A Front Porch article by Patrick O'Neill Oct. 10 and a response printed in Back Talk, Oct. 17, by professor Barbara Risman recount objections to an event scheduled at a church in Chapel Hill and at North Carolina State University on Sept. 18 this year. The event was a Partners for Peace national tour of "Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared City." Mr. O'Neill quoted a letter from Prof. Risman to colleagues with respect to the "insensitivity of scheduling the event on Rosh Hashanah." In objecting to being quoted without permission, Prof. Risman clarified that she had objected because having the event on Rosh Hashanah would have "excluded not only my own but most other Jews' participation."
As a Jew, I find professor Risman's remarks offensive and hypocritical. Many Jewish people may attend synagogue for a period of hours on Rosh Hashanah, but few are so observant that they would spend the whole day in prayer. Most Jews whom I know go to work and attend school as usual. Furthermore, even if a person is accustomed to spending the entire day in prayer, it is not a violation of Jewish law or teaching to engage in other activities. A program about life in Jerusalem, especially one that promotes ethical reflection, is consistent with observing Rosh Hashanah, a day for critical reflection on one's deeds during the previous year.
The cancellation of the event at N.C. State denied students, faculty, and the general public an outstanding educational opportunity presented in the framework of a scheduled class. This constitutes a grave violation of academic freedom. I urge the N.C. State chancellor, and anyone who may have the opportunity to sponsor future programs on Israel, not to succumb again to pressure from self-appointed Jewish spokespersons. Those who succeeded in canceling talks by the three women have done a grave disservice to N.C. State students, to other Jews, and to all who seek to deepen human understanding.
--ANDREW SILVER, HILLSBOROUGH
Unenlightened political correctness
I read Godfrey Cheshire's piece, "Children of Abraham," when it appeared in the Oct. 10 issue. It truly bugged me for an entire week. Then I reread it again, to see if I could pinpoint the cause of my ire and general defensiveness. Then, "Voila! There it was!" In his high-handed manner of taking the masses to task for failing to truly understand the Islamic faith, history in general and European history in particular, Mr. Cheshire arrogantly failed to mention any of the Africans' and Moors' contributions to mankind and history at all. I guess one could just chalk it up to another "whitewash," but it was more than I could bear. He was right in his assertion that most Americans are ignorant when it comes to other cultures beyond their own and what is considered relevant to their history, much less their day-to-day life.
Our universities do not teach you how and why the people of Northern African descent were virtually extinguished from the face of the earth. No, can't do that because Blacks, African Americans or whatever they are calling themselves these days might really wonder what their own history was before slavery. Can't have that. Nope. Can't allow them or the world, for that matter, to know that the principal written works that the power elite read, know and still execute with utmost precision, The Prince and The Art of War, were derived from tactics observed and acquired by the Moors. Weapons that we use to this very day were designed or originated from and by the Moors. When the "church" decided that these foreigners were changing their world and challenging their intelligence, much less their religion, it was decided that the Moors must be annihilated, including their glorious culture, except for what the Europeans could "adapt" for themselves, of course.
Mr. Cheshire said this country learned on Sept. 11 "what it feels to have foreigners invade and desecrate one's home--or at least non-Southerners." Well, how racist is that? Let's ask the real natives of this great land, the Native Americans and the Mexicans.
I agree with Mr. Cheshire when he says that the silver lining in all of this may very well be a better understanding of Muslims and the Islamic faith as well as the various factions of this religion and other faiths beyond Judaism and Christianity. I am glad people are buying books and seeking to explore anything beyond their own comfort zone to reach out for better understanding. Let's hope it's not just a passing fad. We Americans do have short attention spans. Television and the media in general encourage that. Media mantra: On to the next story. I know Gary Condit is somewhere sighing with relief.
Mr. Cheshire is right when he says the Islamic faith is the fastest growing faith in the world today. We should all take a closer look and try to understand why it is growing in the manner it is and where it is growing the fastest. He's right when he asserts that "the West is ignorant because it has spent a thousand years constructing all manner of cultural, intellectual and social barriers to protect it from a competition over truth, the ultimate dispensation of God." So, we say we want to know why these extremists did what they did. We may never know. What is a sure bet is that we should probably take a closer look at our own home-grown terrorist nuts before we start assigning blame to anyone else.
--GLORIA ASBURY-COVINGTON, RALEIGH
The new vigiliance
I find it interesting that Secret Service agents would investigate the complaint mentioned ["The Poster Police," Nov. 21] yet I could get no one here in Utah to look into a drawing by a high-school student of people shooting a figure labeled "President Clinton." I had no way of knowing if it was of plans overheard at home or just a statement of displeasure with his policies. What made the source of this tip so much more reliable than me? I had the drawing in my possession and knew who had made it.
Of course this was before Columbine High, this was before Sept. 11 and the War on Terrorism. When they say this would have been looked into before those events, I have to ask again, why not when it was against President Clinton? Does the Secret Service take its job of protecting President Bush more seriously? Was the source more reliable? Can the Utah agents be trusted to protect the President when he comes to visit Utah during the Olympic games? If this is published, will I be questioned at my door for daring to raise these questions?
It sounds like the "Poster Police" conducted themselves in a professional manner. It is too bad someone gave them a poor tip based on a misunderstanding. Let's hope the training has improved in recent years and we can step up security without infringing on the freedom of expression. Ms. Brown, keep raising your questions too. The Secret Service probably cannot answer the questions I have raised here, but let's hope they can find answers soon.
--MICHAEL W. YOCOM, PROVO, UTAH
Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to email@example.com; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.