- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

'Kemp apparently slept through history class'

When discussing Islam, many commentators make the mistake of bringing up the Crusades and apologizing for them in a roundabout way. Jack Kemp fell into this routine ("Keeping in mind who the enemy is," Commentary, Wednesday) when he portrayed Crusaders as a sort of medieval Christian al Qaeda. He accused the Crusaders of violating the Third Commandment by conquering in the name of God, then compounded that nonsense by including the now obligatory "Islam is a religion of peace" mantra.
Mr. Kemp apparently slept through history class. When Mohammed died in 632, Islam was limited to the Arabian Peninsula. By 661, it had conquered the lands from Libya to Palestine to Persia, most of which had been Christian. Between 661 and 750, Islam extended from parts of Asia Minor westward to Morocco and north into Portugal and Spain. In 732, the French saved themselves by winning the Battle of Tours. (Mr. Kemp should consult a map to see just how far the Moslems penetrated into France.) So much for Islam being a religion of peace.
Things got worse for Christians in the 11th century when the Seljuk Turks conquered the Arab world. In Palestine, they destroyed churches and desecrated holy places. Pilgrims returned to Europe with tales of persecutions they had undergone at the hands of the Turks and described the destruction of shrines. In 1095, the Byzantine emperor appealed to the pope for help in repelling the Turks.
Pope Urban II called a council at Clermont. He spoke of the terrible things happening in Palestine and urged the thousands of knights in attendance to "take up the Cross" and become Crusaders, a word that means "marked with the Cross." The pope preached this Crusade across France.
Between 1096 and 1099, the First Crusade liberated Nicea, Antioch and Jerusalem. After the massacre of huge numbers of Christians at Odessa in 1145, Pope Eugene III commanded St. Bernard to preach a second Crusade.
In short, the Crusaders were responding to real dangers and present threats. They were not fanatics such as the Islamo-fascists of today and yesteryear.

MICHAEL SHUMAKER
Fairfax

Crass patriotism

Wednesday, a great many Americans exhibited wonderful intentions to honor our dead and reaffirm their patriotism. Unfortunately, far too many were clueless in the execution of such intentions. What so many people seemed to lack was dignity for themselves and for their country.
Wednesday was a day of mourning, a day of respect, a day to show dignity. It was not a day to wear gaudy T-shirts emblazoned with eagles and flags and the collapsing World Trade Center. It was a day to dress respectfully, especially at memorial ceremonies. The fact that some people who attended the ceremonies at Ground Zero and Battery Park were wearing such T-shirts with their hats on backward as if they were at the beach was disrespectful and undignified. It was disheartening and maddening to see people at the solemn Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral loudly moving about, dressed in tank tops, whirling their cameras and snapping gum like it was a carnival.
And then there is the flagrant abuse of the U.S. flag in the name of patriotism. The flag is not a bandana, it is not to be taped to the hood of a car or carried over the shoulder like one's laundry bag. It should be displayed respectfully.
Being in my early30s, I do not think that this crass behavior can be excused as belonging to a newer, less formal generation because many culprits were much older than me. Rather, it is simple ignorance and lack of decorum on the part of too many of our fellow citizens.
Once again, the intentions were beautiful but the slovenly exhibitions of their feelings were an affront to those who were murdered, those who saved lives, and this country in general.

TERRY LAVIN
New York


Saudi sympathy: real or mere mirage?

Most religions don't have a word to describe a war against "unbelievers." Islam does, and you won't have to go to the Koran to find it. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, jihad is "a war by Moslems against unbelievers or enemies of Islam, carried out as a religious duty."
To insist, as did Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Sultan bin Abdul Aziz ("Saudi prince denies his country to blame," Page 1, Wednesday), that four of every five of the September 11 mass murderers were Saudi nationals who had "abandoned the doctrines of Islam" is no less absurd than his suggestion that the September 11 hijackers' slaughter was their way of waging jihad on their own country.

W.J. RICHARDSON
Virginia Beach

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In response to "Saudi prince denies his country to blame," it seems that the "combined dispatches" did a clever job of parsing words in order to warrant a juicier headline. At no point does Defense Minister Sultan bin Abdul Aziz state that Saudi Arabia accepts no responsibility for the events of September 11, yet that is the lead of your story. The report then goes on to mention "a defensive tone" throughout the Arab world and that "many citizens" still admire al Qaeda, without any trace of a source or background for these blanket statements.
The statement by Prince Sultan was in no way an attempt to avoid blame for September 11. Rather, it was meant to clarify Saudi Arabia's feelings toward all terrorist acts. The kingdom does not support and will never stand for terrorism in any part of the world, including the United States. We have suffered terrorist acts also, and we know the pain these acts can cause for the families of victims. The statement only meant to ask that the world not transpose the actions of a handful of Saudis to the entire nation.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not support, sponsor or condone violence of any kind in any situation. Our religion, which governs the way we live, condemns it unequivocally. Our leaders condemn it, and they condemn those who so horribly attacked America last September.
We are not denying blame, but simply stating that the acts of a few lost souls should not reflect on an entire nation. We do not equate Timothy McVeigh or David Koresh with the U.S. To do the same to Saudi Arabia does not evidence clear thinking.

NAIL A. AL-JUBEIR
Deputy director
Saudi Information Office
Washington


Israel's other victims<

The number of American citizens "caught in the crossfire" since Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out Sept. 28, 2000, is far more than the 32 persons listed by The Times ("Caught in the crossfire," World, Wednesday). That number actually is around 3,000 and includes all of the Americans who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon plus the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., before it could hit a target in Washington.
Contrary to what President Bush tells us, the World Trade Center and Pentagon were not attacked because some people hate our freedom but because the United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in aid to Israel. (Indeed, the two reasons Osama bin Laden gave for the attacks were our support for Israel and the American military presence in the Middle East.) Without such massive American aid, the Jewish state simply would not exist. It is primarily because of our overwhelming support of Israel that the United States is so hated in the Muslim world and that thousands of our fellow citizens were killed a year ago.
Now the Israelis are doing everything possible to influence the United States to invade Iraq. The pretext for a pre-emptive strike is that Iraq must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, which Israel has had for decades in its massive arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction." (The latter point is never mentioned by the Bush administration.) The net effect of an invasion would be to destabilize a Muslim country and further alienate the United States from the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.

HOWARD J. FEZELL
Frederick, Md.


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