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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Beheadings Signal a Test of Wills

June 25, 2004

The beheading of American Paul M. Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia and now South Korean Kim Sun Il in Iraq (June 23) is a painful and powerful reminder that we, the U.S., are intruders in a part of the world where we have no business. Unless, of course, you are talking about oil.

Take the oil out of the equation and Americans would be just as scarce in the Middle East as they now are in Africa, where deaths from crimes against humanity are rampant.

We are engaged in a test of wills; President Bush is determined to maintain a presence in the Middle East, and the Muslim world is determined that it will not happen. Saudi Arabia is playing on both sides of the street because that fits its agenda. The test of wills will continue for the rest of time as it has from the very beginning; there will be no winners, only losers: the ordinary people on both sides.

Philip Wilt

Van Nuys

"Beheading for Sake of Fear, Not Islam" (June 22) quotes Notre Dame professor of Arabic and Islamic studies Asma Afsaruddin: "There is absolutely no religious imperative for [beheading]."

Americans are seriously trying to understand the nature of Islam, and many have even purchased English copies of the Koran to further their understanding. Nothing could be a clearer and more authoritative contradiction to Afsaruddin's statement than Surah 47, Verse 4, which says, "When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly." Furthermore, there are ample websites that provide historical accounts of beheadings by Muslims, including a beheading of 600 to 900 men of the Qurayza tribe supervised by Muhammad himself.

Yes, beheading is meant to sent a chilling message to non-Muslims. Where is your moral conviction to honestly inform your readers the true source of this barbaric practice?

Chris Chrisman

Los Angeles

A June 22 letter expressed anger not only at the murderers who beheaded Paul Johnson but also at the Bush administration for fueling a "new, widespread hatred toward America." I would like to remind this reader (and others) that 9/11 was planned long before Bush was in office, another attempt to blow up the World Trade Center was executed in the early 1990s and there were the bombings of the U.S. destroyer Cole and our embassies in Africa. The list goes on. All were done before Bush was president.

The fact is that the Islamic extremists' terrorist war on us long predates Bush. It has nothing to do with Bush and everything to do with their depraved goal of destroying our Western way of life.

Joseph Gold

Torrance

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