Rest at last
Sir-- Like millions of people worldwide, I am extremely saddened by the passing away of Naguib Mahfouz, the creator of Ahmed Abdel-Gawwad and his family in The Trilogy, the storyteller of humanity's Children of the Alley, the guardian of the stoned public servant in Chatter on the Nile, the "historian" of Egypt's turbulent recent history in Miramar, and the simple Egyptian common man in the The Black Cat Bar (at the height of Gamal Abdel-Nasser), who had to endure trauma and humiliation both physical and psychological, from an ignorant fanatic criminal minority in Egypt incapable of understanding or appreciating the colossus that was Mahfouz. I invite everyone to enjoy reading Mahfouz's work as a farewell gesture to the departed friend who will finally be laid to rest in the heart and bosom of his beloved Egypt.
Like the Pyramids
Sir-- I had always hoped Naguib Mahfouz would recover and continue to enrich us with his work which has reflected humanity at its very best, reflected the true Egyptian way of life. My sincere condolences to his family and to the people of Egypt. To me personally, he is like the Pyramids and Nasser. His millions of fans will lose him as a person but his work will stay with us forever. Café Riche has lost its greatest ever customer.
Place in history
Sir-- The place of Naguib Mahfouz in contemporary Middle Eastern history and culture is colossal; there is truly no way to assess how many people he has touched, so profound it is. There has not been a single figure in the past century that has had the massive impact on the world of Arabic letters as Mahfouz has. His many novels and short story collections represent a significant memory and recording of modern Arabic literature.
Words of love
Sir-- I recently came upon a woman at our local library who was weeping. I sat down with her, learned that she was Egyptian, and had just learned of the death of Mahfouz. I said to her that we must go have coffee, sit in the sun, and speak every good, kind, loving word we could think of about Mahfouz as he makes his way to God.
Sir-- 'More Iranian hardball haggling' (Al-Ahram Weekly 31 August-6 September) is a nearly excellent article on the state of Iran's negotiations over uranium enrichment and very informative on the issues Iran faces and the tactics being pursued. It would have been even better if it had included a similarly objective and informed presentation of the US and European positions. Stooping to the level of casting Bush as a cowboy, Israel as America's puppet, and the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon as callous unprovoked military adventures does not best help your readers understand the other sides of the argument: the honestly- held suspicions over Iran's true intentions, the personal sacrifices being made to counter what is seen as violent and potentially genocidal extremism, and the genuine distress of Western peoples at the sufferings of so many ordinary people in the countries where these conflicts are at their most intense. The world needs a sensible, fair and honest resolution to the underlying issues, and this comes no nearer when there is a retreat into comfortable name-calling.
Sir-- In the 24-30 August Letters section, you had a reader writing in to complain about your paper's zero coverage of the Darfur crisis, a sentiment I whole-heartedly agree with. Imagine my astonishment and anger, therefore, when I saw the cartoon in the 31 August-6 September issue. The cartoon's point was to show the hypocrisy of Bush and Blair putting pressure on Sudan over the Darfur crisis, yet doing nothing about the Israel-Lebanon situation. This may be the case, but to me the cartoon came across as being one of the most offensive I have ever seen. In the background, behind the Sudanese president there is a picture of two Sudanese men in what looks like a scuffle, while behind Bush and Blair we have a picture of a Palestinian being stabbed by an Israeli hand. It would have been more accurate to have a cartoon behind the Sudanese president of women and girls being gang-raped, or a picture of the corpses of the over 100,000 people of Darfur who have been killed in the crisis. Is this what passes for political satire and commentary in the Arab world? Are we unable to be self-critical? Are we able to be as angry at war crimes committed by Arabs as we are by crimes committed by Israelis or Americans? The bulk of your stories are taken up with histrionic rants against America and Israel, rather than thoughtful criticism. I think the aforementioned cartoon sums up the condition of the Arab world. We deserve better.
Removal of Mossadaq
Sir-- Galal Nassar provides an accurate and succinct summary of the post-WWII takeover by the US as the dominant world power by elbowing Great Britain aside ('The American way of war' Al-Ahram Weekly 24-30 August). All he writes about imperialism, capitalism, fascism and the US's surrogate bully, Israel, on the Middle East block is convincing enough, but he ignores the main post-WWII event from which the present troubles of the Middle East stem. That was the removal of Mohamed Mossadaq (of Persia, now Iran) by Mohamed Reza Pahlavi with the considerable help of Great Britain and the US. It is easy to base the current conflict on the rise of Zionism, on the consequences of the 1916 Sykes- Picot Agreement, on Churchill's 1921 answer to "Iraq's" problem to "gas them" to explain Iraqi enmity towards the British, but it's more than that. Whether Arab states fear Iran as we're told or not is beside the point. The contemporary rift between Islam and the West began with the removal from power of Mossadaq. This was the exercise of imperialism, of course. It is, however, a mistaken view that imperialism was "born from the womb of capitalism". More aptly, I believe, one is the hand-maiden of the other, for the two walk hand-in-hand.
Sir-- What the Western media doesn't understand is that Hizbullah did not start the war against Israel. It is retaliating on behalf of the Muslim nation for decades of torment and devastation. It is for the very first time standing up for them. Whether it is doing it legitimately or not is irrelevant, for at this moment in time, it is one of the very few who are doing anything at all.
Zionists felt threatened in Israel that over 200 rockets were fired in the land that they are now living in. They had to blame someone, so they blamed Lebanon. They knew that Hizbullah was nowhere to be found, so they started attacking innocent civilians in Lebanon, along with the entire infrastructure of the country. If one recalls, isn't this what happened in 9/11? The US was attacked, they didn't know who it was, they felt threatened, so they had to blame someone. They blamed Iraq.
Sir-- America has failed to bring order and peace to the region. Instead, it has only brought chaos and added trouble to the critical situation, either intentionally or unintentionally. As long as the US is blindly following Zionist racist policy, and as long as the Arabs are denied their basic rights, this region will never be safe. I believe that the mounting disorder in the region will have undesirable repercussions upon all the neighbourly states. So the question that should be asked is would the Arab states be able to withstand the onslaught that is looming on the horizon? Unfortunately, most Arab states are unprepared. Worse, Arab peoples are divided on trifle issues. I think that all Arabs, without exception, should wake up from their deep slumber and try to be equal to the challenge.