- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

'Dress code' for servicewomen not based in Islam

In response to your June 17 report "U.S. women ordered to put on Muslim garb," letter writers Kent D. Johnson and Gretchen Groff suggested that it is proper for U.S. servicewomen to wear abayas in public while in Saudi Arabia ("Servicewomen in Saudi Arabia should 'do as Romans do'," Aug. 7). With no disrespect to these honorable citizens, I categorically reject this position.
First, the proposition that "Saudi Arabia is a theocracy in which Islamic law is the only law" is a fallacy. "Theocracy" suggests a government by persons claiming to rule by "divine authority." The Saudi royal family cannot make a such claim, because it would be wholly inconsistent with Islamic tradition. Moreover, the brand of Islam practiced by the Saudis (and their surrogates, the Taliban of Afghanistan) is not "the Islam" promulgated in the Koran and in the prophetic Sunna (practices and teachings of the prophet Mohammed). Simply put, there is no Muslim country anywhere on the known globe today that practices Islam as envisioned and implemented by the prophet Mohammed.
Regarding "dress code," there is no mandatory requirement in Islam for such; whatever exists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere is based on culture and custom and not based on religion. Adherents of the faith are exhorted "to dress modestly" meaning, wearing what is clean, decent and simple. It does not require that those outside the faith (especially People of the Book Jews and Christians) obey local cultural practices and customs, including wearing the abaya. Such a requirement for outsiders, such as U.S. servicewomen, is an absolute travesty. Islamic tradition urges devotees "to dress differently" from non-Muslims. Hence, it is incomprehensible for the Saudis to require free American women to wear the abaya. Such a demand must not be honored on the basis of Islamic tradition but due to the fact that the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia is to protect the royal family from Iraq.
I also know that U.S. servicemen and servicewomen are not allowed to practice their faith openly in Saudi Arabia. This again is a total violation of Islamic tradition, based on the practices of the prophet. I remind the Saudis, the Talibans and other Muslim nations that practice a variant brand of Islam that, under the Charter of Medina, the prophet allowed the People of the Book, by written agreement, to practice their faith freely and openly, without hindrance or restriction.
The Saudis would like the world to believe that it is following pristine Islamic laws, but this is far from the truth. But, what is truly ironic and hypocritical in the Saudi dictatorial system is that its leadership has no problem allowing the Saudi people to procure and indulge in the latest Western goods, technology, automobiles, fast food and other things fashionable. They become paranoid, however, when their people attempt to think freely and to demand democratic rights enjoyed by Westerners rights permitted under true Islamic law.
I sincerely trust that U.S. authorities will insist that its servicemen and servicewomen are not forced to dress in a way demanded by Saudis; moreover, they should insist on the right to worship freely in Saudi Arabia, based on the Sunna of the prophet of Islam, promulgated 1,400 years ago.

WashingtonAs a nurse who worked in Saudi Arabia for two years after the Gulf War, I would like to express my agreement with letter writer Kent D. Johnson that U.S. servicewomen should adopt the local manner of dress when in public in Saudi Arabia ("Servicewomen in Saudi Arabia should 'do as Romans do'," Aug. 7) If only to avoid being harassed or seen as being culturally insensitive, a woman in Saudi Arabia should follow the code of dress and cover herself with an abaya and scarf. If one fails to do so, the consequences can be extremely uncomfortable. For instance, the religious police may hit you with a stick or throw you in jail. In addition, you could be assaulted by a religious extremist. At the very least, you will be looked upon as an ignorant foreigner.
The U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia is already resented by some. Why make the situation worse? Asserting the rights one is afforded in the United States simply brings further resentment and not just by the Saudis.I recall that many British, Germans and New Zealanders living there expressed their dismay with Americans who acted as if, as Americans, they didn't have to conform to Saudi customs.
We must show a modicum of respect for others' customs, even if we happen to disagree with them.

Falls Church

Public schools, like charter schools, should face threat of closure

Though it is refreshing to learn that the D.C. Board of Education is finally grasping the concept of accountability in public schools, it is unfortunate that the board chose to close three of the city's charter schools instead of some of the city's failing public schools ("D.C. education board revokes charters for 3 schools," Aug. 9).

D.C. public schools are far from the nation's finest. With a per-pupil expenditure of more than $7,000 one of the highest in the country D.C. public school students score far below the national average on standardized tests. Not only do most D.C. public schools suffer from low academic performance, they are plagued by mismanagement and poor learning conditions. This explains why the D.C. public schools are not good enough for many of our elected officials both former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore sent their children to elite D.C. private schools.

But if D.C. public schools are in such bad shape, why aren't these schools ever shut down as the charter schools are? Because charter schools, unlike traditional public schools, are held accountable for their performance. Charter schools agree to meet certain performance standards in exchange for exemptions from cumbersome public school regulations. Like businesses, if a charter school does not provide the services or product it purports to (in this case, student academic achievement), it will be closed. All public schools should operate in this manner and be held accountable for student performance. Charter schools provide competition and help force traditional public schools to improve their product. If they fail to deliver, like a business, they should be shut down.



