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    Letters to the Editors

    Avoid generalizations about Islam

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 15, 2002

    Re: The bloody borders of Islam, by Charles Krauthammer, Dec. 8.

    Krauthammer's column is one more attempt to categorize an entire religion and its followers as violent hatemongers.

    Krauthammer talks about the various conflicts afflicting different Muslim regions and makes the simplistic assumption that "underlying most of the individual grievances is a sense that Islam has lost its dominance." This is historically inaccurate.

    The dynamics in each of these conflicts are different. The conflict in Kashmir has nothing to do with Islam losing its glory. It's about the right of self-determination of a people, sanctioned by the United Nations. Similarly, the war in Chechnya started after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and is a dispute about self governance.

    Even the conflict in the Middle East is at its core a dispute about land. Although it is true that Muslims the world over do sympathize with the right of the Palestinians to have their own state, the conflict has nothing to do with restoring Islam's glory. Rather, it is about letting millions of Palestinians have their own homeland.

    To those who are anxious to point out the violence in the Muslim world, I submit that the most horrific genocides in the last century, namely the Holocaust, the massacres in Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda were not committed by Muslims. In fact in one of these, Muslims were the victims.

    Krauthammer goes on to quote al-Qaida's Ayman Zawahiri's allusion to the loss of Andalusia, as if this somehow is the underlying reason for all the disputes in the Muslim world. This falls right into the strategy that Osama bin Laden and his followers have, which is to turn this into a conflict between Islam and the the rest of the world. It appears that this columnist is following the script written by al-Qaida leadership.

    I think most Muslims would agree that there is an urgent need for a debate in Muslim societies as to how to marginalize the extremists. However, it is also important for the opinionmakers in the West not to generalize and insinuate that somehow contemporary Islam is to blame for all the troubles in the world. This plays directly into the hands of the extremists. On both sides, I might add.
    -- Farrukh Zaidi, Port Richey

    People to beware

    Re: The frontiers of Islam, Dec. 8.

    Thank you for publishing Ralph Peters' excellent article. It is difficult for modern Americans to understand this religion which seems so foreign to them. Peters explains it lucidly.

    He made one comment I think we should all take to heart: "Beware," he says, "no matter his faith, the man who presumes to tell you what God wants." We rightly deplore the horrors of the repression and the punishments common in such countries as India and Pakistan, whose founding, he says, "was anointed with the blood of at least half a million Muslims and Hindus." And this because some men were doing God's will.

    But we can look back over our own history and feel ashamed. How many natives of this continent were either slaughtered, or driven from their homes, because their European conquerors were told by God to "Christianize" them? And not only "natives" suffered. In early colonial Massachusetts, many a tormented heretic felt the wrath of those who knew -- and followed -- God's will.

    Yes, it is wise to be very careful when it comes to dealing with those "who presume to tell you what God wants." For over the centuries, God has seemed to have rather terrible wants!
    -- Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon

    Taxing burdens

    Re: Rich pay most taxes, letter, Dec. 8.

    In response to Robyn Blumner's Dec. 1 column, the letter writer said that the rich are paying most of the taxes (top 1 percent paid more than 37 percent of taxes; top 5 percent paid more than 56 percent, etc). This misses the point.

    The obvious reason the top 1 percent pay 37 percent of taxes would be that the top 1 percent made a disproportionate share of the income. The reason that this number has grown since the '70s is not that we are raising taxes on the top income group (quite the opposite, in fact), but that the disparity between the top earners and the low income earners continues to grow dramatically.

    But the real point isn't who pays the most taxes, but who pays the largest percentage. Cuts in income taxes have resulted in increased sales taxes, cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, user fees, etc. The low earner pays a larger percentage of his/her income in these taxes than the upper bracket.

    Then consider Social Security, where 7.6 percent of the first $84,000 in income goes to Social Security/Medicare. There is the additional 7.6 percent that is deducted off the top by the employer resulting in a 15 percent levy on all earnings below $84,000. And where does this tax go? It goes directly into the general revenue. Factor those in and then come back and tell us how great the tax onus is on the upper income bracket.
    -- George Bickner, Largo

    A party advantage

    Re: Right to vote was stolen, Dec. 6.

    Your editorial made a very inflammatory accusation in stating that anybody's right to vote was stolen. Your effort to back this up worked about as well as the Democrat election effort this cycle.

    All of us who are politically savvy know that the party in power uses reapportionment to its political advantage. This must be done in a legal manner because there will be court challenges. This Legislature did a very good job because it won almost all challenges. Unfortunately, the lawmakers had no control over how many court challenges the Democrats would make, and that is where the money was wasted.

    The editors and their fellow Democrats will learn eventually that it is their hollow message and personal attack campaigns that are helping Republicans. The Republican Party is the party of ideas that works for all people, and more people are listening to them.
    -- Reggie Howard, Port Richey

    It has to stop

    Re: Right to vote was stolen.

    Finally you put this into print but much too late -- the election was more than a month ago.

    The only way to correct this political mess is with a constitutional amendment that takes the task of drawing state and federal districts out of the hands of the party in power and gives it to a nonpartisan commission. The rules would be simple -- divide the state into the correct number of districts following as closely as possible the existing city and county borders.

    The Republicans have successfully perverted a strategy used by Democrats to guarantee a few districts for African-Americans and turned it into a political tool to create a few very heavily Democratic districts and many Republican districts with just enough votes to put their person into office. The end result is a manipulation of the vote. It must end and the only way to stop it is with a constitutional amendment -- the politicians in Tallahassee will never do it on their own.
    -- Gary Purcell, Tampa

    Our war on Americans

    Re: Promises are cheap; just ask Midtown, by Mary Jo Melone, Dec. 8.

    Thank you, Ms. Melone, for pointing out another insane aspect to our war on drugs, a.k.a. war on Americans. If Jeb Bush was telling us about it, he would assure us that there was more money this year.

    It is amazing that we don't offer drug treatment at the very least to those who volunteer and desire to get well.

    If we taxed and regulated cannabis (marijuana), there would be plenty of money to treat people who have addictions to serious drugs that are harmful. What are we thinking in America with all these wars on innocent people?
    -- Anthony Lorenzo, Tampa

    An uplifting story

    Re: Driven to serve, by Elijah Gosier, Dec. 8.

    What an excellent article! In these troubled times, it is truly uplifting to discover people like the McClendon family that have found a way to help their fellow humans, regardless of race, religion or creed.

    If there is a humanitarian award or keys to the city to be given for 2002, Barbara and Donnie McClendon should certainly be high up on the recipient list.

    Please, we need more stories like this. They would, eventually, inspire the majority of us.
    -- Gerald Hofacker, St. Petersburg

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