Letters for August 15, 2002
Bob tars Mahdi with the "F-word": Labels are easily tossed off but often hard to substantiate. They depend far more on assumed shared emotional perceptions than on facts and reasoning. What makes one a "fundamentalist?" In the August 1 article, "The War Within," Bob Norman adduces, as evidence of Rafiq Mahdi's "unmistakable fundamentalist rhetoric," several points:
The first is that, though Mahdi condemns the 9/11 attacks, "he qualifies it by saying that the death and destruction didn't 'benefit' Islam. By that logic it follows that, had the attacks helped Islam, they would have been justified." But by Norman's reasoning, merely observing that Israel's attack on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories did not "benefit" Israel, would be evidence that one is an "unmistakably fundamentalist Zionist." Mahdi opposes the 9/11 attacks because he finds them not in accord with Islam -- not because they weren't "beneficial" to Islam.
Second, Mahdi asks that bin Laden be captured and brought to trial. Norman reports that Mahdi does not say that bin Laden is innocent, and that he'd like to hear his side of the story. This request Norman apparently finds so obviously unreasonable as to amount to evidence of Mahdi's "unmistakably fundamentalist rhetoric." If the more logical reaction to 9/11 seemed to some people a police action to find the culprits and bring them to justice, would this make those people "Islamic fundamentalists"?
Third, in the matter of suicide bombings, Norman reports that Mahdi has "wrestled long and hard with the question of whether they are necessary" and concluded they are not a "viable military option." This tortured self-questioning is hardly in keeping with the fanatical assuredness we normally assume in "unmistakably fundamentalist rhetoric."
Fourth, as to Hamas, Mahdi affirms his support for its goal of liberating the occupied territories, a goal supported by the great majority of the world. He states that "even those who reject [suicide bombings]... view [Hamas] as being incorrect in their opinion, but not necessarily as terrorists." Does mentioning that many Muslims see Hamas as a grassroots Palestinian self-defense organization opposing military occupation rather than primarily as terrorists, make one a fundamentalist?
Fifth, says Norman, "Mahdi implicitly defends the Taliban, saying pointedly that he can't understand why America bombed Afghanistan when 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia." This statement does not imply a defense of the Taliban, rather it implies wonder as to why there was zero U.S. action against Saudi Arabia, where almost all the hijackers came from.
Curiously, almost none of the "evidence" of Mahdi's "fundamentalism" displays any doctrinal affirmation or even content. Norman has not only failed to make his case, but his premises are so faulty as to make one imagine that the article's defective argument demands, for its success, a readership whose reasoning has been dulled by media-induced panic over "Islamic fundamentalism." I pray this is not New Times's readership.
Censorship is better: At a time when the South Florida gay/lesbian/ bisexual/transsexual community should be working together, why does it seem in Rebekah Gleaves' July 18 article ("Lesbians Be Damned,") that Naomi Parker is actively working to divide us? Isn't working at the grassroots level what it's all about?
How do we move forward as a community to make significant changes in the attitudes and mores of everyday Floridians when we fight and bicker in the press? Aren't there more important issues? How about issues like equality for all, foster care, and adoption?
Do women count? Do families count? Of course they do! And there are programs designed for them. This community is working hard to create more programs and services. But guess what, folks: the people who make the donations and contributions often get to call the shots! Our community center has been working hard to bring programs and services online to diverse communities while facing increased costs and declining donations.
The Rainbow Guide admits it approached Kicks Sports Bar to advertise. However, the owners chose not to participate, and that's their right. So who's voting with their dollars? Where are the supporting advertising dollars from women's bars and clubs? Where are the ads from the female-only guesthouses?
This community takes discrimination at every level very seriously. None of us within the community are the enemy, nor should we be painted as such. We have plenty of them on the outside.
The Supremes need dance lessons: In regard to Bob Norman's July 11 story "First Pledge," I just wanted to tip the scales in favor of Mr. Newdow's accomplishment. My beliefs are fairly consistent with secular humanism. The reaction of our politicians to the appeals court ruling made me ashamed to be a homo sapiens. When will we quit worrying about what God or that silly book, the Bible, supposedly say, and start applying that energy to solving real social problems?
Isn't it pathetic that these right-wing fanatics always use the term "commie" to describe someone who is evil and anti-American? I don't think those people have a clue as to the correct definition of communism.
What is very distressing to me is that on almost the same day that the appeals court made its courageous and correct ruling, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the constitutionality of the school voucher program in Cleveland. One step forward... two steps back!
Look deeper, W.... and don't make me late for my flight: I read Chuck Strouse's article about security measures with interest ("Security Collars," June 27). I am from the United Kingdom, where we have extensive experience in dealing with the terrorist threat. Some of the examples you cited -- the Swedish businessman, the student and the man with the Publix knives -- aptly demonstrate the well-known fact that heightened security measures only affect the innocent. The system has failed: I didn't read of one successful apprehension. Time wasted on innocent people is time averted from the real threats.
Security is a delicate business and relies on the cooperation of the public to ensure its effectiveness. If authorities are using their powers mindlessly, a justly irritated public will, ironically, create the perfect climate for another terrorist atrocity. In a free society, terrorism is free, too, and therefore can never be eradicated. Any promise to a public that it can be, is either disingenuous or foolishly naive. Terrorists will always find a way. They appraise the current weaknesses and exploit accordingly. Several months ago, that allowed them to stroll onto planes with knives. That option is unavailable at present, so they would look for other avenues of entry. This would take initiative and guile -- which they possess in even and potent measure.
The only answer is to allow life to go on. If innocent people live in fear of petty officials abusing their authority, then terrorism has won. If lines at check-ins last longer than ever before, terrorism has won. If people are afraid of the erratic nature of paranoid security personnel, then terrorism is at work. The wider question of solving the threat of terrorism is a political problem. As terrorism is the voice of the underrepresented people, it is that communication gap that needs bridging.
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