- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 15, 2004

Muslims condemn beheading

The images of the brutal murder of Nicholas Berg are a shocking and horrific symbol of men of violence who do not represent Islam. This is not merely a heinous crime, but is repugnant to the Islamic rules of law. The appalling abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison cannot be used as a justification — as these murderers have done — for this kind of murder of the innocent. God in Islam is defined by two of His greatest attributes: compassion and mercy. Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to heed the message of compassion and mercy if we are to make a difference in our post-September 11 world.

Our deepest condolences go to the family who lost their son to what is becoming an endless cycle of hatred, violence and revenge in Iraq. The teachings of Islam are contrary to the actions of those responsible for the slaying of Mr. Berg, in the same manner that the teachings of Christianity are not reflected in the actions of those who perpetrated the prisoner abuse.

As thinking people living in the 21st century, we are alarmed at the situation today. The common faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam must help us avoid intolerance, anger and revenge. As we have said many times in public, the world is seeing a moral challenge to our common humanity. We as educators and community leaders are working to resolve the crises in our communities and countries, but we continue to need assistance from others to restore dignity to our societies.

The horrific killing of Nicholas Berg not only symbolizes a breakdown in the attempts to build peace, but also highlights a struggle within Muslim society. The shocking photos of prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib prison are abhorred by all, and, along with the murder of Mr. Berg, are signposts in the deteriorating relationship between Islam and the West. Both these incidents will feed into Islamophobia, or the general fear and hatred of Islam, and must be a cause of concern for all of us.

With our common humanity, we seek to create a better understanding among members of many faiths and cultures through positive and constructive dialogue. In spite of the recent deeply discouraging developments, we are committed to peace, compassion, mercy and justice.


Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies

American University


Lecturer on culture and international affairs

George Washington University


Executive board member

American Organization of Pakistani Professionals


All Dulles Area Muslim Society

Executive Council memberIslamic Society of North America


Former president

Muslim Community Center, Maryland


Professor of African studies

Howard University


Former undersecretary

U.S. Department of Agriculture


Associate professor of financeCatholic University

Socially engineered marriage

In Matt Daniels’ Friday Commentary column, “Marriagetax tango,” he states, “Recognizing this marriage penalty was both terribly unfair and incredibly unwise — given the importance of marital stability to social well-being … ” President Bush proposed elimination of the so-called marriage penalty, and Congress approved it, but only for a few years. What Mr. Daniels is proposing, and, indeed, what was passed in the House — a permanent elimination of the claimed penalty — is nothing more than social engineering. It is not the government’s job to promote marriage in the tax code. Is the “marriage penalty” unfair? Perhaps, but no more so than having single people pay property taxes to fund the free public education provided to the children of many of these couples saddled with the “marriage penalty.” Our current tax system is inherently unfair; however, it is time that special interest groups like Allegiance for Marriage stop manipulating the tax code for personal gain.



I really have to wonder what planet Matt Daniels has been living on these past few years. The Bush tax plan that went into effect did not eliminate the marriage tax. Yes, it did trim around the edges with increased deductions, and it did address the 10 percent tax bracket; however, there are additional brackets that were not addressed. The marriage tax is caused by forcing two wage earners to report their income jointly, thus pushing each wage earner into an artificially higher tax bracket. My working wife and I still pay several thousands of dollars a year in marriage taxes. People like Mr. Daniels do a disservice by suggesting that the marriage tax has been eliminated when it has not.

The fact is that under the current tax plan, Bill Gates and his wife get a marriage bonus while people like my wife and I pay the penalty. The simple way to fix this problem is to make the tax code marriage-neutral and have the government get out of the business of social engineering.


Easton, Conn.

Is rat on the menu?

Let me get your story straight (“Mouse found in Mother’s Day soup,” Metropolitan, Briefly, Tuesday). No one would bat an eye at getting huge chunks of a dead pig or chicken in a bowl of soup, but everyone’s up in arms over a woman finding a mouse in her soup instead. What’s the difference? Well, in this case, the mouse probably died a natural death or fell suddenly into the boiling liquid. His or her life undoubtedly beat the socks off the life of any intensively farmed animal destined for the table. Those unfortunates are forced to live in their own filth on hard concrete for months. Others are crammed into tiny cages, barely able to take a step. They are debeaked, dehorned, dewattled, desexed, de-everythinged without so much as an aspirin. Also, unlike the mouse, those animals have antibiotics and other chemicals, such as dioxins and arsenic, pumped into them.

The mouse’s death was likely less frightening and quicker than those of terrified farmed animals strung up by their feet and sent along a conveyor belt to the man with a knife. If this is enough to make you lose your lunch, you can get a free vegetarian starter kit with tasty, humane and healthy recipes that you can only enjoy, at PETA.org or by calling 888/VEG-FOOD.



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


Sallie at the candy store

Thursday’s editorial on student loan programs (“Misreporting on Sallie Mae”) inexplicably judges federal costs by looking at the size of the payments the Student Loan Marketing Association makes to its contractors. Those numbers mask the fact that taxpayers and students pay Sallie Mae far more than its costs. This explains the company’s obscene level of profitability, thanks to a candy store of entitlements set by politics rather than by competition.

The fact is that the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget — under the control of Republicans and of Democrats — have done a complete accounting and concluded that the Direct Loan Program is, by far, cheaper for taxpayers. For which other programs does The Washington Times suggest Congress ignore the official budget estimates?


Senior fellow

Program on Education and Society

Aspen Institute

Oakland, Calif.

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