- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

Broadcast on Muhammad was not a public service

Friday's Page One article "PBS show to 'counter' perceptions of Islam" has disturbed me a great deal. PBS is a taxpayer-funded organization, and as such, has an obligation to provide taxpayers with accurate information. A program about Muhammad should be informative, showing all aspects of his life. If there is a historical record of his heroic acts, they should be broadcast. If, however, he has a record of atrocities, these should be broadcast.
There are a few things that we need to be watching for in this upcoming documentary. Be watching for the account of Muhammad's first jihad, which he launched against the Quraysh, the "pagans" of Mecca, by raiding a peaceful caravan; and how he attacked the Jewish tribe of Bani al-Nadir on a rumor that they were plotting to murder him. Be on the lookout for the massacre of the Jews of Bani Quraiza. Furthermore, look for an explanation of why Muhammad married and had intercourse with Ayesha, a 9-year-old girl. These do not constitute character assassination. Rather, they are historical facts recorded in Muslims' own histories. If America is to receive a balanced picture of whom Muhammad was, all sides of his character must be shown.
At this Christmastime, it would be appropriate to compare Muhammad with Jesus Christ. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers to love those who oppress them. Even when he was arrested in Gethsemane, he rebuked Peter for cutting the ear off of the high priest's servant, and as the story goes, healed the servant. Whether one is a Christian or not, Christ's example of meekly submitting to an unjust death is an amazing tale of selfless sacrifice. The life of Muhammad is in stark contrast, but we'll see if the documentary gets it right.

DAVID JAMES SEWALL
Falls Church

Defending Gen. Sherman

Jack Trammell's article "William T. Sherman: A commanding paradox" (Civil War Page, Saturday) features Southerners' old label of Sherman as a villain who must be periodically castigated for achieving victory over Rebel armies. What is also predictable is that these Southern commentators fail to compare Sherman to some of his Confederate counterparts.
Mr. Trammell makes the argument that the March to the Sea was a war against the civilian population, which is at best an exaggeration and at worst a misunderstanding of Sherman's actions and objectives. However, no comparison is made by the writer to Robert E. Lee's wholesale confiscation of cattle and foodstuff from local farmers (he "paid" for them in worthless Confederate script) during his invasion of the North in 1863, nor of his capturing free blacks and escaped slaves, whom he returned to slavery in the South.
A speaker I recently heard referred to the "hated Sherman" when discussing the general's war record. Seldom does anyone North or South refer to Lee as "duplicitous," even though that term could apply in certain instances.
It is true that Sherman was a paradox. However, it is also true that, along with Ulysses S. Grant and Phil Sheridan, he was one of the three generals who led the North to victory and preserved the Union. Like Confederate generals, we should honor Sherman for his accomplishments and give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his eccentricities.

THOMAS J. RYAN
Bethany Beach, Del.

Taiwan is not a germ-warfare threat

As the spokesman for Taiwan's chief representative office in the United States, I am compelled to correct a mistake in the article "Nations seek to reduce germ-warfare threat" (World, Nov. 12), in which Taiwan is wrongly listed among countries developing biological weapons.
The Republic of China on Taiwan has solemnly declared time and again that it does not produce, develop, seek to acquire, store, or use biological, nuclear or chemical weapons. My government has pledged to adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention, and it has taken this pledge seriously.

STEPHEN CHANG
Director
Information Division
Taipei Economic and Culture Representative Office
Washington

Smoking out 'religious segregationists'

"The days of discriminating against religious groups just because they are religious are coming to an end," President Bush said of his executive orders implementing initial elements of his faith-based initiative. But the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, countered, "Bush is on a crusade to bring about an unprecedented merger of religion and government" ("Bush rolls back 'secular' rules on faith groups," Page 1, Friday).
Mr. Lynn is a religious segregationist in the mold of racial segregationists. His comment indicates that he wants religious groups to ride in the back of the bus, so to speak. He even tries to scare pastors from expressing their political opinions. However, we never hear any objections from him to anti-religious programs. Indeed, he does not object to religious citizens paying taxes for programs that most find objectionable.
We pay for many federal programs that harm people. One example is a report of money being spent on sex parties and strippers under the guise of combating HIV/AIDS. Another is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for Planned Parenthood to lure teens into using contraceptives, which, when they fail, fuel their abortion business, which is directed primarily to low-income blacks and Hispanics.
Mr. Bush's faith-based initiatives, contrary to Mr. Lynn's assertion, help people without regard to their beliefs (or unbelief). He should be applauded for his action.

JOHN NAUGHTON
Silver Spring

Journalists' 'first priority'

Thank you for publishing Dennis Prager's brilliant column "Neutral news overkill" (Commentary, Dec. 7).
Journalistic impartiality is one thing; stubborn blindness to truth in order to create a pretense of moralistic equality is quite another. The very personal sense of terror we all felt in the aftermath of the September 11, attacks has shaken reporters into recognizing al Qaeda as a terrorist organization. But other terror groups with similar jihad philosophies even those like Hamas, which targets, and massacres children and the elderly still receive a free pass in some newspapers.
A commitment to journalistic integrity should dictate otherwise. It is not a "cycle of violence" when Israel acts in self-defense against perpetrators of terror after it offers the Palestinians a state comprising virtually all of the territory Palestinians publicly claim they want, only to see them reject it in favor of murdering Israelis in their bedrooms, schools, buses, discos, pizzerias, Passover seders, and elsewhere. Rather, it is a complete repudiation of peace by the Palestinians. Israel's responses in self-defense targeting terrorists, not civilians is every bit as justified as our own, and in no way morally equivalent to the Palestinians' deliberate massacres of Israeli innocents.
The desire to appear "evenhanded" may be a nice ideal, but journalists' first priority should be to report the truth.

STEPHEN A. SILVER
Concord, Calif.

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