Women's rights in the new Afghan Constitution

Regarding your July 3 article "US-grown feminist's pace of reform riles Afghan women": As the subject of the article, I would like to respond to some important points about me and the women's rights situation in Afghanistan. First, I do not reject the sharia, or Islamic law, in the government, as you assert. On the contrary, I have consistently based my activism for Afghan women's rights on the 1964 Constitution precisely because it asserts Islam as the official religion.

So when I say I am against the government imposing Islam on us, I mean that I oppose a return to the whip and compulsion by decree of the Taliban, which had nothing to do with Islam or the sharia, despite the false claims of the Taliban to the contrary.

Your headline suggesting that I "rile" most Afghan women is misleading and seems almost deliberately designed to create a false impression. There are some who don't agree with me – mostly Taliban apologists or people who want to vindicate the Taliban and Pakistan by insisting that it is Afghan society that is intolerant. Others simply have political agendas of their own. In addition, many remember with pain and disgust how communism was both Godless and, as far as social freedoms were concerned, excessive. But my women's rights activism does not support any of these ideas and Afghans need not worry.

Then there are those, like Rahima Jami, mentioned in the article, who think it is "too much too soon." They invariably are talking about exercising rights, not opposing their inclusion in the Constitution. Ms. Jami is right. In her area of the country, to the west, the pace of implementing these rights will necessarily be slower, for women as well as men. Countrywide nonliteracy is around 90 percent for women and 80 percent for men. It is therefore unrealistic to talk about uniform implementation or taking equal advantage of rights in both, say, Kabul and Jami's district. This situation does not mean that such basic rights should be excluded from the new Constitution.

Finally, Afghanistan and Afghan women are not out of danger yet. I implore your readers to stay the course with us. I remain convinced not only that the restoration of the rights of women of Afghanistan is central in our fight against international terrorism and its abuse of Islam and women, but also that the new Constitution of Afghanistan will be the standard bearer for treatment of women the world over.
Nasrine Abou-Bakre Gross
Kabul, Afghanistan

Stopping illegal immigrants

Regarding your Aug. 21 editorial "Redefining illegal migrants": As a legal immigrant, my employment-based application for residency took 4-1/2 years to be approved. Richard Gephardt's bill would make it easier for an illegal immigrant to become a permanent resident than for a legal immigrant! Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Every green card granted to an illegal immigrant under an amnesty is one that will not be granted to a law-abiding legal immigrant.
Colm Meaney
Ashburn, Va.

A compromise between Richard Gephardt and President Bush's proposals to "solve" the overhang of 8 million illegal immigrants in the US would be a failure.

The best solution would be to enforce employer penalties that are still on the books from the 1986 amnesty (a onetime reprieve, coupled with a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers). Illegal immigrants injure work opportunities for low-skilled US workers and legal immigrants, contribute to housing pressures, and set the stage for social discord when the economy turns down. Enforced employer sanctions would reduce border crossings to a bare minimum.
Marvin Gregory
Renton, Wash.

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