Letters to the Editor

Published the week of August 16-22, 2000

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Thank you to Jeannette Batz and The Riverfront Times for shedding light on the story of Abhaseen Barikzy ("The Torture Place," RFT, Aug. 9). As if being physically tortured were not painful enough, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for Barikzy to now be living in a strange place so far away from his home turf. And what a strange place this is. While so many Americans go about their business as usual, our government continues to use our tax dollars to sponsor ruthless acts of state terrorism in countries around the globe. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, scores of nonviolent American demonstrators have been crammed into jail cells for their involvement in protests surrounding the Republican National Convention. Many of them are being beaten, some of them have been denied medical attention for various ailments, and all of them are being stripped of their constitutional rights.

While the brutality in Philadelphia may not be quite as extreme as the frightening experiences of Abhaseen Barikzy, readers should be aware of the fact that this country is not always a safe place to be a political dissident.
Christopher Carley

The RFT did a brave thing in printing this horrifying record of just what Islamic extremism means. There are abundant Islamic apologists and obscurantists who insist there is "no such thing as Islamic extremism or fundamentalism; these are terms invented by Islamophobic Westerners," but it is all too clear that Islamic extremist regimes are threats to much more than their neighbors.

I have heard Muslims for years expressing shock that jihad means killing "enemies of Islam," but history both past and present shows what Muslims can do with Koranic injunctions to kill unbelievers. Currently, besides Afghanistan and Iran, there are various types of vicious Islamic movements brutalizing fellow Muslims (as well as Hindus, Buddhists, animists, Jews and Christians) in Algeria, Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan, all very explicitly in the name of Islam and jihad. It is a fact that the Koran itself and sharia law is very clear about Muslims (the preferred group) and non-Muslims, who are deliberately discriminated against with special laws, taxes and humiliations. Many Muslims believe quite seriously that there was never any military expansion of Islam or forced conversion, that somehow Islam spread naturally among defeated and invaded peoples. It is also a fact that under Islamic law, any Muslim converting to another religion or abandoning Islam for any reason is to be put to death. This was made clear in the story of Abhaseen Barikzy.

The enlightened world, which must include Muslims who do not support the enforcement of Spanish Inquisition-style religion, needs to speak out loudly about the backward and barbaric direction Islam seems to be turning. Denial of human rights that seem to be universally respected by enlightened humanity is more and more a cornerstone of Islamic movements. Abhaseen is fearful that there may be Muslim fanatics that will pursue him here! I have seen frightening Islamist propaganda magazines available in Islamic groceries locally, so he may have real reason to worry.
Alan Suits

No words can describe the horror and disregard for the sanctity of human life after reading your story. Actions done in the name of any religion fall short of respecting our humanity. What an extreme template for it is righteous under God.

Thank you for a moving, eye-opening and meaningful story. Also, thanks to Barikzy for sharing his tremendous life's story. I hope he finds sanctity in those around him.
Pete Settelmayer

This is a most incredible, powerful story. It was difficult to read -- man's inhumanity to man at its worst -- and I almost could not finish reading it. However, it is a compelling story. Life will be difficult for this gentleman because of these horrors he has experienced. However with time, treatment and an attitude of optimism, life will be better for him, his wife and certainly for his children. The children will benefit from his immigration, will have the opportunity to be educated in a free society, will feel more secure than he does and ultimately will make their way in life. The smiling photo of him holding his lovely 2-year-old daughter indicates to me that there is some joy in his life. The promise of the pretty, sweet face of Silsila says it all. The child will accomplish his dreams. Americans generally are more compassionate than to say, "Oh, sorry." However, Americans do not understand such torture over political and religious issues. His treatment was medieval. Yes, I am very sorry for his years of torture and pray that he and his family begin again in the tradition of the immigrants. Most of us have such backgrounds, ancestors who escaped conditions of deprivations and persecution. I wish him and his family much success.
Judy Feinberg Brilliant

Ray Hartmann could stand to brush up on his politics. Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is not looking for a running mate ("Lieberman's St. Louis Angle?" RFT, Aug. 9). He has long since found one in Native American- rights activist Winona LaDuke. You just never get to hear it on the news.

That aside, liberals have plenty of reason not to vote conservative -- whether it be Republican or Democrat. But Hartmann says that despite the similarities of both major parties, potential voters resignedly complaining of "no choice" overlook impending crises of Supreme Court vacancies and "other pivotal issues," too.

Not so. Deciding whom to choose to reliably nominate progressives to the court demands the same disappointing response: "There is no choice." Democratic presidents only timidly appoint progressive justices, as Republicans appoint them accidentally. Republicans, for example, gave us Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens and Souter. Clinton did not exactly pick a Thurgood Marshall, and Gore is not likely to, either.

Regarding "other pivotal issues," supposed liberal Democrats, busy appeasing conservatives, sacrifice reproductive rights, civil rights and civil liberties. In appeasing their corporate benefactors, Democrats sacrifice labor, health care and the environment. And, of course, they give death-penalty endorsements. Democratic presidents have been bland, ineffectual and bought. While Ralph Nader's winning the election could mean a miracle, so, too, would a Democratic Party spirit resurrected.
Randall Lampe
Gateway Green Alliance

I'm glad that someone in the local media addressed the issue (of few competitive primary elections) so bluntly ("A Primary Primer from Bad-Attitude Guy," RFT, Aug. 2). The fact that we had so many nonraces in the Aug. 8 primary election is primarily due to the impact of campaign contributions. The average citizen is exposed only to paid advertising and has a smaller public voice. Thus the average voter is less educated and less able to understand the substance of a candidate's campaign.

Where has the true art of public debate gone? Candidates are no longer voted for because of their ideas; instead, they win because they can outspend opponents, buying more face time and air time to voice their opinions.

The United States is one of the few countries that does not provide free air time to candidates during election campaigns so they may communicate to voters in a format conducive to substantive and accountable discourse. In fact, the amount that candidates will spend on a political advertising should rise sixfold between 1999 and 2000. Ask a candidate why he or she spends so much money to run ads that the public says it hates, and the response is always the same: "It's the only way I can be heard on television."

We need to change that by providing a forum on local television stations for real issue-oriented discourse. There is a movement to have stations give five minutes of free air time in the 30 days before the elections, which nationally is being led by the Alliance for Better Campaigns, which includes former Presidents Carter and Ford. This is a great opportunity that we have to make a difference in the few close races that are left in the state. Please encourage the station you watch to take this important step.
Tim Breeze

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