After reading the Feb. 15 article, "Afghan Parliament debates chaperones for women," I find myself somewhat confused. In the article, the conservative Afghan legislator, Al-Hajj Abdul Jabbar Shalgarai, states that Islamic sharia law requires women to have a male relative acting as chaperone when traveling for more than three days because, "If someone else's woman is sitting in the same row of seats as you, well, human beings have different drives, including sexual drives. Sometimes these cannot be controlled. This is to save the dignity of women."
From this statement, Mr. Shalgarai seems to imply that a man's sexual feelings and subsequent actions cannot and need not be controlled by an effort of will, a life skill I would expect a man to have mastered by the time he is old enough to grow a beard. Does sharia really expect so little self-restraint of a grown man that it allows him to behave like an adolescent with impunity? He may not be able to control his lustful thoughts, but he should be able to control his actions. He can best preserve a woman's dignity (and his own) by behaving like an adult.
Regarding the Feb. 13 article, "Can Shiite Jaafari unify the new Iraq?": The only outcome that will cool the tempers of the now marginalized Sunnis is to make more effort to include them in Iraq's government. Trying to settle scores from Saddam Hussein's era will not help Iraq and the world.
The influential Sunnis must be told in no uncertain terms that preferential treatment is now time gone by. The Shiites also need to be told in no uncertain terms that too much power and suppression of other minority groups take them nowhere.
The Iraqis have a chance to move forward, and that time is now. Thank you for giving this issue space in your discussion and analysis.
It was refreshing to read your Feb. 16 editorial, "Where money politics is on the run," with its forthright stance on the need to radically reform congressional laws on campaign financing and lobbyists' contributions. I hope that the example of "aggressive ethics reform" being set by Connecticut's legislature will be heeded by its federal counterpart. The only thing more disheartening than watching "well-monied donors ... dominate campaigns and then later presume favors from the winners," is seeing the recipients of these generous donations blithely dodge toughening their own rules.
In many ways, I found "The hero that time forgot," the Feb. 14 review of Michael Kazin's biography of William Jennings Bryan, to be fair-minded and worthwhile. I strongly dispute, however, the remark that Mr. Kazin downplays Bryan's racism. Based upon my own reading of the book, I think that Kazin does fully address and assess that troubling aspect of Bryan's legacy.
The book documents how the "Great Commoner," for all of his rhetoric about social equality, did little, if anything, to promote the rights of African-Americans or protest injustices against that group. That racist approach, Kazin effectively shows, harmed not just Bryan's long-term reputation but also the fortunes of his Democratic Party.
Unfortunately, the review somehow manages to paper over those parts of the book.
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