Lifting the Veil
Your stories about women under Taliban oppression in Afghanistan were heartbreaking [SPECIAL REPORT, Dec. 3]. Denied the most basic human rights, a woman is "owned" first by her father, then by her husband. Her life is only as good as the man who owns her at the moment, and she has absolutely no way of changing her future. Any attempt by the West to free the enslaved women of Afghanistan is not cultural imperialism but a moral imperative. DEBORAH WASSER Little Silver, N.J.
Oppressive acts against women, including physical abuse, rape and economic control, are prevalent in all poor regions of the world, irrespective of race or religion. Most Muslim countries--former colonies exploited by the West--are plagued with overpopulation, underdevelopment and illiteracy. Poverty and ignorance are the primary culprits of economic and social injustices suffered by women. AYESHA UMER New York City
There are few moments in history when a lifesaving chance emerges. Now is the time for the world to save Afghan women. But simply replacing the Taliban rulers with a combination of Northern Alliance tribesmen (who have a just marginally less gory past) and other warlords may be meaningless to women.
The new government must include representatives specifically defending the interests of Afghan women. Fundamentalism of the Taliban variety threatens women first (that's why when it begins no one gives a damn) and eventually hurts everyone. Even men should know this by now. SHIVA SHEKHAR Delhi, India
Isn't it ironic that more traditional societies such as Pakistan, India and the Philippines have had women as heads of state, but the progressive U.S. is probably at least 50 years away? American women need to shed their political burkas. FRED OPERE Grand Prairie, Texas
It is gratifying that President Bush relies on the expertise of his advisers Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes. But in the Middle East, there's little chance for women to shape their destinies. They have had to put up with terror their entire lives in their very homes. Perhaps the war on terrorism will have beneficial results for a long-forgotten, oppressed people: not the men of Islam, but their wives, mothers and sisters. KATHERINE RYAN Manhattan Beach, Calif.
One of the most salient barometers of a culture's well-being is its treatment of women. It is no accident that the nations with the least respect for women's rights are also the most stagnant in every other way. There will be no future for the Middle East beyond the perpetuation of its present agonies unless there is a fundamental revolution in its approach to gender and power. EDWARD FOX Toronto
Even if those who abuse women believe their actions follow Islamic teaching, their thinking is not necessarily correct. The sins of Muslims must never be confused with Islamic doctrine. Furthermore, quoting from the Koran without context does readers a disservice. It is akin to quoting this verse from the Bible: "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (I Corinthians 11: 9) and concluding that Christianity is a sexist religion seeking to oppress women. Is this fair? No. Islam should be accorded the same courtesy. HESHAM A. HASSABALLA Villa Park, Ill.