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Letters to the Editor 9/13

Avoid prejudice against Arabs, Muslims

For the first time in my seven years at USF, I went to the Library and saw no international students gathered outside talking. For the first time since I escaped to America during the Gulf War, I received dirty looks and heard muttered slurs as I walked around campus. And for the first time I am realizing how devastating ethnocentrism truly is.

For 17 hours I watched the news from the moment the second jet crashed into Tower Two to the collapse of Building 7. I answered phone calls, e-mails and instant messages from angry friends and worried students. My fingers are cramped and bruised from typing, and yet I don?t know who to be angrier at ? those behind the devastating attacks or those who would monopolize the images to stir up vengeful patriotism.

Let me make one thing clear to everyone. Afghanistan is neither an Arab country nor a part of the Middle East. It is a fallacy to equate the Muslim religion with an Arab heritage ? the Muslim religion extends as far as the Philippines. Regardless of whether Osama bin Laden is responsible for the attack, we can?t go around shaking our fist in the air and asking for retribution by ?turning the Middle East into a vacant parking lot.? Justice is one thing, revenge is another. I wholeheartedly agree that those behind the attack should answer for what they have done, but I don?t think that anger and hatred should be geared towards an entire country for the actions of a few unless they are harboring or protecting the terrorists. Besides, no one even has a clue as to who is behind all of this. Speculation is not a concrete answer to any of the questions being asked about this horrendous situation.

I have managed to go about my business despite the reactions I have been facing. And the strangest thing of all is that I am not even Muslim or an Arab.

I just ?look? like one. Yes, I was born and raised in Kuwait, and yes, I did take mandatory Arabic language and Muslim religion classes. But citizenship and naturalization laws do not work the same way in other countries as they do in America.

I am ethnically an Armenian, but I have the benefit of knowing what it is like to live in an Arab culture, be taught their cultural mores, and feel the fear that many of them must be experiencing on campus right now. Most teachers I talk to tell me that their Arab students have not shown up to class today. And can you blame them? The fear caused by the attacks is being siphoned down to those being grouped and generalized into the Arab or Muslim category. I am fortunate enough to have been socialized into this culture and to have experienced this fear of the ?other? and difference when I first came to this country, but many do not. Please, take the time to be informed and don?t walk around like a half-cocked gun. The answer to loss of innocent life is not the loss of other innocent life. Retribution is not found in the punishment of a country. We are all angry, afraid, and we all want answers, but pointing fingers and being impatient will only make matters worse. Violence only begets more violence.

By the same token, we should all take what we see and hear through the media with a grain of salt. There is no doubt that the media thrives on sensationalism, and while much of their looping of the crash videos and so on is mostly a motive to create anger through patriotism (and naturally to feed our sensationalist desires), it is being used in the worst way.

We can?t use this situation to our benefit to rally the American people to call for war. I am all for free speech and freedom of the press but there is a line that you do not and should not cross. Hiding behind the right of the public to know doesn?t mask the real intention. This is not the time for us to use waving flags, religion or horrifying images as our ammunition for attack.

I feel for all the families who have lost loved ones, and for the students, especially freshmen, who must be devastated by this. I have answered every question from ?Why did this happen?? to ?Do you think we will go to war?? And the honest answer is: I don?t know. No one does, at least not yet. Speculation is just that. Let?s not forget the assumptions right after the Oklahoma City bombing. We were so sure Muslim-Arabs were responsible and it ended up being ?one of our own.? The basic motive behind any terrorist attack is to elicit fear and panic, and we don?t need to give in. Let?s all be somewhat cool and collected (not emotionless) and try to educate those who are quick to judge and ready to point fingers and fire buttons. This is a harsh reality check for the American public to realize its ethnocentrism and to be aware of what is going on in the world around them. This could, can, and did happen anywhere in the world. Let us all hope for justice to come swiftly and without loss of more innocent life.

Fadi Akhtar is a graduate student and teacher in the English department.

Picture of man falling, shocking and distasteful

I am completely and utterly appalled at the picture you included in the Oracle on Wednesday. What was the news value of the photo of the man falling out of the building? Was it shock value? We are already shocked. Was it to invoke rage? We are already outraged. There is no reason for it. And to have blown it up to boot … what were you thinking? How would you feel if you had family in that building and this is the last image you have of them?

Let us try to be sensitive and caring in covering events of this magnitude and impact. If you only have interest in tabloid, sleaze journalism you hit your mark. If you are truly interested in being a responsible news gathering entity, you missed the mark terribly.

Diane Chase is a staff member of the College of Arts & Sciences Dean?s office.

Disgusted and appalled at use of photograph

I am appalled and disgusted with The Oracle?s tasteless display in Wednesday?s paper on Page 14. With the whole nation in shock and emotions running high, what possessed it to blow up a picture (which it didn?t take) of a poor man falling to his death? Was it for shock value?

You certainly succeeded in that respect and as far as that goes, I used to respect The Oracle and defend it when others knocked it. Now I view The Oracle as badly as I view the National Enquirer.

You have lost my respect as a reader, and I am sure I am not alone on this. All you have succeeded in this is causing more pain and anger in the hearts of USF students and employees. I pray that with that picture, you don?t inspire people to take on violent acts of revenge for what happened Tuesday.

Maria Jose Hays is a junior majoring in political science and Latin American/Caribbean studies.

A thank-you to those involved in safety of students

As a voice for many students, I?d like to give thanks to the Florida Secretary of Education, Jim Horne, as well as to our president, Judy Genshaft. As yesterday?s malicious events unraveled, many students were in worry for their family as well as for our nation.

As I went to school, I listened closely to the turning of events. It seemed so surreal to actually be experiencing all of this. I went to class knowing that at that exact moment there were people whose innocent lives were being destroyed. I listened to worried classmates and friends, all wanting to find the same answer to the same question: Are they OK? Will they live?

As the day passed and I found that classes were canceled, I saw my friend, Paula Fritsch, break into tears, because her boyfriend was leaving for standby in the Marines. Even though I wasn?t being affected directly, I was mourning for the lives already taken and those awaiting drastic changes.

I want to give thanks to President Genshaft, who so kindly showed us her support and sympathy in taking the time to talk to the students. This demonstrates her courage to make a difference in our school. Her compassion and respect for the many different cultures here also helps students realize that we can help each other. I support her and USF in making our campus an environment in which students feel secure and safe through the tragic events.

Jackie Thompson is a pre-medical freshman student.

Sentiments for those involved in the tragedy

It?s times like these that you must be thankful for the blissful moments of your life. In a matter of minutes you could disappear. Since I heard of the terrorist attacks, I have been sitting in front of my tiny TV, watching in dismay as the United States turns somber. I feel so minuscule and helpless, and yet I am thankful for my life, family and friends. Newscasts show citizens screaming for their loved ones, watching as the walls that surround those they care for plummet downward into a pile of nothing. Their existence has halted; ours will never be the same. I detest knowing that any human being could intentionally hurt others because of their overwhelming magnitude of hatred. I am unsure of how to react or how to console my fellow Americans.

My heart is splitting because of my deep regard for human life. The anguish that most of us are encountering is immeasurable, yet in some awful way, it must be a gift. We must remember the true reason we are on this Earth. It?s not to gain a high monetary status, or get ceremoniously married or become the most famous person in film. The true reason lay deep within our souls, and it?s horrendous events like these that help us dig for those undeniable truths. I hope for the sake of this country that while we punish those who murdered our kin, we keep in perspective what is important ? respect, honor, and love for one another.

Kris Hopper is a junior majoring in education.