Research meant to show opposition to Social Security privatization

In his Aug. 9 Commentary column "Trained eye on Social Security," Donald Lambro quotes from our firm's research findings to demonstrate what he calls the "undeniable popularity" of President Bush's Social Security privatization plan. In fact, our surveys have consistently found overwhelming public opposition (more than 60 percent) to plans that privatize Social Security. Moreover, recent polls by CNN and ABC reveal that support for privatization is in decline, not "widening" as Mr. Lambro claims.

Mr. Bush's plan does strike fear in the hearts of many in Congress, but that's on the Republican side of the aisle, where members are running away from Mr. Bush's commission as fast as they can.

Mr. Lambro twists our report's conclusions a full 180 degrees through highly selective use of quotes. Yes, some voters are intrigued by the idea of individual accounts. But once they learn that privatization also entails reductions in the system's traditional guaranteed benefit, support virtually disappears. Surveys by the Los Angeles Times, the AARP and others have all reached that same conclusion.

It's hard to see how Mr. Lambro's trained eye missed our point. The report's first sentence read: "George W. Bush's privatization approach certainly does not enjoy the support with which the media often credits it."

Mr. Lambro is entitled to his opinions on Social Security, but he is not entitled to misrepresent our research or more importantly to mislead your readers.


Senior Vice President

Peter Hart Research


Nursing homes do not tolerate abuse

The July 31 "Around the Nation" column does not paint an accurate portrait of nursing home care in Washington or the United States at large and is in need of clarification.

First, the congressional report that is the focus of the story makes it sound as if abuses in nursing homes are tolerated. This is simply false. When incidents of abuse occur in any nursing facility, those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

It's also essential, for the sake of accuracy, that members of Congress who hold "briefings" such as the one reported in the story make very clear that incidents of abuse are, by far, the exception and not the rule. Rare instances of abuse will indeed receive media attention, but it's equally important that caregivers who day in and day out provide professional, compassionate care which is the norm receive the credit, support and attention they deserve.

Our patients are like family to us all. It's unfortunate that the article's emphasis isn't on the hundreds of thousands of nursing staff throughout the nation providing excellent care every hour and every day of the year who are hurt by reports that exaggerate the bad actions of a few.


President and Chief Executive Officer

American Health Care Association


EU babies should take cue from Bush on Kyoto

German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger's Aug. 9 Op-ed column "On common ground: Future hinges on U.S.-European cooperation," comes merely two weeks after the European Union's bizarre yet routine display of petulance at the climate meetings in Bonn, led in great part by Jurgen Trittin, Green Party official, former environmental terrorist and now the German environment minister.

At that session, the EU accepted terms for applying the Kyoto Protocol to other countries terms that only last November it refused the United States on the basis that they would destroy the treaty's "environmental integrity." This is the sort of "cooperation" we have come to expect from our morally superior allies.

Yes, Europeans are prone to accept any "man-as-agent-of-doom" theory that rolls down the autobahn, science be damned. Yet, notwithstanding some 800 words of obfuscation, EU countries are pursuing what can only be described as a three-year boycott of ratifying Kyoto. And still, they have the hubris to decry the Bush administration for daring to come out and say what the EU's behavior demonstrates: The Kyoto emperor has no clothes.

Mr. Ischinger curiously fails to mention Germany's successful July petition to the European Commission for permission to continue subsidizing its coal industry well into the period when this treaty designed to eliminate coal use would purportedly go into effect. This is not usual for Germany, which buys great amounts of nuclear power from neighboring France while decrying the evils of nuclear power generation, swearing it off within its own borders.

Germany increases its reliance on coal and decommissions nongreenhouse-gas-emitting nuclear plants, and yet plans to reduce fossil energy emissions? The ambassador's protests notwithstanding, Germany clearly planned on banking the "wall-fall windfall" of emission credits from idling inefficient eastern facilities to meet their Kyoto obligation. This is called "business as usual," try though Mr. Ischinger might to posit the necessary modernization of east German industry as climate virtue.

To "walk the walk" and gain parity with U.S. Kyoto obligations, Germany would have to agree to a post-wall-fall "baseline," such as 2000 emissions, against which to measure its virtue. Don't hold your breath. In truth, the pain from Kyoto is to fall on this side of the Atlantic.

Americans would be well served to brush up on the realities of the EU's "process over substance" diplomacy, which is composed of two main tactics:

• Do anything to neutralize the U.S. advantage over Europe, the so-called unfair tax competition (freer markets).

• The oh-so-European ritual of signing reams of documents merely because they were negotiated but with no intent of actually meeting their terms.

Regarding Kyoto, President Bush is perceived as exhibiting bad form by not playing this game. Instead, he plays the adult, calling a lousy treaty exactly what it is. Once the Europeans come to respect that distinctly American trait, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.



Cooler Heads Coalition


'Dress code' for servicewomen not based in Islam

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