- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

Chicken talk

Thank you for telling readers about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA's) campaign to end extreme cruelty to chickens killed for KFC restaurants ("PETA tells the Colonel to ease chickens' pain," Culture page, Tuesday).
Although most people don't know chickens as well as we know cats and dogs, chickens are interesting individuals with personalities and interests every bit as developed as the dogs and cats with whom we share our lives. Of course, they feel pain just like we do.
However, KFC's chickens are denied everything they would like to do and are grotesquely abused, as well. Before they are slaughtered and served in an extra-value bucket, chickens are crammed by the tens of thousands into filthy warehouses with no access to fresh air or sunlight. They are genetically manipulated to make them as large as possible. Many of them suffer from dehydration, respiratory diseases, bacterial infections, crippled legs, heart attacks and other serious ailments. At the slaughterhouse, their throats are cut, and they are often dumped in a tank of scalding water while fully conscious.
Any decent person will agree that animals should not be grossly mistreated. That's why PETA is instituting the public pressure campaign to bring about the changes customers want. McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's have taken steps to improve the treatment of animals killed for their restaurants. There is no reason why KFC can't do the same. Of course, the best way to help animals abused for KFC is to go vegetarian. For more information, or to order a free vegetarian starter kit, visit KentuckyFriedCruelty.com.

HEATHER MOORE
Correspondent
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk

Blame the driver, not the SUV

Blame the driver, not the SUVFriday's article about sport utility vehicle crashes was just plain silly ("SUVs rolling over in storm aftermath," Metropolitan). That SUVs do not handle like sports cars is not news. That drivers, not vehicles or roadways, are most often the cause of crashes is not news. The fact that 15 SUV crashes resulted in rollovers is worth reporting. However, to imply that the problem is the vehicle rather than bad driving is patently absurd.
Using words such as "demons" to describe vehicles and phrases such as, "SUVs became part of the problem instead of the solution," is so transparently biased as to be laughable. Meanwhile, there is no apparent inquiry, let alone reporting, on the total number of accidents, the severity of those accidents involving cars versus trucks versus minivans or other collisions.
The death of an SUV driver was mentioned. Was that the only death related to driving in the storm and its aftermath? Dozens of crashes and huge backups were reportedly (by other media) caused by inconsistent and dangerous snow removal practices by the state of Maryland. Was there any question raised about the possibility that the Maryland official pointing a finger at SUVs might be hoping to talk about anything but how bad a job was done for the public?
Some clear reporting on this remarkably emotional subject would be more useful than just another well-intentioned but condescending-sounding article about the "sin" of SUVing. Furthermore, it is naive to rely on a survey of research conducted by the University of California at Berkeley without concern to the possibility of political bias on this politically charged subject.
Interestingly, on Wednesday, Jerry Taylor had a Commentary column, "Unsafe driving blind spot," about a new independent study of vehicles most likely to cause unnecessary deaths among passengers and other motorists. The main culprits were not SUVs, but minivans and light trucks.
We have laws against reckless driving. Focusing on the person responsible for the vehicle, rather than the vehicle itself, would be much more likely to improve everyone's overall safety. Don't forget to report that while SUVs roll over more, rollovers account for only a minuscule percentage of all crashes. Therein lies a basic truth about safety that leads more and more people to choose an SUV.
One last point. In most crashes, an SUV will protect you like a tank, while a compact or medium-sized car will protect you like a foil ball.

JOHN GETTER
Alexandria

Columnist hit the books the wrong way

In her column, "The jihad against the textbooks" (Op-Ed, Thursday), Suzanne Fields claimed that history textbooks distort and "whitewash" Islamic history. Alas, she is the latest armchair historian whose bias has misled the public into believing that Islam is a barbaric and murderous religion and that the violent actions of Muslim fundamentalists are explicitly prescribed in the Koran. Her column is based on loose citations of questionable sources, selective quotation from school textbooks and anti-Muslim scare tactics.
The majority of Mrs. Fields' column comes directly from a report by Gilbert Sewall of the American Textbook Council, an ideological group that promotes a biased slant on history. The Feb. 19 issue of Education Week magazine states that history experts and scholars of Islam consider Mr. Sewall's report an "unfair attack on the religion," suggesting "the report was based on questionable scholarship." Although respected education authorities have discredited the report, Mrs. Fields quotes it (sometimes word-for-word) in an attack on educational publishers and Islam.
Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields assert that publishers distort the meaning of the word "jihad" and suggest that students should be taught that jihad represents murder and war. Mr. Sewall quotes from "The Middle East," by Bernard Lewis, an author and scholar on Islam, who says, "The object of jihad is to bring the whole world under Islamic law." However, Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields omit Mr. Lewis' following statement that the goal of jihad "is not to convert by force, but to resolve obstacles to conversion."
Mr. Lewis even compares jihad to Christian theocracy, saying, "St. Thomas and St. Bernard express similar views in relation to the Christian Crusade." Furthermore, Mr. Lewis states that Muslim holy law "prohibits murder and robbery," "forbids attacks on women and children," and requires "good treatment of non-combatants" during any act of jihad. However, Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields distort the meaning of jihad and portray Islam as a murderous culture.
They both accuse publishers of ignoring or downplaying militant Muslim aggression. Actually, Houghton Mifflin's "Patterns of Interaction" addresses many examples, including the Muslim attacks and plundering of Europe in the 7th century, Indian Muslim and Turkish Muslim attacks on "the infidels," and Muslim involvement in the slave trade. Later, the text tells how in 1979, Islamic fundamentalists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In a special section about global terrorism, the text details recent attacks of jihad and al Qaeda. Readers learn how Muslim fundamentalists have used their distorted perception of the Muslim religion as justification for their aggression. Clearly Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields have failed to give the textbooks even a cursory examination and have misled the public with omission of these facts.
Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields portray women's rights and controversial traditions such as dowries as exclusively Muslim, while ignoring similar women's rights issues throughout history elsewhere. However, Mr. Sewall and Mrs. Fields lead us to believe that all Muslim culture is inherently misogynistic.
Claims that the Council on Islamic Education manipulated the editorial process of educational publishers are completely unfounded and are based on speculation and bias. Educational publishers and the media have the same responsibility to present accurate and unbiased information. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fields has served to alienate the Muslim population further by giving a biased history lesson.

COLLIN EARNST
Director
Media relations
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Boston


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