Sir-- 'Debating dialogue' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 9- 15 March) is, unfortunately, neither about debate nor dialogue but rather about a monologue to express the various views of Islamic scholars. "Who Islam's prophet is; what Islam is all about; freedom of expression from the Muslim viewpoint; and respect of the other's holy scriptures" will attract very little, if any, interest or support from their non-Muslim counterparts. A dialogue, by its very nature, must allow both sides to express their views without preconditions or caveats, and unless and until this is the case, such dialogue may be just another talkfest with little or no benefit to any cause.
Source of the problem
Sir-- 'Debating the Dialogue' emphasises that the Danish government still hasn't apologised. That is because the government didn't draw the cartoons. Demanding Denmark to be held accountable for what a dozen cartoonists drew opens up the floodgates of Muslims worldwide being held accountable for the atrocities committed by a handful of their fellow citizens. By asserting the right to boycott Danish goods, Muslims and Arabs have forfeited the right to be shielded from racial/religious profiling and discrimination here in the West. We have the right to boycott and show our displeasure as we see fit too, and your undermining our democracy is unforgivable.
Sir-- Amr Khaled could be wrong at this point of time. The problem of the cartoons is no longer a religious matter as Khaled thinks. This problem is certainly bigger than his capacities and expertise. Nobody rejects dialogue but it should be carefully prepared. The problem is one of words and language. The problem of many Arabs and Muslim scholars is but presentation. How to present the information about Islam in the words of today and to others in their own words which are in their own culture.
Sir-- In response to Hassan Nafaa's article 'Palestine at the crossroads' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 9-15 March) where, if anywhere, does Nafaa acknowledge the fact that Hamas wants to eradicate the state of Israel? How can he expect friendly behaviour from Israel towards a faction that openly declares its aim is to annihilate Israel and the Jews? How can he expect Israel to make reciprocal concessions for Hamas keeping the Oslo accords? Do the Israelis again and again have to make concessions to the other party so they (the Palestinians) will stick to rules they promised to keep many times? Nafaa states: "let's start looking objectively at Israel's current strategy." There is nothing objective in his article; he departs from line one to a foregone conclusion: Israel must be guilty!
Lewis van der Wieken
Sir-- With regard to Hamas demanding international pressure to recognise a Palestinian state, it should be remembered that UN Resolution 242 calls for the final establishment of the borders between Israel and Palestine to be negotiated by the two parties themselves. Hamas has stated on more than one occasion that it will not recognise Israel's right to exist. How, therefore, can Resolution 242 be implemented?
Sir-- 'Palestine at the crossroads' is impressive. I particularly appreciate the proper understanding of the real issue engulfing the long-standing Palestinian crisis. "It is Israel, not Hamas, that should be pressured to moderate its position." This must be understood by all quarters if the world community is really sincere about peace. What would be the benefit if Hamas recognises an ever-expansionist Israel? The answer is very simple and transparent in what we have so far achieved through the PLO and Palestinian Authority's recognition of Israel. I totally agree, "unreciprocated concessions have taken us nowhere." Unfortunately, the tendency is that in order to be so-called secular or liberal Muslims we must adjust our tune with our arch-enemies and brand Hamas as "extremist", "fundamentalist", "militant" and oppose them as our ideological enemies, being oblivious of real Palestinian interests.
It is high time for all who have sympathy to the people of Palestine to appreciate the position of Hamas, being democratically mandated by the people of Palestine, not in the context of its political ideology but whether it can better serve the interests of Palestinians. Let Hamas get all the moral, political and financial support (it needs) for the sake of Palestinian interests.
Muhammad Wohidul Islam
Sir-- Iran is playing a dangerous game. The belligerent threats coming from Tehran are music to Israel's ears. First we heard Ahmadinejad the president of Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the map. Now he is threatening that harm and pain will be inflicted on the US. His Defence Minister Mohamed Najjar has announced that "Iran enemies won't dare attack us."
The question that needs an answer: is Iran bluffing or is it sleepwalking into a military confrontation with the US and possibly Israel?
Power of confidence
Sir-- 'Zero-sum game' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 9-15 March) reflects a fair judgement of Iran's nuclear stand-off with the Americans; in a way thanks for that. However, you began the article on the false premise, that the country as whole, "gripped with looming doom", is facing serious challenges or even war imposed by the Americans. May I draw your attention, as well as your fellow Arab readers, that the vast majority of the people of Iran my well disagree with your analysis or sense of judgement on that particular issue. The very essence of being a practising Persian-Shia is to believe in the power of "earthly suffering". That is to say, one must stand up to one's enemy, even if it means your fall is imminent.
As result, our country has remained intact and our socio/political system has survived and has remained the feature of our people's identity. We Iranians call that a profound victory and self- belief. The notion of "impending doom" does not and will not have a place in the psychi of Shia Iran.
Iran and India
Sir-- In 'Zero-sum game' you say "India, you may recall, is not an IAEA member. Iran is." The fact is that India is a permanent member of the 35-member board and chairs the Middle East and South Asia group of the board. I hope you can see the difference between India never signing the Non Proliferation Treaty (and thereby agreeing not to pursue nuclear weapons) and other countries like Iran.
Sir-- Most Omar Effendi stores may have seen better days although still housed in landmark buildings ('Faded high street diva', Al-Ahram Weekly 9-15 March), but there are some exceptions which deserve to be recognised. They include the downtown Cairo Omar Effendi store in Adli Street (running through to Sherif Street), which is in one of the newer, relatively speaking that is, and less architecturally striking buildings. However, its contents are still mainly geared to well-heeled customers, of whom, regrettably and inexplicably there are far too few, given Cairo's conspicuous consumption as well as its poverty.
This spacious and well-stocked store compares favourably with other department stores both inside and outside Egypt in terms of its display and presentation, comprehensive and imaginative range of goods in every department, plus helpful, informed and efficient staff. Under one roof are assembled household and personal items in a very convenient central location that otherwise might take days to find and buy in Cairo.
This store deserves to be promoted and patronised and not sold off at a knock-down price. Whoever is responsible for its development should be given the chance of turning the whole chain around, not necessarily modelled on this branch, but according to local circumstances and needs.
Sherine Abdel-Razek stated that Omar Effendi made its first profit (of just LE2 million) last year in five years; maybe its profits can be increased. As many other countries have found out and come to regret, an under-valued national asset can be sold off only once.
Break for teachers
Sir-- The government's decision to increase the salaries of teachers has been highly acclaimed. Teachers at the beginning of their employment are paid LE170 a month (about $30 a month). How could you ask teachers to bring up able- minded generations conscious of their rights if they themselves are deprived of their rights? Unfortunately, there are some people who still doubt the fact that teachers in Egypt suffer from financial difficulties, arguing that one-third of an Egyptian family's income is spent on private tutoring, that is, pumped into the pockets of teachers. But this is nonsense since the majority of teachers do not give private lessons. Furthermore, many school subjects go beyond the domain of private tutoring.
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