In war against terror, be consistent and tolerant

Your article "Morality and War" (Oct. 11) was an excellent study of the issues war brings up. The Christian countries of early Europe were constantly at war, so the Roman Catholic Church had two options: It could excommunicate those nations, or create a loophole that permitted their actions. Of course, if the church excommunicated most of Europe, it would be shooting itself in the foot, so instead it allowed war - if fought under certain conditions. Soon, rulers were citing those conditions as justification for starting a war, often for their own gain - hence the crusades. What will happen next? Will we rewrite the Bible? "Thou shalt not kill," unless....

Jack W. Treichler, Grade 10

Three Springs, Pa.

"Morality and War" shone light onto an area too-long dark to most Americans: Muslim thought. I hope that after Osama bin Laden is captured and his terrorist cell neutralized, America will change its Mideast policy, at least to a more neutral position. The cost of the current policy includes some 5,000 Americans, rising fears, and the loss of some liberties. Time for a change. For a start, let's support Palestine's request for a neutral UN peacekeeping force. That would go a long way in establishing our good faith, and bring a measure of peace to the region.

Larry Arsenault Arcata, Calif.

"Morality and War" quotes Prof. James Turner Johnson as saying that a fundamental difficulty between the West and Islam is that "We can't understand how they can have a society where religion and politics mix, and they can't understand why we don't." But Muslims do understand the philosophy of not mixing religion with politics. The problem is that the West cannot understand that it is no big deal for different peoples to lead different ways of life. Through their nourishment of tyrannical dictators, Western powers impose secularism against the will of Arab and Muslim societies. No one - Muslim or otherwise - can be content with a party that denies freedom and dignity.

Salah Ezz Cairo

Fight extremism, and our own flaws, too

In "Why Egypt produces extremists" (Oct. 12, opinion page), I totally disagree with Geneive Abdo's assumptions. The main assumption, it seems to me, is that if the United States preaches democracy, it is hypocritical to support authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that challenge dissent. Ms. Abdo fails to mention that, even in the so-called pluralistic democracies of the West, there are laws against crimes of hate and defamation to protect against threats to civil liberties.

Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism are to the Arab world what the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism were to the West. I believe the West, and authoritarian governments in question, must do everything possible to stamp out this Islamist cancer, a cancer that we can also equate to the cold-war communist threat.

Edgar Mauricio Sierra Jimenez

New Orleans

I find Geneive Abdo's take on the present situation exceptional ("Why Egypt produces extremists," Oct. 12, opinion page). I believe that her words extend far beyond Egypt, to the entire Muslim world. Granted, the attacks of Sept. 11 are inhuman, but there are no truly "innocent" parties involved. America's future lies in its ability to see its own shortcomings and deal with them. The greatest good that could come from this period is a realization that we have strayed from that which is truly important. There is a reason why many people in third-world countries resent the West - and it is not simply "religious fanaticism."

Aaron Troy Seattle

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