Your story described a battle for the soul of Islam between tolerant moderates and hateful extremists who are a threat to all [Sept. 13]. You seemed to link religious piety with violence and terrorism. That is a simplification, and it misses the point that faith and consciousness of God make people, especially devout Muslims like myself, better individuals. My faith teaches me that one day I will be held accountable for my actions in front of the Almighty and that I must do as many good deeds as possible. I realize that is not true for extremists like Osama bin Laden, but millions of other people of faith and a majority of Muslims feel the way I do. Just because some terrorists happen to be fundamentalists (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) doesn't mean all fundamentalists and God-fearing people are terrorists.
New Brunswick, U.S.
There has been a total failure by European nations and the U.S. in addressing the menace of Islamic fundamentalism. Radical clerics who, according to the standards of the Western world, are not sufficiently educated or well versed in using sophisticated tools have managed to outsmart the world's best intelligence networks and governments. These clerics have upped the ante and cleverly spawned the cancer of hatred in the thoughts of the innocent young and the gullible common folk in Muslim countries around the globe. It is a psychological game that President George W. Bush has not yet grasped. The West needs to understand the psyches of the manipulators and the victims in Islamic countries. Preaching democracy is not sufficient. It is time to truly deliver democracy while fighting the menace of Islamic fundamentalism.
Submission to dictatorial leaders is the inherent political behavior in most Islamic nations. Although in recent times conditions have been slowly changing to a more normal type of government, it is a social and relatively peaceful evolution in Islamic society that is making it happen. But the Bush Administration's imperious insistence on quick change is revolutionary—and history is replete with examples of sovereign nations that would rather perish for the wrong reason than have outsiders force change upon them. That Bush is crusading as a missionary of democracy is a crime against the rest of us who are now the victims of Muslim outrage. Muslims everywhere consider themselves under siege. There is an anti-Christian mind-set that is a throwback to medieval times. Young Muslims who were leading the social evolution in their countries have reverted to old views they had perhaps never before even contemplated.
There are parallels between fundamentalist Christianity and radical Islam. Both see no valid interpretation of Scripture other than the literal one. Both use propaganda and fear to win over skeptical moderates. And both see compromise as a sign of weakness. The rise of radical Islam along with unbending, uncompromising tactics by neoconservatives within the U.S. is a recipe for disaster. The U.S. war on terrorism simply fuels the flames of hatred in the Middle East. I have trouble deciding what scares me more, radical Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.
Leslie B. Stahl
The question confronting middle-of-the-road Muslims around the world is whether to be reflective, expressive and active in defeating the extremists lurking among us or to be unthinking, silent and passive, thus allowing the radicals to defeat us. The tide was beginning to turn in the favor of moderates until the U.S. invaded Iraq. The task of moderate Muslims has become much harder, but we must redouble our efforts to reclaim our faith from those who defile it.
Hasan Zillur Rahim
San Jose, U.S.
Although I am a Christian, I do not view my beliefs as superior to those of Muslims. Nor do I think all Muslims are like the very small minority of extremists. The so-called fundamentalists who would kill because they say Allah told them to are not true religious believers. They are murderers. Let's call them what they are and give them the punishment they deserve.
Of Life and Law
You asked, appropriately enough, "Does the Koran Condone Killing?" [Sept. 13], and then focused primarily on the beheading of hostages by insurgents in Iraq. Why not ask whether the Bible condones killing and explore the bombing, shelling and deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq? From the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo to the nuclear holocausts of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the U.S. appears to have no particular scruples about causing civilian deaths.
Does the Koran condone killing? Clearly the answer is ambiguous at best. Many Muslims, particularly in the West, are embarrassed by seemingly contradictory verses in the Koran. The real story is the growing number of apostates in the Muslim world and the deep anguish of former Muslims who have abandoned their faith because they can no longer reconcile many of the teachings of Islam with basic humanistic values. Reform will come to Islam, and it will come from the West.
New York City
The Beslan Massacre
The Beslan tragedy [Sept. 13] is Russia's 9/11.
People holding extreme views need to understand that terrorism is a shortsighted approach that triggers an unending chain of actions and reactions. Attackers who take innocent people hostage must learn that violence against civilians only undermines their credibility, even when world opinion supports their cause. Tragedies like the Beslan killings should bring all nations together to root out terrorism. No country should be allowed to harbor terrorists.
