>Muslims have a lot to learn about freedom of expression
A Feb. 4 News headline was apt: "Islamic rage reveals wide cultural gap." In the photograph on page A2, we see the extent of that gap. To the placard-carrying extremist Muslims reacting to European editors who ran the caricature of Muhammad wearing a turban in the form of a bomb, there is no such thing as freedom. If you print ideas that are blasphemous to Islam, the extremists threaten to "slay," "demolish," "behead," "butcher" or "exterminate" you.
Our Western culture knows that freedom is all about allowing humans to express their differences without fear of physical harm from peers or government. I leave it to the Muslims to close this cultural gap. I opt for the principle of freedom rather than the use of physical force when you don't agree with others. Placards expressing disagreement are proper; placards threatening death are not.
Allison T. Kunze
>Killing is more offensive than any cartoon could be
As a civil libertarian, I must speak up for freedom of speech and of the press. I am discouraged by the angry reaction of Muslims to the cartoons that offended Islam; and disappointed by the American and European officials who apologized for the drawings.
Make no mistake: the cartoons were offensive, and blasphemous, to Muslims. But Muslims, wherever they live, were not the intended audience of the artist who drew the caricatures. The audience lives in Europe and America.
On Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 citizens of various countries, but mostly Americans, were killed on American soil. Since then, and before then, people of various backgrounds (including Muslims) have died as the result of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. I do not agree with President Bush on many things, but I agree with him when he says that beheadings are barbaric.
The killing of innocent people is offensive to me. I am still angry about 9/1 1, and I know I am not alone. Someone please explain to me why freedom of expression is wrong, but mass killing is right.
>Extremist beliefs lead to tragedy, destruction
The recent destructive demonstrations over the publication of cartoons critical of violence by Muslims underscore the inevitable kinship between religion and the ancient concept of the tragic flaw as depicted in Western drama.
When people believe they know the only truth, and everyone else is wrong, they are on the slippery slope to genocide. All religious people are in danger of this tragically destructive outlook. They feel free to make the most insulting and demeaning comments about others and condemn them to the most brutal fates imaginable, but the slightest criticism of the religion in question, and they embark upon the path toward slaughter of other human beings because of abstract beliefs.
The first test of any belief should be: Does it allow us to respect the rights of other human individuals above all else? That would have to include the right to criticize even that which we cherish above all else. Anything that fails this test -- call it crusade, jihad or just plain murder -- is anti-human barbarism.
>Parker reveals her ignorance in column about caricatures
In response to Kathleen Parker's Feb. 5 column, it is she who "doesn't get it" regarding Muslims' rage about caricatures of a violence-prone Muhammad in European newspapers. Journalists may claim freedom of speech, but sophisticated Muslims know that certain forms of xenophobia such as anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism are hate crimes punishable with jail time in Europe; and they see the open display of such insults to Islam as gross hypocrisy.
Of course, such sentiments are exacerbated by the Muslim sense of European and American favoritism toward Israel. Parker uses her reading of the situation to indulge her petty disdain toward President Bill Clinton, but reveals her own ignorance of the situation. It is not "extending special concessions to sensitive Muslims" to at least give the impression that the press is treating them with consideration equal to that given to Jews.
>Newspapers must unite in support of free press
The publication of cartoons in Danish media, representing the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and deemed by his worshippers to be insulting, has become a crucial skirmish in the escalating strife between liberal democracy and repressive theocracy. But only a handful of European news outlets have shown the courage to support their Danish colleagues by publishing the cartoons.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims claim that Islam alone must be immune from criticism while its minions threaten and carry out all manner of calumny and physical violence against those who criticize or even disagree with its dogma. The Danish and other publishers of the cartoons in question should be unequivocally supported by every news and opinion outlet in the free world, including The News. This is the essence of our democratic process and to retreat from its defense will prove to be a major defeat in the "war" in which we are engaged.
>First Amendment comes with great responsibility
In a Feb. 2 News article, Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles said he "understands" the response to his cartoon, which used an armless and legless Iraq war veteran as a prop in his attempt to discredit Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Toles also said he did not regret what he drew. Why would he? He has never spent an hour in the service of his country, and could not begin to understand the depth of feeling he is dealing with.
Isn't it ironic that the blood and sacrifice of so many Americans is the very thing that protects his freedom to wield a poison pen? With the great power bestowed by the First Amendment comes responsibility, a theme voiced by the founding fathers. Toles' tasteless work was irresponsible to the extreme.
And do the editors of those newspapers that carry his work not have a responsibility to their readers to say that this particular cartoon is so offensive that we choose not to publish it? Toles also said he did not mean for the cartoon to be a derogatory comment on the sacrifice of American soldiers. With a friend like Toles, veterans and active-duty troops don't need any enemies.
