In Indonesia, gains by liberal Muslims a step of progress

I enjoyed reading the Oct. 5 article, "In Indonesia, the struggle with Islam," on Indonesia's liberal Muslim intellectuals who formed the Liberal Islam Network. This group represents the flowering of much needed debate on Islamic law, history, and precedence. It is my earnest hope that their views and speech can be protected in Indonesia, and that they do not fall victim to Islamic militant groups that suppress free debate and discussion among Muslims. Islamic militants over the years have murdered such liberal Muslim intellectuals as the Iraqi Ahmed Shawkat and Egyptian Farag Foda. Egyptian Nobel Laureate Najib Mahfouz survived an attack in 1994.

The article's writer identified fatwas (religious edicts) issued by the Islamic scholar's council that condemn liberalism, secularism, and pluralism. These fatwas incite mob violence and intimidate intellectuals into remaining silent. The article demonstrates a vital aspect in the fight against those who use Islam to justify terrorism and repression.
Youssef Aboul-Enein
North Potomac, Md.

Appreciation for salsa's global reach

Regarding the Oct. 5 article, "Our reporter asks, Is this the rhythm of a world in step?": I'm very happy to learn that salsa music is universal and that it may contribute to world peace. Since salsa has some Cuban roots, I'm proud to know that it can be heard in many places and in many languages as well. It's reassuring to see how useful Latin rhythms can be in building bridges between different cultures.
Frank Vera

Teachers need good materials

A Sept. 26 letter to the editor (responding to the Sept. 19 Opinion piece, "College textbook prices are unfair and unnecessary") blamed additional teaching materials for unnecessarily driving up the cost of textbooks. As a Spanish-language teacher at both the college and high school levels, I can assure you that a good textbook and good ancillary materials are critical in developing students' abilities to their maximum. Even an experienced teacher is hardpressed to make up for a poor textbook and no materials. But an excellent textbook and good ancillary materials can help an inexperienced teacher provide an excellent learning experience to his or her students. The experiences that students most enjoy in class often revolve around the ancillary ("unnecessary") materials that offer wonderful video and auditory components that simulate real-life situations in other cultures, and that stimulate the portions of the brain not activated by words alone. It is amazing to me that students who won't blink at putting out hundreds of dollars on the latest electronic toy complain when they have to buy a college text. Well studied, a textbook will get them much further in life than an iPod.
Linda Davis Peairs
Chandler, Ariz.

Kurdish dialects make teaching difficult

Regarding the Oct. 5 article, "Opened with a flourish, Turkey's Kurdish-language schools fold": The Turkish government cannot help too much in including Kurdish as a language in public education. Which type of Kurdish? There are four completely different dialects of Kurdish, which makes it materially impossible to hold uniform Kurdish classes. If the idea is to create a single language and provide Kurds with a country from existing Turkish territory, that's purely wishful thinking.
Sadi Cayci
Ankara, Turkey

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