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Like the West, the Islamic World Has Many Sides

Regarding the editorial ``Islam and the West,'' Jan. 4: It is true that autocracy, cultural intolerance, and patriarchal attitudes toward women are prevalent in the Muslim world. However, these features are not unique to the Muslim world. Given their universality, more structural and global efforts are needed for their elimination than simply asking for a change of attitude. The Muslim world is not monolithic. It includes both believers and nonbelievers who find themselves in agreement with the West. At times, governments use religion for legitimizing repressive attitudes and behaviors. There have been many people in these countries who have accepted alienation, imprisonment, torture, and even death as the price for struggling against such repression. To their dismay, they often find Western governments, especially the US, allied with those forces perpetuating these attitudes and practices.

Most US administrations since World War II have supported ``friendly'' forces in Muslim countries even though some of these have obstructed the elimination of inhumane and repressive practices.

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Will the US pressure the Al Sabah family to exercise democracy in a liberated Kuwait? Did the US not remain mute when the Saudis suppressed the aspirations of Saudi women to drive? From whom do these Muslim autocrats receive their political and military support?

Akbar Mahdi Adrian, Mich.

Weapons and linkage The opinion-page article ``A US-Israeli Defense Pact,'' Jan. 7, concludes: ``It is well worth a try.'' While almost anything is worth a try to extricate ourselves and our allies from Saddam Hussein's web, this idea is not. The UN is the only body that should try to do anything like guarantee the defense of Israel.

There is a growing sense that Middle East conflicts are linked. Mutual reductions of nuclear, chemical, and missile-delivered weaponry are necessary, because without treaties, arms races are necessary for self-protection of every nation in the region.

I am shocked and angered that anyone thinks there is a case for creating a treaty committing the US to defend Israel or any other Middle East nation. We should position ourselves so that we owe no obligations to Israel, or to any other nation beyond the requirements we have assumed by our membership in the UN, the OAS, and other regional security organizations.

Robert O. Smith Newton, Mass.

Who is ever ready for war? Once again, Danziger has done it. His Jan. 2 cartoon [questioning military readiness in the Gulf] reminds me of my youth.

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Who is ever ready for war?

In the summertime, we would accumulate all the hollow-reed spears we could, and in the winter make snowballs and build a fort. Then the throwing began.

Who won? One side or the other exhausted all their ``things'' and would run. John Klein St. Joseph, Mo.

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