M. Farooq Shah
The entire world is horrified by the killing of civilians by terrorists. But mere condemnation is not enough to eradicate terrorism. There are three steps to end it: using massive and decisive force against radical organizations and their networks, isolating terrorist groups from civil society, and initiating dialogue with groups to rehabilitate their members socially and economically. Those strategies must be prolonged and consistent to ensure a safer world.
In "Tearing Kerry Down" [Sept. 13] columnist Joe Klein called Senator Zell Miller's speech at the Republican Convention the "ugliest" he had ever witnessed at a convention. I felt the same way, and I have been watching political conventions since 1964, when I was a supporter of conservative Barry Goldwater. If I had been a Republican delegate this year, I would have walked out on Miller's tirade. That would also have spared me Dick Cheney's speech employing the politics of fear. To slot Miller with his venomous attack in the national spotlight as the keynote speaker says a lot about Bush's campaign strategy.
Amherst Junction, U.S.
Klein stated that the republicans' strategy is to demolish Kerry, but all they are doing is attacking his policies, which are fair game during an election. Bush's rise in the polls following the convention showed that the criticisms of Kerry's policies hit their mark. Kerry, by contrast, responded to his falling poll numbers with brutal personal attacks on the President and Vice President, noting their lack of service in Vietnam. It is Kerry who is trying to demolish Bush over personal matters, not vice versa. But the personal attacks are counterproductive. Americans don't care much about military service, or the lack thereof, in choosing leaders. Bill Clinton was twice elected by large margins, defeating legitimate war heroes on both occasions. Most Americans respect Kerry's military service and do not doubt his personal courage and toughness. It's a pity Kerry's policies do not reflect his personal attributes.
St. Charles, U.S.
As the gap between the extreme left and the extreme right grows ever wider, the rhetoric becomes louder, shriller and more grandiose. It takes a bomb of an accusation, no matter how ridiculous, to get anyone's attention nowadays. The voters have heard little or no objective discussion of the candidates' platforms.
What Hong Kong Wants
Re Anthony Spaeth's essay on Hong Kong's legislative-council elections, in which the development of democracy was a key issue [Sept. 13]: What is the definition of true democracy? If it is universal suffrage, a policy of one man, one vote, then true democracy is not practiced even in the U.S. or Britain. Democracy in U.S. presidential elections stops at the level of the Electoral College, which is empowered to make the final decision. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was put into his present position by members of the Labour Party. Economic affluence is what we people of Hong Kong want, as do the many multinational companies and expatriates working in the region. Our fear is that inexperienced lawmakers in keen pursuit of high ideals may overlook the economic issues facing the city.
Serena Williams' selection of tennis apparel is completely appalling and a disgrace to the sport [Sept. 13]. Most of what she wears looks as though she has rummaged through the clothing rack at a prostitute's yard sale. I didn't even allow my six-year-old daughter to watch women's tennis at the U.S. Open because of that. What's next—men wearing spandex and tube tops? I respect Williams' abilities as a tennis player. She is phenomenal. But does her excellence as a player give her a free pass to desecrate the sport with her tacky outfits? Whatever happened to classic tennis whites? Tennis courts are for playing the game, not for mounting a fashion show.
Days of Love and Peace
Everyone knows about the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Even those who weren't around to attend it can list the performers and their songs. One reason for this collective memory is the Oscar-winning documentary film Woodstock, to which cinematographer David Myers contributed his talented camera work [MILESTONES, Sept. 13]. When the movie came out, TIME gave it enthusiastic praise [April 13, 1970]:
"It is happening all over again. Woodstock, last summer's 'three days of love and peace,' has been re-created in a joyous, volcanic new film that will make those who missed the festival feel as if they were there. Those who actually were there will see it even more intimately. But Woodstock is far more than a sound-and-light souvenir of a long weekend concert. Purely as a piece of cinema, it is one of the finest documentaries ever made in the U.S. ... It is no small tribute to [director Michael] Wadleigh's dexterity that the film's three-hour running time passes with the mesmerizing speed of a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo ... Woodstock's most obvious attraction is the music, and rock has never sounded—or looked—better than it does in the movie. 'Hold on to your neighbor,' says an onstage announcer at one point early in the proceedings, and moviegoers should be sure to take the same precautions."