- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

The other side of the story

I would like to thank you for publishing the column titled, “An American tragedy” (Op-Ed, Monday). It is just one illustration of how the Muslim community in America has been victimized by the events of September 11. It was also encouraging to see that the authors are religious leaders of three faiths, all coming together to stand up against some of the injustices that have victimized the Muslim community. We need this sort of unity to influence our government’s foreign policy.

Once again, thank you for publishing such columns, and I encourage you to continue to shed light on these issues, issues that rarely make the 5 o’clock news.



KAREEM ABDEL AZIZ

Belle Mead, N.J.

Thanks for publishing the column titled, “An American tragedy.”

The story was about the murder of an innocent Muslim, whose murderer claimed he did something “every American wanted to do, but didn’t.”

The story was about how — in the name of patriotism — hate and prejudice can escalate to the point of wasting innocent human lives, and how, on top of that, a murderer can feel good about a savage crime. When hate is spread in such a broad manner by irresponsible media, talk shows and others, we should expect a wave of violence and hateful crimes against a lot of innocent people.

I hope that God gives us the wisdom and the courage to stand against such a sea of hate and prejudice, that is very similar to what happened many years ago in Germany and resulted in the death of millions in the name of patriotism. We know now it was just hate and prejudice leading to a war and mass graves for so many, just because they were different.

Let us wake up, get off of the lion we are riding on — the poisonous hate — before it turns around and tears our country into shreds.

KAMAL YASSIN

St. Louis

Behind the Estrada filibuster

In response to your recent column by Paul Greenberg (“Message from the Senate,” Commentary, Saturday), I’d like to offer some clarifications. Mr. Greenberg used his column space to attack Senate Democrats for their successful filibuster of federal judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, accusing the opposition of opposing Mr. Estrada’s nomination on the basis of his Hispanic heritage. In Mr. Greenberg’s words, the nomination would have been confirmed if the nominee’s “name had been Mike Smith instead of Miguel Estrada … .”

Mr. Greenberg is being selective with the facts in his attempt to paint the opposition as xenophobes. He didn’t mention that, during the Bush administration, the Senate has confirmed no fewer than one dozen Hispanic judicial nominees. Mr. Greenberg also failed to mention that the Estrada nomination was strongly and openly opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group that can hardly be characterized as anti-Hispanic.

Miguel Estrada was not rejected because of his Honduran roots. Mr. Estrada was rejected because he refused to answer questions and share his judicial philosophies during his confirmation hearing. The U.S. Senate has the constitutional duty to be part of the judicial confirmation process. A critical part of that duty is to examine the qualifications of nominees. Nominees who refuse to share their legal viewpoints and philosophies are rightly setting themselves up for failure.

Mr. Greenberg believes that the Estrada rejection illustrates racial prejudice on the part of Senate Democrats. Does he believe that the Republicans in the Senate showed anti-Hispanic bias by rejecting six Hispanic judicial nominees during the Clinton presidency? I’m wondering if he shares the viewpoint of some Senate Republicans who believe that rejecting Priscilla Owen shows bias against women, rejecting Bill Pryor shows bias against Catholics, and rejecting Charles Pickering shows bias against Southerners?

Facts are pesky things, and, in the case of judicial nominations, they undermine Mr. Greenberg’s thesis entirely. The simple truth is that 145 of President Bush’s judicial nominees (of various races and genders) have been confirmed, while only a very small handful have been rejected. From my vantage point, this illustrates a careful attention to a crucial Senate duty rather than racial prejudice. Mr. Greenberg’s accusations are simply unsupported by fact.

GLEN HOOKS

Little Rock, Ark.

Age-old educational debate: Public vs. private

The new report from the Albert Shanker Institute, “Education for Democracy,” is a step forward in the debate over civic education, and The Washington Times is to be commended for covering it (“Schools urged to quit reproaching America,” Page 1, Sept. 10). I would, however, like to draw attention to two of its shortcomings.

The report rightly decries the implication that the essence of American history is a litany of irredeemable flaws. As an antidote, however, it advocates giving primary credit for social progress to government intervention. But many improvements beyond basic civil order owe as much or more to economic growth and heightened popular awareness. Governmental power and its abuse, on the other hand, has as often been the source of problems as their solution. The essential story of democracy’s magnificent capacity for self-correction is how free people, individually and cooperatively, are able to overcome obstacles, physical and moral, through initiative, energy and decency.

On the importance of cultivating democratic virtues, the Shanker Institute’s report also might have acknowledged that the Founders grounded these explicitly in natural law. This does not imply any establishment of religion, but it would give more substance to “moral education,” the foundations of which are otherwise not clear. Also, even as the report rightly denounces moral relativism, it annoyingly refers to morals as “values.” This equates them with subjective desires — surely not the author’s intent.

Aside from that, it is an impressive document, and it is gratifying to see the wide, bipartisan support it has garnered. I trust it will generate much more discussion.

MERRILL SMITH

Washington

Music to their ears?

On Saturday, you ran a column by Dale McFeatters taking to task the music industry for attempting to protect their profits (“Suing customers for a song,” Commentary) and a letter from a reader on Monday (“Supporting artists) claiming that Mr. McFeatters missed the point. I submit that both are missing the point.

Downloading pirated music (and movies also) from the Internet is thievery, pure and simple. An individual or business making cheap copies of best-selling books and handing them out for free would most certainly be charged with copyright infringement. Won’t someone please tell me how this is different? This is not about big business, or Internet rights or profit distribution. A 12-year-old honor student gets caught doing something clearly “dishonorable,” and we are supposed to feel sorry for her? Puh-leeez.

Your letter-writer on Monday put the blame for this situation on the unfair distribution of profits, seeming to claim that since the artists make so little the recording companies should have expected eventual payback. Leaving aside the argument that the recording company risks a whole lot more than the “artist,” consider this: A grocer makes about a 2 percent profit, and in some years a grower makes nothing at all. Does that give us all the right to help ourselves to free produce?

There is a tendency to see activities on the Internet as somehow needing to be exempt from the codes that govern other human activities. But if we don’t integrate Internet life more seamlessly and consistently into our mainstream laws and morality, then we shall all be culturally and morally poorer.

CATHERINE DUTCHER

Waterford, Va.

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