Saturday, October 16, 2004

Letter to the editor

The internet and technology are great...have I said that before?
Anyway, I get to read newspapers from all over the world, and
one I frequently read is the Cincinnati Enquirer...I grew up there.
When I first connected up to the internet (1997), I'd read papers
from places I'd lived, I'd visited, or where something interesting
was happening. Frequently an article would catch my eye and
ruffle my feathers, and I'd quickly (well for me, 30 wpm is quickly,
Elesa probably doesn't think so at 100+ correct spelling and
grammer wpm). Anyway, I eventually got a life, or the novelty
wore off, and I can't remember the last time I wrote to an editor.
Although, thinking about it, I have written Senators, congressmen/
women , a couple of radio talk show hosts, and an occassional individual
newspaper columnist in the past year.

Well today an article caught my eye
It's not the first time I've seen articles, or pieces on television with
this general tone. If you don't feel like reading the article, the
general tone is, Islam is so misunderstood, its a peaceful religion etc.
The news pieces generally use a U.S. source and examples. This time,
"I couldn't take it anymore", and I wrote the following letter...(another
cool thing about the internet, if they don't publish my letter, I can!)

Letter to the Editor, Cincinnati Enquirer:

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, but as an adult, I have travelled
extensively throughout the world. Unfortunately this article (and the
Islamic Center) aim to perpetuate the myth that Muslims and Islam
in the U.S. are representative of Muslims and Islam the world over.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

The average Muslim is dirt poor by U.S. standards, is far younger than
the U.S. average, and so poorly educated, they are likely to be illiterate
(far more so if female). The average Muslim lives in a country like Pakistan
(about 13% of world's Muslims), Indonesia (over 17%), Bangladesh (over
10%), not the U.S. nor even the Middle East (another myth). The most
populous Arabic country, Egypt only accounts for about 6%. But in ANY
of these cases, the per capita GDP is in the neighborhood of $2000 or in
some cases far less. Literacy rates are reported as less that 50% for
Pakistan and Bangledesh (and that is being generous).

Abaya (the robe part of the clothing) is essentially required in Saudi Arabia
(1.5%) even for visiting western Christian women. Once you add in the
number (a number that is growing) of women wearing Burqa in Afghanistan
(2.4%), Pakistan, Turkey (5.6%), Malaysia (1.3%, and where after a string of
rapes and murders in 2003 there were calls for all women to be covered),
Iran (5.7%) and Iraq (2%), its quite evident that significantly more than
"less than one-half of 1 percent of Muslim women worldwide wear the burka"
as the article states. In many cases, but unfortunately not all, the article is
correct when it states "Those who wear a hajab - scarf - do so for modesty".
In far to many countries and cases these days, the abaya, burqa, and hajib
have become symbols of totalitarian oppression.

Islam in the United States may be a "non-violent religion that respects peace",
I've never been to a mosque in the U.S. to be able to say otherwise. However,
in a number of the countries mentioned above, I have personally heard the loud
speakers from the mosques blare, I've read the newspapers, and seen their TV was not "peace love and understanding" blaring, they were not kind
words that I read, and it was not a pretty picture on the television.

All percentages after a country name are the approximate percentage of the
world's Muslim population in that country.
The United States accounts for less than 1/10 of 1% of the world's Muslim

Last, I'd like to point out that Islam does not have a monopoly on illiteracy or
poverty. Illiteracy and poverty abound in much of the world, no matter what
the religion.

John Labanz

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