Regarding the editorial ``Islamist Thought Police,'' July 21: No court of law has tried, far less sentenced, Taslima Nasreen to the death penalty, as the editorial seems to suggest. Such a demand, made by a private group or individual, should not be given disproportionate attention that could lead to a distorted perception of Bangladeshi society.
Ms. Nasreen did not criticize the Koran in her novel ``Shame.'' It was May 9, in an interview with The Statesman, that she said that ``the Koran should be revised thoroughly.'' When there was an adverse reaction, Nasreen issued a statement denying having made that remark, but added, ``My view on the issue is clear and categorical. I hold the Koran, the Vedas, the Bible, and all such religious texts as out of place and out of time.''
Following meetings and protests, the government of Bangladesh felt obliged to act under section 295 (A) of the Bangladesh penal code, which provides for action against anyone who deliberately and with malicious intent outrages the religious feelings of any citizen, group, or community. If Nasreen is found guilty, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment or a fine.
Following reports that someone had offered a reward for her death, a relative of Nasreen filed a lawsuit against the suspect. In this case, too, the law will take its course, and ironically, if proven guilty, this offense carries the death penalty. Also, a warning was issued that the government would take legal action against anyone making such threats.
While upholding freedom of expression, one must acknowledge that rights have to be exercised within the bounds of law and cultural sensitivities of a society. While duly respecting the concern expressed in various quarters, I trust it will be apparent that there is a distinction between legal prosecution for the violation of an existing law and persecution for free thought, or ``destroy[ing] an idea by murdering its author.'' Humayan Kabir, Washington Ambassador, People's Republic of Bangladesh
Nation awash in Whitewater
Thank you for the editorial ``Treading Whitewater,'' Aug. 2. You observe that ``so far, it is questionable whether the cost of this lesson is commensurate with the effect on the nation's civic business.'' I believe it is worth the cost. Such open hearings effectively educate public thought in a way not possible by the media. The live coverage allows the American system of government to be tested in the world arena. The nation's civic business is successful only as those in power uphold in their lives the standard of honesty, integrity, and decency.
A renewal in the expression of these virtues is being felt in all areas of activity - secular, business, educational, and religious. The ``cynicism and doubt'' of the ``Me Generation'' will be erased as we take responsibility for our actions. These hearings show how important personal integrity is and how it relates to a society striving toward a more perfect form of self-government. Ed Specht, Carlsbad, Calif.
Regarding the article ``Critics See Welfare Reform Increasing US Abortion Rate,'' July 22: The Hyde Amendment is currently coercing poor women to give birth to unwanted children because the government only pays for childbirth costs.
Our country's problems - crime, poverty, child abuse, substance abuse, the drop out rate, etc. - are the result of too many children being born unwanted and into homes where jail is a better standard of living.
Children are our greatest, most precious natural resource. Our country's future depends on all of our children growing up to be law-abiding, contributing members of society. A world of wanted children would make a world of difference. Nancy Kuka, Scottsdale, Ariz.
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