Letters to the Editor 9/18

As shock and grief become anger, prejudice

It is not often in our great and diverse nation that the minds and hearts of our citizens are unanimous. We are all grieving for those who were lost and the families left to carry on without them. In the 24 hours following the tragedy, I have observed in my travels to and from school people intently listening to their radios, jaws dropped, heads shaking and tears streaming down their faces. Not once did I see the usual head bobbing to the music, singing along with the radio. For we are glued, eyes and ears, to the news. Reports stream in of casualties and survivors; those stories that tear at our hearts and those that uplift our spirits and give us hope.

In so many newspaper articles and so many television reports there are vows of retaliation and vows of revenge. We as a nation are past the initial shock of Tuesday?s horrible events and are now angry. We want, and rightfully so, those responsible found and punished. I hope that this is done swiftly and justly. It is my concern that this anger, which at this moment has no direct target, not be unleashed on the innocent. Yet there are already signs of this.

In the immediate wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, fingers were all pointing at terrorists from the Middle East. And those angry and in pain, to relieve the rage inside, attacked Muslim people who lived peacefully in that area. Now it is happening again.

In Ocala, a store owner considers it his freedom of speech to tape up a sign declaring ?No Muslims.? Yet maybe this investigation is more substantial and it very well could be that the terrorists are of Middle Eastern descent and perhaps they might even consider themselves Muslims. But how can we as a society be so quick to lump our Muslim neighbors, so many of whom live and work alongside us, into a category with these deplorable and despicable men who are responsible for the deaths of thousands? This is unfair.

This enormous generalization is disgraceful. This is the equivalent of saying that all Christians and white Americans are the same as neo-Nazi groups. And in turn, that because Timothy McVeigh was responsible for the Oklahoma City tragedy, all people like him (Christian or white Americans) should also be at fault. Your Muslim neighbors took no more of a part in this travesty than you or I did. And now along with the grief and pain that they feel they must also endure fear that someone uninformed or misinformed will act out against them.

At the University of South Florida we have a very diverse population. In the average class almost every minority group is represented. There are people from many backgrounds who subscribe to many religions. If you don?t know the fundamentals of Islam, ask someone.

The Five Pillars are simplified as follows. Believe in only one God, Allah, and make a declaration, Shahadataan of that faith. Establish a formal prayer (Salaam), which shall be performed five times daily. Give to charity or Zakaah. Make Swam, which is fasting during the month of Ramadaan. And finally to perform Hajj, make a pilgrimage to Mecca (Ka?bah). Is this the foundation of evil? It is not the religion that has taught the terrorists to hate. It is the culture surrounding them and the people surrounding them. A culture that creates monsters makes up such a minute fraction of the Muslim people.

It is no more just to say that the Muslim people are responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center than it is to say that the white, Christian Americans are to blame for the tragedy in Oklahoma City. I certainly do not want to be lumped together with the likes of McVeigh, and it is wrongful to subject our Muslim neighbors to the same. The United States has suffered enough. Let us relieve our ignorance and prevent any further pain to our citizens, regardless of descent.

Sarah Ray is a junior majoring in biology.

Ignorance will always breed prejudice, hatred

There comes a time when enough is enough. In every newspaper since Tuesday?s attacks, I?ve read countless articles and editorials asking and pleading with citizens of the United States not to harass, harm or discriminate against members of the Arab and Muslim communities of this country. I agree wholeheartedly with all of these, but now I?m tired of reading them. Why? Because it?s pointless.

As we?ve been hearing for the past week, the nation is filled with people of many different cultures, religions and ethnicities. But we?ve known this since the country was first founded. The problem is that although our constitution guarantees us the freedoms of speech, religion and protest, some people don?t fully understand what this means.

Those individuals who feel it is necessary to harass and discriminate against our fellow citizens have shown us that the Constitution has guaranteed us another right of freedom, one that is often overlooked ? the freedom of ignorance.

This country has been filled with ignorant people since the founding fathers wrote our Constitution. From slave owners to the Ku Klux Klan to those people who feel ?America got what it deserved.? They are all ignorant of the other people in this world, searching only for what they want and need. Hate crimes will undoubtedly be committed against members of the Arab and Muslim communities, and no matter how much we plead and beg they will not be avoided. In fact, as long as America remains as diverse as it is, there will always be hate crimes. As long as the Ku Klux Klan remains free to practice its beliefs, hate crimes will occur. As long as we have automatic weapons available on the streets, hate crimes will occur.

The problem is that we forget that not only the Arab and Muslim communities will be the targets of hate crimes, but there are other groups in our nation that will feel the brunt of another type of hate, such as the insurance companies that will be sued, the airlines that have been falsely accused of ?letting this happen,? the military accused of ?training these people,? and the list goes on.

If you don?t know what I mean, here?s what we face. The Federal Aviation Administration will be blamed for its lax security (although many of us have flown with them without ever fearing a hijacking). The military will be blamed for training these individuals and without just cause, unless we want to start a new program that will perform background checks, competency exams, and mental health tests to ensure that our military isn?t training future terrorists.

And lastly, let?s not let the domino effect take over our insurance companies, for its ramifications will affect us all. How? The passengers? families will sue the airlines for the deaths of their family members, the airlines will then sue travel agencies for booking flights for these people, they all will sue the United States government for allowing these people in our country.

The domino effect will take over through the streets of New York. The companies housed in the towers will sue the WTC security for not protecting their offices, the WTC security will sue the airlines for allowing the planes to be taken off course and then rerouted ? there is no end to whom could sue whom. Seems like a long shot that this might happen? Just watch and see, and in the back of your mind remember that the freedom of ignorance will consume its victims and they will run rampant until they get what they want.

As our nation regroups and bands together to fight the war of terrorism, let?s make sure that our anger is reflected on the individuals who committed these attacks, not the ones who ?look like them.? Let us not blame the airlines for allowing these people on board, for they had no idea what was going to happen. Let us not get sue-happy against the insurance companies because we all will pay for that with higher premiums and less coverage. Lets us hope and pray that in this time of great sorrow we don?t allow the freedom of ignorance to rear its ugly head.

Patrick Milburn is a junior majoring in mass communications.

Base admissions to college on achievements, not race

In regards to the article talking about the ?One Florida? issue printed in the Sept. 6 Oracle, it seems as though Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan has received the proof he has been waiting for.

Though many people criticize Lt. Gov. Brogan for his views on educational funding, I personally must congratulate him on the numbers he received from the One Florida program. It seems that Florida universities will be looking beyond the color and background of a student and start focusing more toward the student?s academic achievements and abilities. This will eliminate the so-called ?reverse discrimination? that seems to be plaguing universities nationwide.

I have always believed that acceptance to an academic university should be based not on who you are, but rather academic abilities, achievements, and test scores. This way of guiding acceptance, along with some recruiting efforts, would still yield a university with a diverse population of students.

To the Democratic Party chairman, this idea must sound outrageous to him. Complaining that Bush is just taking advantage of a coincidence and using the University of Florida?s numbers to try and stain the program. Maybe UF might want to try some targeted recruiting.

It is good to see that this program has done well in its maiden year. I am glad that I, as a newly enrolled freshman at the University of South Florida, was looked upon by my academic grades and test scores rather than if I was a minority or not.

Anthony Aivazis is a freshman majoring in biology.oracleopinion@yahoo.com