Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 30, 2004

Cultural clash linked to limits of Arab ideas

Michael Hill writes that in the Islamic world, the term crusade "is forever associated with bloody, racist wars as medieval Christians sought time and again to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim control" ("Culture collide in a symbolic divide," May 23).

No one today would dispute that the Crusades, which resulted in the massacres of thousands of innocent children, Jews and Christians as well as Muslim combatants, were bloody, but then, aren't all wars bloody? And wasn't it through equally bloody conquest that the Muslims came to be in the Holy Land in the first place? But "racist"? The term didn't exist back then.

In the article, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Professor Louis J. Cantori argues that the prison scandal "ultimately plays out in terms of honor, which is located in the institution of the family," and contrasts that with an emphasis on individual feelings and responsibilities in Western society.

According to Mr. Cantori, President Bush's apology, couched in terms of "I" rather than "we," fell on deaf ears.

But that doesn't wash. When an individual Muslim female is raped (much less caught in an act of premarital sex or, worse still, infidelity), it is not the family that is "punished" but, with unsettling regularity, the unlucky individual female - through the all-too-common and disgusting vehicle of "honor" killing.

Maybe it is time we stop worrying about the feelings and "honor" of people in chauvinistic, male-dominated tribal societies and ask them to start considering our feelings.

Do we really care that they perceive the beheading of Nicholas Berg to show "how seriously the offenses depicted in the Abu Ghraib photographs are taken in Iraq?"

It is enough for us to punish those involved and to do so in the terms of our culture - through open trials and the resulting public humiliation of the guilty.

Jeffrey Knisbacher

Owings Mills

The article "Cultures collide in a symbolic divide" (May 23) speaks to only one side of the issue, namely the need for Western nations to appreciate the culture of Muslim and Arab countries and the sensitivities of their people.

But appreciation of cultural differences must be a two-way street, and the Arab populace has refused to acknowledge that the practice of suicide bombings, beheadings and mutilation of bodies is repellent to the Western mind.

Two cultures have clashed, but while we have been willing to bend, apparently the Arab and Muslim world has not.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Blame for abuse belongs at the top

The Sun's article "Some U.S. prison contractors may avoid charges" (May 24) describes the blurred chain of command at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The blurring includes employment connections to (of all things) the U.S. Department of the Interior and problems determining who exactly was in charge.

But ultimately the people in charge were the people who blurred the chain of command. This has to include people such as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and, yes, President Bush himself.

And if they're responsible for creating the chain-of-command mess, then they are all the more directly responsible for the Iraq mess itself.

Randolph A. Gaul

Baltimore

Appalled by lawsuit of convicted killer

I was simply appalled to read that Steven Oken, who killed three young women, has the nerve to contend that the state's lethal injection method of execution is cruel ("Killer's case will be heard in county," May 26). Did Mr. Oken ask the three ladies their preference about how they wanted to be executed by him?

Mr. Oken is afraid that the injection might hurt. You are darn right it will hurt, and I hope it is the worst pain he has ever experienced in his life. He should have thought about that prospect before he did what he did.

What is wrong with these judges that they listen to something so preposterous? Do they not have anything better to do with their time?

Joanne Tumminello-Zour

Lutherville

Offer more options for same-sex schools

I was very interested to read the article by Mike Bowler on same-sex education ("School to test all-boy classes," May 24).

I was educated in England in the 1940s and 1950s. From age 11 until graduation, all of my schooling and that of most of my peers was same-sex. For this I am forever grateful. I cannot imagine being in a school with girls. I would think that I would have spent most of my time trying to impress the girls instead of studying. And that's very distracting.

In a co-ed school, I can imagine trying to be cool instead of studying. The girls would be more interested in being attractive to the boys instead of studying. Very distracting.

Children are in school to learn, not to look good. There's plenty of time to look good after school lets out.

I suggest some enlightened schools might do a trial. Take a large school with plenty of students and give parents a choice to send their child to an all-boys or all-girls class or to a co-ed class, then evaluate the results.

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