Europe's Identity Crisis
"Life on the front lines," on the far right's backlash against Muslim immigrants in Antwerp [Feb. 28], gave a rather slanted picture of the city in which I was born. Maybe your reporter should go back to Antwerp and talk to some of the nonextremists, who, I can assure you, still live there. Yes, the city has a large number of immigrants, and that has led to a certain ethnic polarization. Still, it would have been wise to listen to others besides members of the right-wing extremist Vlaams Belang party or the radical Arab European League. The idea that an AEL candidate might be a main rival to Vlaams Belang in the 2012 municipal elections is plainly outrageous, since AEL's percentage of the vote in the last election was negligible.
Your stories on discrimination against immigrants in Europe summed up my experience as a French-born Muslim as well as that of some of my friends. I have several university degrees and speak five languages, but I couldn't get even an internship in France in my field, finance. Many of us Muslims, discouraged by discrimination in the French workplace, have moved to Britain and become successful. All we Muslims want is to be accepted as an integrated part of European society and to be given a chance to prove our skills. A big difference between France and Britain is that British companies will give us the opportunity do so. While the French are debating what to do about discrimination against Muslims, young French-born Muslim college graduates are fleeing France for Britain.
Here in Cape Town we have an amazing mix of Christians of all hues, Muslims, Jews and, in small numbers, representatives of most other world religions. Muslims and Christians and Jews work and go to school together, and the sky does not fall. On the various religious holidays, no one gets excited or attacks other religions. We just get along together. So we don't understand the fury generated by the Muslim immigrants in Europe.
Before Muslims become enraged at the rising sentiment against them in Europe, before they expect and demand acceptance of their presence here complete with head scarves, imams, mosques and even involvement in politics shouldn't they stop and think about the way non-Muslim foreigners are treated in some of their home countries? Are non-Muslims there offered the same hospitality Muslims expect in Europe? Far from it! But there are plenty of nonradical, peace-loving, hard-working Muslims in Europe. We should work together to curb the radicals and make them behave like decent human beings, no matter what their religion.
Your article pointed out that most people in Britain link immigration to increased crime. While a few immigrants may turn to theft, there are others who are grateful to be alive thanks to the generosity offered by a foster country, and will do their utmost to repay that kindness with honest hard work. A crime-rate increase could more appropriately be assigned to the lazy few who are on state benefits without good cause benefits provided by the taxes paid by the public, including a vast number of immigrants. It's ironic that when those same moaning scroungers end up in the emergency ward with injuries from a drunken fight, they are cared for by foreign-born nurses and doctors. People need to learn more about the prejudices they so steadfastly harbor.
Your report "Talking With The Enemy" described secret meetings between U.S. negotiators and Iraqi insurgents [Feb. 28]. A cease-fire would be to the advantage of the U.S. and the rebels. The U.S. could arrange to keep military bases as a guest of Iraq, as in other Middle East countries, with no involvement in its politics. The insurgents could agree to join in a democratic process that is no longer considered an American program. We would then be in a position to deal with Iran and North Korea from a position of strength.
Connell J. Maguire
Captain, U.S.N. (ret.)
Riviera Beach, Florida, U.S.
The U.S. would be grasping at straws to trust insurgent murderers. The newly formed Iraqi government should deal with those terrorists. If the government got its hands on those killers, there would be public executions.
Sloatsburg, New York, U.S.
I hope the secret talks pay off. I am behind the Bush Administration's efforts. I fear, however, that in about five years the Americans are going to regret that we did not begin in the early '90s to use our greatest force to oppose Islamist extremists.
El Dorado Hills, California, U.S.
Those Snap Decisions
Columnist Joe Klein's "The Blink Presidency" [Feb. 28] persuasively captured George W. Bush's tendency to pursue both domestic and foreign policies on the basis of "instantaneous, subconscious decision making." Unfortunately, this is the same tendency that characterizes addicted gamblers. But the stakes, as in the Iraq fiasco, have turned out to be devastatingly high for our entire country, tarnishing our image abroad. And if Bush gets his way regarding the "crisis" in Social Security, it will be another dangerous gamble for the American people.
Ayodhya P. Gupta
Somerset, New Jersey, U.S.
How many ways will journalists like Klein who fancy themselves to be intellectuals find to discount President Bush? He is obviously intelligent, thoughtful, courageous, very determined and a man of action. Bush confounds leftists because he is not a handwringer. The remarkable thing is that he can keep his equilibrium in the face of nonstop criticism from his opponents. Is it because the media are afraid that he really might be great this straightforward, plainspoken man from Texas?
Wichita, Kansas, U.S.
Klein analyzed Bush's reliance on his gut reactions more than on tortured reasoning. I wonder how much that is true of us all. Is our reaction to Iraq a knee-jerk response to Bush himself rather than a mature reflection on that troubled country? I supported the war, after following Middle East affairs for more than 20 years, because my abhorrence of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime far exceeded any disquiet I felt about the plotting of the Bush Administration's neoconservatives. Maybe we liberals need to "blink" less and reflect more.
The Foxhunting Ban
In Verbatim, you quoted Nick Onslow, spokesman for the East Kent Hunt, about the last legal foxhunt before Britain's ban on hunting with dogs took effect [Feb. 28]. Onslow said, "It's a very emotional day. There are people who are in distress, but underlying that is anger. We are going to beat the government at this." Onslow's feeling about the slightly absurd hunting ban was typical of many. It will not protect foxes from being killed in other, less natural ways, but that is not the point. Hunting with hounds has taken place for centuries in Europe. And it could be argued that it is part of Europeans' cultural heritage. If native people in any other part of the world had this cultural heritage, it would no doubt be protected by an international outcry. The fact that it is Britons' own nanny government undermining their heritage makes a mockery of democracy.
The New Supersnoop
Bush's choice of John Negroponte as the U.S.'s first Director of National Intelligence is loony [Feb. 28]. Negroponte may have a nice résumé and background, but he has no experience in intelligence gathering. Putting someone in charge of intelligence who has no idea what he is doing is like putting up a welcome sign for more terrorist attacks.
Placentia, California, U.S.
Why make yet another bureaucratic position within the intelligence hierarchy? The current agencies are under enough pressure as it is, trying to reform their infrastructure to meet the security demands of our country. They don't need another watchdog looking over their shoulder and attempting to solve every problem.
Yorba Linda, California, U.S.
Re Your story on President Bush's visit to Europe [Feb. 28]: Bush's purpose in crawling back to Europe was to thwart the development of a united Europe and to cajole, browbeat, scare or even threaten Europeans into submission to America's policies of global vandalism and institutionalized lawlessness. Some in the U.S. seem to think that the American dead in European war cemeteries are a more than adequate and compelling reason for European subservience to U.S. dictates. That is bunkum. Bush should have been sent packing and roundly rejected.
For the time being at least, the European Union has succeeded in conveying to President Bush that he should learn from history and avoid another misadventure, this time in Iran. Unity among the European Union leaders was the hallmark of that significant change. They have also publicly expressed anguish about a continuation of the U.S.'s Iraq policy.
Ali Ashraf Khan
You said Europe is looking for signs that the U.S. is ready to accept it as a full partner. But it's not a question of the U.S. accepting Europe as an equal. Rather it's a question of the Bush Administration's admitting that in order to invade Iraq and scare people into re-electing Bush, it systematically distorted the truth to dupe the American people into thinking Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.