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    Letters to the Editors

    Al-Arian's words reflect hatred


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 10, 2002

    Re: The Al-Arian argument, March 3.

    Sami Al-Arian found refuge in America after experiencing years of discrimination in the Muslim Arab nations of Kuwait and Egypt. And what is his response? He says, "Let us damn America, let us damn Israel, let us damn them and their allies until death." Then he claims that he didn't mean it "literally." So how did he mean it? Al-Arian claims to be a moderate Muslim and says he values what America values. But his words reflect corrosive hatred for other faiths, not the religious tolerance we cherish in this country. He is quoted as saying, "God cursed those who are the sons of Israel, through David and Jesus, the son of Mary. . . . Those people, God made monkeys and pigs." Does Al-Arian feel remorse or shame for making these statements? If so, he doesn't say it. Instead, he tries to explain his words away by saying he was quoting a passage from the Koran about "those who earn the wrath of God." Thanks for clearing that up.

    You quote Al-Arian as saying that under Islam, "women have exactly the same rights and duties as men." But at the Islamic academy that Al-Arian has founded, boys are dressed in "blue pants and white shirts," while "older girls" are "in white scarves and floor-length blue dresses." In other words, at Al-Arian's academy, males adopt standard Western clothing, while females wrap themselves in medieval-looking garb.

    I realize this is the point at which I should genuflect to "cultural diversity." I must also be careful to refer to Islamic dress as "traditional" rather than "archaic." But would we really believe that men and women had "exactly the same rights" if women were allowed to wear standard office clothing while men had to dress like Franciscan friars?

    Will the government ever find enough evidence to indict Al-Arian as a terrorist? Maybe not. One thing is certain, however. By his own words and actions, Sami Al-Arian has already demonstrated what kind of human being he is.
    -- Ginger Griffin, Tampa

    Not a front-page feature

    Re: The Al-Arian argument.

    I expected to see a box at the end of this article that read "Paid Advertisement."

    This article offended me because it was so one-sided and never detailed the issues that have been associated with Al-Arian. Great detail was given to the poor man and his personal tribulations; but only a brush-over was given to what he said, whom he is associated with and what he has done.

    The Times should be ashamed of itself for printing this as a feature on the front page. Al-Arian is a radical and is directly or, at a minimum, indirectly responsible for the terrorism in the world today.
    -- Frank Marinelli, Clearwater

    Al-Arian's true stance

    Re: The Al-Arian argument.

    After reading this article, there seems to be no argument at all. All of the public relations "spin" in the world cannot conceal even for a minute the anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic vitriol embodied in Sami Al-Arian's own words.

    Al-Arian has only now curtailed his covert activities and become a "model" immigrant since being exposed by the media spotlight.

    It is indeed ironic that the same person who in the not-so-distant past stood denouncing the United States and Israel with the flags of terrorist organizations in the background now wraps himself in the American flag when it is politically expedient to do so.

    We are not fooled. The very American ideals and institutions that these stars and stripes embody are in truth the most objectionable tenets to Al-Arian and his followers. He surely does not represent the silent majority of peace-loving Muslim people; rather, under the cover of religious freedom, academic freedom or "political correctness," he ultimately seeks to destroy the very way of life that now protects his right to denounce it so loudly.

    As one of Al-Arian's "sons of Israel, through David and Jesus, the son of Mary. . . . Those people, God made monkeys and pigs," I object. As an American and an ally of Israel, I also object to being damned "until death." The Times has performed a tremendous public service by allowing Al-Arian this platform to inform all of where he truly stands and what he represents.
    -- Jay Epstein, Pinellas Park

    Al-Arian's authority

    Re: The Al-Arian argument.

    A great article on the controversial Sami Al-Arian -- the most comprehensive treatment of this individual published in the local press.

    Most of our citizens are not aware of the fact that Al-Arian is a Muslim cleric -- an imam. He is not only head of a church school for the education of young Muslim students, but he is a clerical leader in the local Muslim community.

    As such, his flock clings to his hate-filled words. Their impact on his hearers has particular potency.

    Whether his conduct calls for his dismissal from his professorial post at the University of South Florida, I cannot say. The fact that Al-Arian happens to be a professor at USF does not distinguish him from any other person who speaks his mind in a public setting away from the university campus. But the fact that he also speaks as a Muslim imam imparts his words with a special power and authority... to his Muslim constituency as well as to Muslims nationwide.
    -- Sidney M. Goetz, Gulfport

    What about mental health?

    Re: Let's have more substance and less rhetoric, March 3.

    I read about the candidates' giving their standard speech about bolstering education, senior rights and helping the environment. These are all worthy causes. But how often do you hear a politician talk about the sorry state of Florida's mental health system? Do any of them care that Florida is ranked almost last in mental health care? Of course not. That homeless man you see muttering to himself every morning as you commute to work is not a voter, nor is that teenager with obsessive compulsive disorder or that grandmother who has not left her house in years because she is so filled with anxiety that she has become agoraphobic. Politicians do not try to rally these votes. Mental illness, however, does not discriminate. Mental illness has or will affect every voter or a member of that voter's family.
    -- Dawn Ellen Fazzini, St. Petersburg

    Here's the beef

    Re: Let's have more substance and less rhetoric, by Philip Gailey,

    As a candidate for governor, I must agree that every candidate -- especially those seeking to replace the incumbent -- should provide the public with specifics about their plans and not just criticize what we have.

    The problem is that in today's political process, the amount of media attention candidates receive has more to do with the amount of money they raise than the substance of their ideas. So while the candidates you mentioned get the lion's share of coverage in the press, they offer only scraps of innovation.

    For almost a year now, I have offered specifics for our state. Since announcing my candidacy, I have campaigned from Pensacola to Key West on details and taken care to avoid the rhetoric that other candidates fall back on.

    And I submit that if your readers are looking for "beef" in their candidates for governor, I have been offering steak since last June. In fact, just this month your own paper featured a story on my "plans for the state" (Lesser-known Jones tells plans for state, March 2).

    In brief, my plans include:

    Dramatic increases in economic development through international trade.

    Refocusing criminal justice efforts on juvenile crime.

    Making real improvements to our schools by computerizing the FCAT and increasing teacher pay.

    Making real investments in health care by expanding Healthy Start and enacting tough HMO reform.

    Preserving funding for our critical natural resources such as the Florida Keys and Everglades.

    With more than a decade in the Florida Legislature and the only candidate for governor with a detailed plan for a better Florida, I think I can answer your question: "Where's the beef?" The "beef" in the race for governor is right here.

    Perhaps we would all be better served if respected media outlets like the St. Petersburg Times spent as much time covering the "steak" of the issues as they do covering the "sizzle" of the campaign. That's always the best way to start the genuine debate we all deserve.

    I applaud your call for more specifics in the race for governor, and I call on the other Democrats seeking the nomination of our party to join me and offer details on the issues facing our state.
    -- Daryl Jones, state senator, District 40, gubernatorial candidate, Miami

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