>Don't attack Toles for telling it like it is
The Joint Chiefs' attack on Tom Toles was a case of "me thinks the lady doth protest too much." The cartoon, reprinted in The News on Feb. 1, showed a soldier in bed with no arms or legs and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a doctor diagnosing his conditions as "battle-hardened" -- Rumsfeld's own words describing U.S. troops in Iraq.
For the generals not to be reminded of the facts of this administration's pre-emptive, illegal and immoral occupation in Iraq would be most convenient for them, but Toles wouldn't let them get away with it. So they attack with deceptive accusations. Oh, generals, let's get our facts straight. Saddam Hussein didn't attack the United States, wasn't involved in 9/1 1 and wasn't the source of terrorism that the U.S. occupation has created.
The cartoon was supporting the U.S. troops who are stuck trying to stay alive in a failed foreign policy gambit brought on by the right-wing militarists. Those facing the truth aren't offended by the cartoon. Dave Autry, deputy communications director for Disabled American Veterans, said he was "certainly not" offended by Toles' cartoon.
>Where is Robin Hood when we need him?
My fellow Americans -- I mean peasants, paupers and pawns -- welcome to the era of "merry old England" once again. Here we are with President Bush as Prince John, Donald Rumsfeld as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Vice President Cheney as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, along with a messy situation between church and state, and individual rights.
The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. The middle class is being squeezed to death as taxes go up for the working class and down for the wealthy. Complicitous dukes (CEOs) and their kingdoms are making record profits and giving themselves record bonuses as the jobs, wages, health care and benefits are being cut for the working people.
The paupers are still fighting a war (crusades) against the Muslims -- it's never done by the rich or those who vote for a war. I guess we haven't learned as much as we thought. History is repeating itself. We can only hope for Robin Hood to help us until King Richard returns.
>Bush is the wrong man to denounce violence
President Bush says the United States will not negotiate with democratically elected Hamas, since that organization refuses to renounce violence. How ironic, coming from a "Christian" president who embraced a "shock and awe" pre-emptive war; who believes there should be few limitations on the torture of prisoners; and who sees nothing wrong with the United States maintaining tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Hamas should renounce violence, but the admonition to do so cannot credibly come from Bush.
>Creationists embrace natural selection
In his Jan. 29 Viewpoints article, "Darwin under attack," Mark Kristal attempts to defend evolution as a de facto theory, and using no scientific support, claims failure to accept the theory as on par with the likes of Newtonian mechanics is "trivializing." He puts evolution and natural selection side by side, perhaps to show they are synonymous. But natural selection is not evolution in a molecules-to-man sense. Indeed creationists embrace natural selection, and animal and plant breeders make use of its principles using artificial selection, validating it as true.
Kristal denies that creationism can make predictions, yet it predicts variation limits in selection. But selecting out already present genes is a reduction of genetic information, and evolution needs a mechanism to increase it.
Kristal claims science is culture free. But each scientist brings along culture and beliefs. Regardless of the beliefs of it supporters, intelligent design challenges evolution simply because evolution provides a poor explanation of the evidence.
>Haeckel and his drawings were discredited long ago
As a longtime educator in the life sciences, I have read many a letter supporting or attempting to discredit evolution. For those who want to debate facts, I say fire away. But a Jan. 31 letter was so full of flaws that it cannot be taken seriously.
The author implied that Darwin's theory was supported by the drawings of Ernst (not Ernest) Haeckel over 100 years ago. Darwin had not only put forth his theory before Haeckel, he had died some two decades before. Haeckel is a shadowy figure, linked with the occult and the pseudo-science of eugenics in Germany. He was a colleague of many future leaders of the Third Reich.
Haeckel and his drawings of embryos were discredited by scientists over 100 years ago. The late Stephen J. Gould, an important researcher in forwarding the understanding of evolution theory, equated Haeckel's work to "the academic equivalent to murder." Debate if you must, but please fact check first.
H. Glen Graham
>Tokasz sticks it to taxpayers yet again
As if Western New Yorkers aren't taxed enough, Erie County residents get a sales tax increase to bail out the county. But wait, courtesy of Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz, a larger portion of sales tax revenue will go to individual towns. What a windfall for the towns -- they get increased revenue without raising their taxes. But, because of this windfall, our county property taxes will increase even more.
It isn't enough that County Executive Joel Giambra's political career is over. To make the point, Tokasz needs to kick Giambra when he's down. Tokasz's ego trip comes at the expense of county taxpayers. But it shouldn't come as a surprise. His initial response to the county's fiscal problems was that we haven't been taxed enough. Thanks for helping to remedy that situation.
>Local politicians must be salivating over new funds
I can hear the slurping from the local politicians as I'm writing this. More money in the trough to feed on. Will our local taxes be cut with the sharing of the temporary sales tax, or will these politicians be losing sleep on ways to waste it on more patronage? Once they get their taste buds into this one, their appetites will take over.