Letters to the Editor 

Week of February 6, 2002

Full-Service Park
Regarding Aquatic Park ("Cruise Judgment," January 23): According to Leroy Blea, Berkeley's AIDS coordinator, "It's a place where you can go and declare yourself as someone who has sex with men."

While local residents and park users are struggling to create a clean, usable recreation area, Blea is out putting packages of condoms in the bushes. Maybe he should put some champagne and Honcho magazines out there as well to fully provide a meaningful casual sex experience for the cruisers.

I have a plan. Give the crackheads who share the bushes with the cruisers $50 each to tear the bushes out. Everybody wins. The residents get a safer park and the crackheads make money. The cruisers can go to the Power Exchange and help the local economy instead of providing free and unwanted entertainment for the unwary hikers and joggers.

No wonder Berkeley is the laughingstock of the United States.

Joe Gristoe, via the Internet

Rage Against the Machine
Your "7 Days" column (January 9) accused Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission member Marie Bowman of a "back-room" deal, and her husband of something he did not do, which you retracted on January 16.

I believe the real back-room deal takes place in the East Bay Express office when unnamed "7 Days" reporter(s) prepare hit pieces based on tips from Berkeley's political machine and no evidence.

I consider it a low blow to trash a person who had the foresight to try to preserve her neighborhood mini-shopping area (at Dwight and Sacramento), from back-to-back, high-density, neighbor-unfriendly development.

Bowman has one vote of nine on the commission, which has six solid votes for developer Ali Kashani. The six votes are the five BCA (left-progressives) plus Miriam Hawley's appointee. Council member Hawley was endorsed by the BCA and received contributions from Kashani in the last election.

Ali Kashani does not deserve the special treatment he gets from the press. Would the Express dare to do an unbiased investigative report on Kashani? I doubt it.

Kashani is a major part of the left political machine, almost impossible to slow down for scrutiny and normal checks.

Anyone who dares to stand up to Kashani deserves every kind consideration, not a trashing by nameless, politically connected reporters. It makes a reporter's life much easier to accept the line of the machine. What would it take to write the real story?

Merrilie Mitchell, Berkeley

Remember the Visigoths!
Dr. Saeed's ("Is Islam to Blame?" December 12) assertion that "virtually never" in the last fifteen hundred years have Muslims gone "to kill infidels" and that Islamic "practice over 1500 years has remained peaceful" is false. Also false is his claim that jihad is always defensive. From the seventh to seventeenth centuries, Muslims certainly waged offensive wars, against pagan Arabia, which they obliterated, against the Persian and Byzantine empires, which they obliterated, against the Visigothic and Christian Balkan kingdoms, which they obliterated, and even against Central European states, which, however, they only managed to wound. And Sunni Muslim scholars certainly justified these conquests by the Koran 9:29, which enjoins Muslims to fight the Christians and Jews (People of the Book) until the latter acknowledge their political subjection to Muslims, and by the doctrine of jihad, which condones the Islamic world (dar al-Islam) attacking the non-Islamic war (dar al-harb) if they do not submit or convert.

Anyone who doubts that jihad can be offensive as well as defensive should start by referring to the entry under "djihad" in the Encyclopedia of Islam, published by Brill, a work of impeccable scholarship. Those desiring more evidence can refer to an accessible translation of some Muslim scholarly texts used to justify offensive jihad in Bat Yeor's book, Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam (pp. 295-305). Muslims did not wage fewer offensive wars against the West after 1700 because they were more "peaceful" than before, but because they were militarily weaker. As for Saeed's claim that non-combatants are not supposed to be attacked in a jihad, I must point out, as one who has actually read many of the primary source documents produced by those victimized by the Arab, Seljuk, and Ottoman conquests, that these sources frequently refer to women, children, monks, and other non-combatants being killed or enslaved by their Muslim conquerors. There have never been conquests of large territories without significant collateral damage, and Muslim armies have been no better in that regard than non-Muslim armies. (Those who doubt this should refer to the primary sources cited in Robert Hoyland's Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, in Bat Yeor's Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, in Andrew Palmer's The Seventh Century in Western Syrian Chronicles, and in Speros Vryonis' Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor.)

In contrast to Saeed's not untypical attempt to falsify or distort the history of Muslim jihad, the history of Western conquests is today treated in a more critical and balanced way: It is not popular anymore to simply whitewash the aggressive aspects of Western imperialism. Until Muslims bring the same self-critical view to their history of jihad against non-Muslims, the temptation to engage in significant acts of acts of violence against predominantly non-Muslim societies will not fade.

As for Saeed's comments about democracy and the Islamic world, he covers up the sticking point, which is not "majority rules" but "minority rights." As he admits in the case of Iran, the fact that Muslim-majority societies can force their laws and views on their non-Muslim and more moderate Muslim compatriots is small comfort to those non-Muslims and liberal Muslims whose human rights are so savagely violated. The reason why no society today, not even a predominantly Muslim society, can be ruled by religious laws and still be free and fair to all its citizens, why law must strive to be as neutral regarding religion as possible, is because in every country there is an atheist minority, a minority that interprets their religion differently from the courts, and a minority that wants to change or leave their religion.

Alice Whealey, via the Internet

Correction:
In the January 23 story, "Cruising Judgment," we misquoted city of Berkeley AIDS coordinator Leroy Blea as saying about closet men who cruise Aquatic Park: "This is anonymous sex. It's a place where you can go and declare yourself as someone who has sex with men." According to the reporter's notes, Blea really said, "This is anonymous sex. It's a place where you don't have to declare yourself as someone who has sex with men."

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