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Letters to the Editor

Conflation in ‘the West’

In Basier Aziz’s Feb. 14 opinion piece, “When Violence Begets Violence and Tolerance is Forgotten,” the author willfully ignores important facts and confuses language and intent. First, the author conflates the 12 cartoonists publishing in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten with “the West.” This is similar to the requests that a few Arab countries have made of the Danish government, to sanction the newspaper, as though the government had any such power. In “the West,” as Mr. Aziz clearly knows, free speech and open press laws prevent such censorship.

Second, I am intrigued by his comment about protestors and the “presumed Zionist underpinnings of the oppression inflicted upon Muslim lands.” Where exactly are “Zionists” persecuting Muslims in Saudi Arabia or Iraq? I would guess that Mr. Aziz is referring to Israel, though I question how that could unilaterally be called “Muslim land.” Or perhaps Mr. Aziz means the war in Iraq. Does he assert that the war is under the auspices of some large Zionist conspiracy? Or does he simply write from the perspective of the average protestor? I wish that Mr. Aziz could clarify that point.

I thought the stories Mr. Aziz wrote about the tolerance of the Prophet Mohammed were beautiful, and would love to learn more. Such tolerance should be a lesson to all of us. However, members of a free and lawful society cannot tolerate the burning of embassies, or threats of violence, such as the protestors in London who carried placards saying “7/7 is on its way,” and threatening a Holocaust against the United Kingdom.

Mr. Aziz speaks woefully of the War on Terror, and an American failure to capitalize on possibilities of rapprochement. It is clear, I think, to most Americans and MIT students, that America did not begin this War on Terrorism. Mr. Aziz’s only concession to another perspective is that “the Muslim world could be criticized as well for its shortcomings.” Clearly, then, it is not simply “premature judgments” that have led some Americans to hold misguided views about Islam. Mr. Aziz, the violence demonstrated over the Danish cartoons will not help change these views about Islam, which, I agree with you, are unfortunate and impede the possibilities for understanding.

Samuel L. Raymond ’06