Al-Ahram Weekly Online
11 - 17 October 2001
Issue No.555
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Cartoon by Ossama Qassim

Letters to the Editor

Overhead costs

Sir- Mahmoud Abdel-Fadil's "A cudgel is but tinder" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 October) is an interesting article, but as an economist myself, I think he is engaging in the same Marxist wishful thinking that has plagued the Arab world and the Third World for 50 years. As long as you guys cling to your Marxist fantasies, you will remain poverty- stricken.

Roger D McKinney
Tulsa, Oklahoma
US

God is love

Sir- What follows is an open letter to Osama Bin Laden.

Dear Mr Bin Laden,

As a Believer in the one and only God, but from a different religion than you, I read your statement of 7 October and my heart grew heavy. Why do you attempt to divide God's children? Praise be to God, not to those who murder in His name. God did not destroy New York buildings, murdering over 6,000 of his own children, more than 1,200 of whom where followers of Islam; you did! God does not seek to divide his children, giving them each separate lands upon which to live; you do! Those are the teachings of evil, division and hate! God is sharing! God is love! God is good!

God does not share his blessings only with Islam, he shares them with all his children regardless of religion, for the Messenger's God is a just God! Hate is taught, Mr Bin Laden, and you are its teacher. But love is taught too, Mr Bin Laden, and God is its teacher. I pray that God's love finds its way to your hateful heart.

If you feel the need to hate again, then I grant you permission to hate me. If you feel the need to murder again, then I grant you permission to murder me. But I beg you, Mr. Bin Laden, please leave God's children alone! If you need to teach hate, then I offer you my ear, for I will not listen. All I ask, Mr Bin Laden, is that you stop using God's name to murder and that you stop using God's name to breed hate and division among his children.

I'm here should you feel the need to kill again! There is Jihad, Mr Bin Laden, but it's for your very soul, to control the demon that dwells within! Like the hate-filled souls who drove jets into those building, I too am fully prepared to die, but I offer my life in God's love. Praise be to God!

John R Polito
Summerville, South Carolina
US

The crimes of others

Sir- If you have the time to respond, it would be appreciated. Much that goes on in the Islamic world is beyond my comprehension. Your observations could be written in a local paper here in the US. The suffering of the Afghans, just from the drought, is incredible. Allow for a little propaganda, but life under the Taliban doesn't seem so good. On the issue of justice -- it just takes the breath away.

As you probably fully understand, my view/ Western view, is that with the death of 6,000 civilians, there are several murderers running around and they need to be apprehended before they strike again. How can so many Islamic- oriented nations fail to take action? For those that don't like the US, I can understand not wanting our military or CIA running around within their borders. The reaction would seem to be that their police/security hunt the criminal down and hand him over to justice. Yet, something weird happens instead. A whole group of nations suggest that the US shouldn't react. So the only way open to apprehend him is to violate national borders with military forces, wiping out that nation's ability to respond in the process.

Why is arresting an international criminal so painful? And why do states with a respect for law allow terrorism? Yes, the desire to help the Afghan people is real and there is a great distaste in wiping out a bunch of young soldiers because it's too dangerous to leave them hanging around with guns.

There is no desire to destroy all Arabs/ Palestinians/Muslims. Here in the US, they are neighbours and co-workers, along with Jews. Nobody feels the need to slip out at lunch and blow up a few people.

Dave Lockhorn
Cincinnati, Ohio
US

One for all

Sir- What follows is an open letter to the people of Egypt from an American.

It is with great concern that I watch the evening news that is broadcast nightly in my country. Several of our major networks have aired pieces wherein the people of the nation of Egypt have been asked their opinion regarding what America represents and how we view Muslims. The vast majority of the responses by the people in the streets of your great cities have stated that they believe that Americans, in general, do not respect people of the Muslim faith and that we harbour ill will towards nations in the Middle East. This could not be further from the truth: we respect any and all persons of any creed, race, colour, and/or religion.

What happened in America on 11 September was shocking and horrific to us. Not because, as some have said, the veneer of our own invincibility had been shattered and our own arrogance exposed, but because as any average American will tell you, we are a peace-loving people who wish to be viewed as nation of immigrants, where all are welcome. The brutal attacks reminded us that there are those who do not share our world view and seek to destroy the very foundation of a society which states that all persons, all nations, and all faiths are created equal and should enjoy the right to be in peace, liberty, and happiness.

So, in parting, I wish to tell the people of Egypt that we welcome your friendship in the international community and value and respect your great nation's sovereignty. May the world live in peace and may we all be as one.

Patrick A Downes
Boston, Massachusetts
US

Fires of resentment

Sir- Searching the Internet, I came upon your site. I was immediately reminded that I have always respected the honest and forthright, even if I disagree with them, and find despicable the too slick, the propagandist, the hypocrite, and the liar masquerading as a wise one. Even the Jihad, "American is Satan" crowd, are at least honest in their presentation. Your produced-in-Egypt, English- language paper is a pseudo-intellectual pretense, trying to imitate a journal of free thought.

