- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2001

Time to defend Ireland against EU tax assault

Your report on the European Union's scandalous attempt to prevent Ireland from cutting taxes ("EU rebukes Ireland for its plan to cut taxes," Feb. 19) seems to confirm some Euro-skeptical observers' worst fears.

It should be added that fast-growing Ireland enjoys a budget surplus of 4.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and a level of government debt as low as 33 percent of GDP, according to official estimates by the European Commission. Germany and France, the self-proclaimed chief prosecutors in this crackdown on Ireland's "unfair" competitive edge, still struggle with persistent budget deficits and with government debt levels around 60 percent of GDP. Even more outrageously, Germany and France, according to our sources, seek to use both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), at the occasion of their upcoming annual policy reviews, to force Ireland to withdraw all tax-cut plans for the higher goal of the Euro zone's "stability" and "inner cohesion." (As your paper has reported, the OECD is a Paris-based, European-dominated international organization that is acting on its new self-assigned role to supervise "unfair tax competition" among member and even nonmember countries.)

This is an ideal time for the new U.S. executive director on the board of the IMF to fulfill his or her congressional mandate and defend Ireland's successful supply-side policies against the IMF rather than fold to the board's penchant for accommodating European socialists.

HERMAN STYLER

Director of on-line economic research

CurrencyRisk.com

Washington

Quebec's quest for sovereignty lives on

In two recent commentaries published on your Op-Ed page, columnist Arnold Beichman presented a somewhat distorted view of Quebec that would benefit greatly from some clarification ("The end of separatism in Quebec?" Jan. 18; "The great Matzoh bust," Jan. 29).

In his first piece, pondering the end of the separatist movement following the recent resignation of Prime Minister Lucien Bouchard, Mr. Beichman implies that there is a substantial xenophobic faction at the core of the governing Parti Quebecois. Mr. Beichman supports his points by referring to views expressed by an aspiring political candidate. Let it be known that those sentiments are rejected vigorously by all of Quebec, including the Parti Quebecois.

Recent statistics show that fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. Quebec hardly can be accused of xenophobia when, in its immigration policy, the Parti Quebecois government seeks to increase by almost 50 percent the number of immigrants accepted each year in Quebec. Quebec wants and needs immigrants it welcomes some 30,000 each year, slightly more per capita than does the United States. This fact alone is proof of the openness of Quebec's society.

Does Mr. Bouchard's resignation signal the end of the quest for sovereignty for Quebec? Absolutely not. After several decades of fruitless discussions, Canada has yet to recognize the existence of Quebec's distinctiveness as a nation. For more than 30 years, the Parti Quebecois has been a major force in creating a modern society open to all. Since 1976, the people of Quebec have four times elected the Parti Quebecois to form a government. Rene Levesque, Mr. Bouchard and his more-than-likely successor, Bernard Landry, are all recognized for inclusiveness toward all residents of Quebec; they have had, and continue to have, a deep and abiding influence on their society. I am therefore convinced that news of the demise of the Parti Quebecois and separatism for Quebec is off the mark.

Quebec's language law, the object of Mr. Beichman's second Commentary piece, also deserves to be presented to American readers more thoroughly and accurately.

It is one thing for him to sympathize with Quebec as a Francophile from within the comfortable environment of an English-speaking country such as the United States. It is an entirely different story for those who live as Francophones in Quebec (only 2 percent of the population of North America), surrounded by a sea of English-speakers who are oblivious to the pressures their sheer number exerts on those who speak other languages. Such is the case in Quebec, and Mr. Beichman rightly underscores the legitimacy of its efforts to perpetuate the French language. For all of Quebec's governments since the 1960s, this pressure has signaled the absolute necessity to enact a language law. The legislation currently in force dates to 1977 and is completely in accordance with Canada's and Quebec's charters of rights and freedoms.

Whenever a law is on the books, it must be applied. In Quebec's delicate linguistic context, the most practical way to achieve compliance is through discussion and persuasion, which result in solutions in more than 90 percent of cases. The singular case of Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen, cited by Mr. Beichman, was one of these: A direct contact led to quick and simple changes. In the absence of a voluntary settlement, a small minority have to be referred to a court, and sometimes modest fines are imposed by a judge. However, the tribulations of a few individuals cannot be construed as a generalized assault on the English language. Nor should cases such as these be allowed to obfuscate the legitimacy of protecting the French language in Quebec.

We indeed all know who won that famous battle at Waterloo. But, unlike armies, languages do not have to die or surrender. If given breathing space and a level playing field, Quebec's French will be allowed to continue to engage North American English in a very stimulating exchange that will enrich both our societies.

LOUISE BEAUDOIN

Minister of International Relations

Minister Responsible for the Charter of the French Language

Quebec Government House

New York

Unlikely that Bush got Muslim vote

In a Feb. 16 article, you reported that 74 percent of the American Muslim vote cast in the last presidential election went to George W. Bush ("American Muslims urge Bush to consider policy initiatives," World). The impression given by your article is that this vote represents a bloc vote of the American Muslim community. This impression may be misleading.

First of all, an estimated 40 percent of the American Muslim community is African American. It is a well-known fact that the overwhelming majority of African Americans, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, deeply distrust Mr. Bush. More than 90 percent of the African-American vote went to former Vice President Al Gore in the last election. This necessarily implies that African-American Muslims were not a significant part of the 74 percent bloc vote for Mr. Bush. It also may imply that the 74 percent figure is inflated.

Second, there is the question of what the 74 percent bloc means in terms of actual numbers. Many eligible Muslims are not registered to vote because they see voting in a non-Muslim system as hostile to Islamic beliefs and principles. For example, the president, according to the Constitution, is the commander in chief of the American armed forces. Many Muslims, therefore, have determined that voting for anyone for president who is non-Muslim is problematic because of that individual's lack of sensitivity to killing other Muslims. The attitude is well-founded, as we recently witnessed the killing of three innocent Muslims in Iraq as a result of air strikes ordered by Mr. Bush. To be quite honest, many Muslims view Mr. Bush as an international terrorist as a result of this act of aggression.

A closer look needs to be taken at the purported 74 percent American Muslim bloc vote for Mr. Bush.

MUHAMMAD AL-HASHIMI

President

The Islamic Institute for Economic and Sociological Research

Washington


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