strengthen the country against external threats. The current leadership is adopting short-sighted tactics that would lead to ruin. Lessons must be learnt from the Iraqi experience.
Because of 9/11
Sir-- After reading Ayman El-Amir's 'Showdown of cultures' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 16-22 February) I must say he only comments on the Western perceptions of Arabs and does not ask the most important question. Why does the West associate Islam with terrorism (suicide bombings)? We do not believe this because of a neo- conservative ideology or because we are "anti- Islamic". We feel this way because of the 9/11 attacks and suicide bombings in Europe and elsewhere. This is only logical, just as Muslims are against the war in Iraq not because they hate democracy but are against it because of the death of many Muslim people.
Not to be seen
Sir-- The British historian David Irving has been tried and convicted in Vienna for denying the Holocaust. My question is: where was freedom of speech?