Your contributors are well written, in the technical sense (university in AMERICA or England perhaps? -- enjoy the visits?), but only your probably unsophisticated readers are fooled by your presentation. The carefully selected photographs of President Bush scowling, of the World Trade Center towers before their destruction. Your writer who wrote of the "dizzy blonde" and the "wily Oriental" being concerned about her being on their airline flight. If they had read her article, they would have jumped her, like our heroic citizens did to the scum on the flight that they forced to crash in Pennsylvania, so that other AMERICANS would not die in our great Capital. Your snide comments, such as, well now those AMERICANS now know that "no one is safe anywhere in the world." Your threats, such as, "... hoping it will not provoke a reaction more deadly than the terrorist attacks," when referring to Islamic response to what we are very soon going to do. The ridiculous "instead of going after a bunch of terrorists, it (AMERICA) should put its own house in order."

Well, sir, we are going to do both. We are going to totally eliminate each and every one of this putrid scum, as we informed President Mubarak. Yes, we do need to make some changes. The first will be in our immigration policy, then in our oil policy (we will take what we need, wherever and whenever). Two weeks before 11 September, I was in a policy meeting discussing the setting up of a Palestinian State. Now, that will never occur. I am sure that your incisive reporters realise that the "feud" between us and Sharon, and the Northern Alliance leaders' complaints about not enough assistance, soon enough are just part of "PsyWar" capabilities. You refer to AMERICA as "the evil that is bound to destroy us all." Evil covers its women in sheets from head to toe, and beats them if they dare let the sheet slip away. The second half of the sentence is getting closer, though. Your writer, mentioned above, complained that she was insulted by people judging her, because of her Arab looks. This is all we hear from the Islamic community in AMERICA: Oh me Oh my, somebody gave me a dirty look, AMERICA is awful, oh yeah, 6,000 people were just murdered. You have such a long article about the poor Egyptian cab drivers, who will lose money because of reduced tourism, boo hoo. I'll use one of my grandson's favourite responses, when he hears or reads something extremely dumb: "duh?"

Enough about your "journalism." You just don't understand what has happened. AMERICA is a wealthy, powerful nation. We all know that there will always be people that will resent this, and be jealous of it. If we had used our power, ever, in the way you claim, we could have conquered or destroyed the entire world a thousand times over. We beat the Nazis and Imperial Japan, restored their nations, gave them money and help, and came back home. We are feeding the Afghans, before and now, and whatever we will soon destroy, we probably built and paid for it. Millions to Egypt.

The actions of Al-Qa'ida, Osama Bin Laden, Islamic Jihad (Egypt), Taliban, Iraqi intelligence, Saddam Hussein, et al., have harmed the Islamic world beyond repair. There will be no Palestinian State (interesting, by the way, how little help the Palestinians have received from the 22 states of the Arab League or the 56 Islamic nations; it's almost like they are just a dodge, an excuse, if you will, for Muslims to use as a red herring). In case you have not noticed the fall in gas prices, in AMERICA, OPEC is, now, without power or relevance. They will do what they are told. Literally and physically, we are planning the total destruction of some 43 entities, and any response, whatsoever, will simply result in a longer list. Our monies, charity, technology, etc. etc. etc. will no longer flow your way, that is, after the coming actions are complete.

What should any and every Muslim on Earth make their number one goal? Simple, inform AMERICA and the world that you will eliminate the above mentioned groups and persons, and then, do so. Get your house in order, sir, don't tell us to do so. Tell those silly Pakistani girls waving the picture of Bin Laden and giggling with glee, that they would be stoned to death in his world for showing their faces, with make-up on, no less. Tell them that their world, and the world of Islam, are about to suffer a catastrophe beyond comprehension. If you still fixate on the Crusades of a thousand years ago, then you are about to have a wealth of fuel for your fires of resentment. Good luck to you, may you someday reach the intellectual level that you pretend to inhabit. May God have mercy on your soul.

Lt. Col. Michael Kaiser
SYNCOMPAC
Operation Enduring Freedom

Hurray for Hakki

Sir- Re Mohamed Hakki's "It's up to us" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 October): Well done. One of the best articles I have read recently on the subject!

Ikram Youssef Sayed
Al-Ansar Street
Doqqi

Another Christian

Sir- Over the past few days I have had a chance to view your excellent Web site and read your editorials. I appreciate greatly what you write and your objectivity.

I am a Christian of the Reformed persuasion (following the faith reaffirmed at the time of the Protestant Reformation) and wish to state that there is another Christian view which is contrary the prevalent pro-Zionist evangelical confession. This view is seldom heard in the Christian press.

