Letters

9/11 hindered, not helped, Muslim resistance to extremism

In her Oct. 18 Opinion piece, "9/11 was Good for the Muslim World," Mona Eltahawy makes several claims with which I respectfully disagree. She suggests that Muslim resistance to internal religious extremism was a direct result of the events surrounding 9/11. While the tragedies of 2001 certainly lent urgency and publicity to this resistance, it had been quietly under way for many years.

In Egypt, in Lebanon, in Iran, ordinary citizens were all too often the casualties of the ultraconservative religious revival that swept the Middle East between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. A very real resistance grew up in response to this violent fanaticism.

In Egypt, extremism was challenged from within the mosques by moderate sheikhs like Dr. Ali Gomaa, who is now the country's grand mufti, or chief religious authority. In Iran, antiextremists were, and continue to be, absorbed by underground Sufi brotherhoods, which practice a mystical form of Islam.

The pre-9/11 resistance to extremist Islam was quiet for a very good reason: Its agitators lived in fear for their own lives. Without the cover of Western media attention or financial relief from the Middle East's largely secular elite, dissenters were forced to conduct their resistance as anonymously as possible. The 9/11 attacks could not have been more damaging to these local movements.

The post-9/11 Muslim reformist movement to which Ms. Eltahawy refers has been dominated by what is known as "cultural" or "progressive" Islam, a movement that has sadly created as many rifts as it has healed. Progressive Islamic rhetoric has alienated many practicing Muslims, who see the rise of Islam-as-ethnicity as damaging to Islam-as-religion. This has created a dangerous split between moderate and liberal Muslim groups that might otherwise have stood together against fundamentalism across the globe.

September 11 was not good for the Muslim world. The 9/11 attacks were not good; they were a tragedy and a crime. And their aftereffects continue to unfold for all to see.
G. Willow Wilson
Ms. Wilson is a freelance journalist and commentator.
Cairo

Sports bring communities together

David P. Barash has some good points in his Oct. 26 Opinion piece, "Our sports-watching affliction." In a successful capitalistic society such as the US, where the average fan has excessive disposable income and abundant leisure time, spectator sports are taken to the extreme. Any and all for-profit ventures to take advantage of this fact just feed the frenzy.

Mr. Barash seems upset that this represents a cultural superficiality of some sort. While grown people playing games for large sums of money has tended to bring out some of the less desirable aspects of human behavior, it cannot be denied that support of the local sports team is a glue that holds societies together - rabid fans hail from all socioeconomic classes, races, and ethnic groups. Sports are an equal opportunity emotional tie to one's community and its members. They create a commonality, albeit a superficial one, that virtually everyone can get behind. There aren't many other things that can make this claim.

Just as with any other activity or interest, moderation is prescribed and preferred, but the nature of the beast tends toward the opposite. Three cheers for sports-watching affliction and for patience on the part of those with "better things" to do with their resources and emotional committment!
Donald D. Dickson
Vienna, Va.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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