- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Islam misunderstood?

I found Sam Harris’ Thursday Op-Ed column, “‘Mired in a religious war,’” very disturbing. I thought for a moment, “Am I reading the Klan monthly?”

This type of hatemongering and misinformation has no place in any newspaper or magazine in America. All Mr. Harris has done has been to provide propaganda for the Muslim extremists who want it to be a religious war.


Baton Rouge, La.

I am responding to Sam Harris’ assertion that Koranic doctrine is essentially violent. I hope he reads this so he can understand Islam better.

In Mr. Harris’ opinion, the “vision of life” in the Koran is murderous and violent. Has he read the section where God says: “God has sent down signs to his servant to lead you out of darkness and into light. And he is to you (all people) Most Full of Pity, Most Merciful.” Has he read the repeated mentions of God as “Most Gracious” and “Most Merciful”? Does he understand that the Koran is written in such strong language to wake mankind out of its slumber of apathy and toward a more fulfilling and just life? Does Mr. Harris know the history of the Koran?

At the time of the prophet Muhammad, there was severe arrogance and greed in all worldly affairs. When the Koran mentions nonbelievers, it talks of people so overcome with love of their status that they refuse to believe or practice anything that might mean a loss of their power.

In a similar way, Jesus admonished the Jews who wanted to be seen worshipping just for the power and prestige their outward behavior garnered and not for the sincere love of God. The Bible talks of the everlasting punishment of spiteful, arrogant, rebellious and perverse people. Do you call the central doctrine of the Bible murderous and violent?

Before reading a Koran, one should know its history and the context in which each chapter was revealed and not think you can interpret it wholly by yourself. In Islam, it is a sin to read the Koran without knowledge of Islam and Islamic history. I hope I have helped Mr. Harris see the Koran from a different point of view. Maybe he will stop slandering my religion and accept the truth.


South Orange, N.J.

I read with pain and dismay Sam Harris’ “‘Mired in a religious war.’” It saddens me that such ignorance and bigotry can be propagated.

The Times should not, in the name of free expression, allow hatred, bigotry and incitement against a religious community and a religious tradition to become part of our national discourse.

Mr. Harris should make a serious attempt to understand Islam’s sacred book and learn what Muslims believe before passing judgment on them and their book.


Plainfield, Ind.

I was deeply saddened to read Sam Harris’ Op-Ed column “‘Mired in a religious war,’ ” in which he questions the nature of the faith of Islam and criticizes President Bush (without naming him) by disputing Mr. Bush’s claim that Islam is a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists.” I humbly ask that Mr. Harris and your readers make a distinction between an entire faith and the actions of misguided individuals.

History is replete with instances of fanatics twisting religion to further their own hateful agendas: Thousands of Muslim, Christian and Jewish civilians were killed by “Christian” soldiers during the Crusades; thousands of Jews and Muslims were tortured and murdered in the Catholic Church’s Spanish Inquisition; Puritan elders presided over the shameful Salem Witch Trials; and, more recently, Eastern Orthodox Christian Serbs engaged in the mass rape and murder of tens of thousands of Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats in the former Yugoslavia. In these instances, and in the cases of the Christian “identity movement,” the Ku Klux Klan and countless others, many have twisted the tenets of their faith to perpetuate hate and often violence.

Embracing Mr. Harris’ claim “We are at war with Islam” would only demonstrate to our enemies that we are willing to respond to hate with hate. Evil by any name must not triumph, and we must work and struggle to resist those seduced by hate and prejudice.

We can be thankful that Mr. Bush has stood strong against such divisiveness, reminding us that ours is a war on terrorism, not on members of any religious faith. The name Islam, in fact, is derived from the word for peace. The faith explicitly condemns murder. The horrendous actions of the fringe, whether here on September 11, currently in Iraq or recently in Russia and Chechnya, have been condemned by the vast majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.



I was extremely offended by the Op-Ed column “Mired in a religious war.”

I am a fundamentalist Muslim (in that I believe in the fundamentals of Islam), an officer in the U.S. Army and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mr. Harris claims that “we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran.”That is false.

The vision of life prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran is one of an entire way of life, including justified military self-defense. If Mr. Harris thoroughly researched the Koran, in context, he would understand that any measures that were taken against enemies of early Muslims were done so after years of humiliation, torture and unbearable violence simply because they professed a faith that was different from that of their countrymen. Muslims are never allowed to take an innocent human life.

When our country’s leaders say that those who killed innocent civilians will be brought to justice, dead or alive, using our military, they are right. No people should be expected to put up with that. This is exactly the situation early Muslims faced. Any objective student of history would come to the same conclusion.

I hope we can move toward uniting the country instead of inciting hatred among Americans — no matter what faith they profess.


U.S. Army

Vilseck, Germany

New stadium worth it?

I take issue with Aubrey Edwards’ statement that a stadium would create jobs that would stimulate the tax base of Charles County (“Town makes pitch against stadium,” Metro, Nov. 26). Enough has been written about the public funding of stadiums to show statistically that they are a drain on communities. I would be happy to furnish Mr. Edwards with copies of these studies.

Furthermore, Mr. Edwards, the director of economic development for the county, neglects to take into account the possible use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to help fund this stadium — shares of $6 million each from the likely team owner and Charles County and $6 million from the state of Maryland.

Nor does he say who pays for any cost overruns — a serious point, as Peter Kirk’s stadium project in York, Pa., is $4 million over budget. In addition, who pays for the police to patrol the stadium? Sounds like the use of more taxpayer funds to me. Why didn’t Mr. Edwards mention these things in his comments?

Mr. Edwards needs to inform the residents of this county, state and country what justification there is to use public funds to pay for this stadium. Tell us why it wouldn’t be more important to use those public funds to pay for schools, police and fire protection, and infrastructure, to name a few things. Our legislators need to close the loophole that allows taxpayer funds to be used to build these stadiums for privately owned teams.

I don’t think the opponents’ arguments have anything to do with “not in my back yard,”as Mr. Edwards claims. I would venture to say if more people realized how many of their hard-earned tax dollars were being used to fund these stadiums, the tax loophole for them would be closed immediately.

Finally, Mr. Edwards says, “the benefit to the overall county is also very important.” Is that benefit more important than using that $6 million to benefit our county police or our public schools?


Hughesville, Md.

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