The pro-Zionist confession, which I believe is contrary to biblical exegesis, still recognises Israel as the "chosen" people and teaches that after God comes to secretly "rapture" the church there will be another plan of God acted out in the "holy land" with the Jews. This scheme of things fits nicely with Zionism, which is why so much of right-wing evangelical Christianity is blindly supportive of Israel, no matter what goes on. They still believe that God is going to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and later set up a literal kingdom on this earth. Furthermore they see the return of the Jews to the land of Palestine as fulfilling of prophecy and are oblivious of the fact that Palestine was inhabited by mostly native Palestinians, and that they were literally dispossessed.

The historic Christian view, which I believe, is that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who took on human flesh, yet still being one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He died a vicarious sacrificial death to save a church from the beginning of creation to the end of the world; a church made up of both Jews and Gentiles. He came to His own, the Jewish people, and His own (the Jewish people) received Him not. At the end of His earthly ministry Jesus made some final statements about the Jewish religion: in essence, their "house" was left desolate and that Jerusalem would be destroyed. This indeed happened in AD70 and there is no longer any "special status" for the Jewish people on a national basis. They are saved as Gentiles are saved, by Grace, and are grafted back into the original line. When all are saved from Jew and Gentile, the church is complete, history has served its purpose and Christ returns for the church which will live with Him in the new heavens and earth.

We view that the Bible is the only holy scriptures. Christ is the only Saviour. And any spirit that confesses not that "Christ came in the flesh" is antichrist. So we do evangelise Jews and any other Gentiles, taking the gospel wherever God in His good pleasure sends it.

As I said previously, this view is not heard very often. What is heard most often is the pro-Zionist evangelical view.

Again, I thank you for you news reporting. I also thank you for the opportunity to express my viewpoint.

Pierre C LeMaster, MD
Fayetteville, North Carolina
US

Daily Weekly?

Sir- I really like your newspaper, particularly because of the thoughtful opinion pieces. The Internet is truly showing its value now in bringing the world closer together during these suddenly turbulent times.

If possible, could you start a daily version in English? I think seeing an Egyptian perspective would be crucial, even if it contains short bulletins and reactions to world events (that is, the war on terrorism).

Dan MacLeod
New York
US

No discrimination

Sir- As an Arab by marriage, and an American by choice, I was shocked to hear some of the Egyptian students suggest that United States is fighting a war against Islam. This is completely untrue. There are between six million and 15 million Muslims in the USA today and none of them have been subjected to government-sponsored discrimination of any kind.

The USA needs thousands of Arab Americans, who are the most diligent and educated workers we have. Hundreds of thousands of Arab doctors, lawyers, engineers and educators form the backbone of American education and industry. Besides, American institutions never even ask what the person's religion is when applying for a visa, passport or for a job.

Muslims and Arabs are always welcome in the United States. It is unfortunate that those who profess to be Muslims have caused much harm to America. I, for one, think that neither Bin Laden nor his terrorists are Muslims; they are evil.

A Seredin
Miami Beach, Florida
US

Spaghetti Western

Sir- re-Hani Shukrallah's "West is as West does" (Al-Ahram Weekly 4-10 October). If you find the time you should read Mark Mowzer's The Dark Continent. No, it's not about Africa. It deals with Europe in the 20th century. The author is inclined towards pessimism but he's covering a time and place when the old order collapses and Europe becomes "Frankenstein's Laboratory" for mankind. Indeed, you mentioned your own "brown shirts" that once were found in Egypt. When you stop and think about it, only a fool wants to repeat the European experience of the past 500 years that with the assistance of technology and ideology led to the catastrophe of a Great War, 1914-1991. What is Western civilisation? I don't know. It's still collecting the pieces to the puzzle. Ah for the reassurance of Islam! Take care of yourself.

Infinite Justice? Why not High Noon? But W is so shy!

Derry Ledoux
Cohasset, Massachusetts
US

Words in Bin Laden's mouth

Sir- Several of your opinion writers this week share the same flaw -- the desire to claim that Bin Laden revels in the mass murder of innocents because of the cause that is dear to the writer's (but not Bin Laden's) heart. Thus, we are told that thousands were massacred on 11 September because of global income disparities, or because the US is arrogant, or because the US does not put enough pressure on Israel to make peace.

In fact, none of those things motivated Bin Laden. Even his most recent video, which for the first time tries to highlight the Palestinians, makes that clear. Bin Laden has made it abundantly clear that what lit his fuse was the presence of "infidels" "defiling" "holy Arabia" (i.e., American troops risking their lives to defend his native country from imminent invasion by Saddam).

Now, as I recall the position of Arab and Islamic states at Durban, any state that discriminated against others on the basis of their religion was "racist" and engaged in "apartheid." I trust you will show some minimal consistency and agree that Saudi Arabia already does discriminate against other faiths (e.g., displaying a crucifix can be a crime) and that Bin Laden wants the total exclusion of "infidels." The US should not accede to such bigotry, our soldiers do not "defile" a country by defending it, and it is a Wahabi/House of Saud "creation myth" to call all of Saudi Arabia "holy." Moreover, in a desire to respect local sensibilities (even bigoted ones), US troops are kept hundreds of miles from Mecca and Medina. Further, the US did a very good thing in defeating Iraq, defending Saudi Arabia and liberating Kuwait. The world would be much worse off but for these US actions. Therefore, whatever policies we followed with regard to Israel, Bin Laden would still have wished to engage in the mass murder of Jewish and Christian civilians ("Crusaders" in his argot).

The claim that Bin Laden massacred American civilians out of global poverty is absurd. He's rich and his principal lieutenants, like Atta, were well-to-do. The US could increase foreign aid a hundred times over and he would still seek our blood.

Nor can the US possibly, morally, accede to Bin Laden's demands about Israel. He wants the restoration of the universal caliphate, the recovery of all lands ever ruled by Muslims, and the mass murder of those who stand in the way of this restoration -- including women and children. We will not accede to the destruction of Israel or further terrorist attacks. No reputable American will. So, Bin Laden will still seek to murder us even if our efforts to aid the peace process succeed. You know full well that Bin Laden hates the peace process and wishes it to fail. You know full well that he planned these attacks at the very time that US carrots and sticks led to an Israeli offer for return of land that came very close to producing a final peace agreement.

One of your opinion writers says the critical question Americans should ask is why 19 Arabs were willing to sacrifice their lives to massacre thousands of innocents. I'll address that question, but I'll start with a question of my own. What caused five or six unarmed Americans to be willing to give up their lives attacking four armed terrorists in order to save the lives of people they didn't even know? I am talking, of course, about the hijacked plane that crashed in Philadelphia. It was love. What caused the terrorists to act as they did? It was hate.

That hate was very carefully taught. The death of thousands has become a mere statistic to your opinion writers, so try this one instead: the terrorists took female flight attendants, bound their hands behind their backs, and slit their throats. As I write, thousands (not a handful) of Palestinians are rioting to show their support of these heroic murderers of defenceless American women. Arafat is repeating the strategy he used when many Palestinians celebrated the 11 September massacres, by seeking to suppress television reporting of the pro-Bin Laden riots in Gaza.

If you are truly concerned about global poverty, consider the effects of Bin Laden's massacres on the world economy and who will be the worst losers from the coming global recession -- the poor. Consider also what oil shocks do to the poorest of the poor. Sub-Saharan Africa has never recovered from OPEC's successful foray as a cartel. Saddam came very close to controlling Iraq, Iran's primary oil-producing region, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Want to hazard a guess as to the oil shock he would have engineered and the impact on the (net oil importing) Third World?

William K Black
Assistant professor
University of Texas at Austin
LBJ School of Public Affairs

In convalescence

Sir- It seems that this time I was very slow to react. The sight of both towers of the WTC being struck by two planes within minutes of each other reduced me to a state of shock and disbelief. Today, nearly a month later, I am still dazed. I was watching TV. I saw it happen, and watched as the tragedy developed. I saw the buildings collapse, people jumping out of windows, the terror and disbelief on the faces of those running in the streets of New York.

So many people have been writing about this horrific event. Their feelings, their impressions, their different points of views, why and how all this occurred, factors leading to it, etc. My pen stands still.

The whole world grieved, myself included -- for the people in the planes, in the buildings, in the street, in the underground beneath. For the firemen and their boss who died trying to save others. I grieved for all that, but also for all the crimes committed in the past and for all those to come. For surely, there will be more destruction, more suffering, more deaths. Hate breeds hate! I grieved even more when they discovered that one of the terrorists was Egyptian.

Personally, this horrible undertaking brought back to my mind the slaying of a group of tourists in Luxor a few years ago. Every Egyptian felt a part of him die with those tourists, and tourism in Egypt died as well!

It took a few years for us to recover, for people to feel secure again and resume their visits to our country.

Now I cry again for Egypt. It's déjà vu. Hotels were fully booked for this season, all has been cancelled. People are afraid to fly, afraid to come to the Middle East. Afraid of the unknown. One can sympathise; I am sorry for them, but more sorry for us.

All bleak? I don't think so. Years ago I used to work at the Institute of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Imbaba, and the well-known surgeon Mr Donald Ross used to come yearly to operate on some cases. The facilities at the time were meagre, not everything needed was available. We worked hard, and with God's will most cases did well. Mr. Ross used to say "You have a special Allah here looking after you!" We tended to agree. We all believe, Egyptians of all religions, that our land is blessed! We shall overcome, by God's will. As I finish writing this letter, the bombing of the Taliban has started...

Reine Naggar
Agouza


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