“Are We Safe Yet? ” by Daniel Stoffman (May) addresses what can be done to counter the threat of Islamic terrorism, but pays no attention to the origins of the threat or how it might be reduced at the source. It takes very little imagination to see why Islamic fundamentalists have come to hate the US: there’s its overthrow of the legitimate government of Iran in 1953, its support for the junta that took power in the 1992 coup in Algeria, its invasion of Iraq in 1990 and thirteen subsequent years of sanctions, its naval patrols in the Persian Gulf and various other efforts to control Middle East oil, its continued presence in Afghanistan, its unquestioning support of Israel (which includes supplying arms and tolerating the country’s nuclear capability), and the list goes on. As for Canada, we have supported the US in all of the above, or at least not objected. Now that the US presidency is finally showing some sensitivity to Islam, let’s hope we continue to follow suit. If we don’t try to both understand what we’ve done to provoke this threat, and avoid repeating the errors of the past, we’re just asking for trouble.
“Homegrown terrorists aren’t going to overthrow a state either, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do plenty of damage,” the author writes. Indeed, damage has already been done; Mr. Stoffman is evidently terrified. And in a marvellous feat of mental discordance, he advances that terrorism will be overcome only if his readers are properly terrified, too.
Thank you for Alice Mukarurinda’s story of tragedy and reconciliation in Rwanda (“No Small Mercy,” May). It is perfectly understandable that she should tell her children that “the devil came to Rwanda,” but there is nothing supernatural about what happened fifteen years ago in Central Africa. It was less a story of divine good versus evil than a story of very human manipulation and fear, a descent into momentary madness. The fraction of the Hutu population that took up machetes against their countrymen (estimated at less than 20 percent) were, like Alice’s attacker, terrified by the approaching Rwandan Patriotic Front army of Paul Kagame, an army that would later exact its own UN-documented toll on Hutu civilians. This does not by any means excuse or diminish the horror of the 1994 genocide, but it does make it “our” story, not the devil’s. And it also helps to explain why reconciliation in Rwanda will be an excruciatingly difficult and lengthy process.
Producer, Out of the Darkness
“Hooking Without Crooking” (May) is nothing more than an advertisement for the sex industry. Author Juliet November conveniently overlooks the social context of inequality that both gives rise to, and is perpetuated by, this vastly powerful industry, while making the usual tired swipes at feminists for daring to challenge the age-old women-servicing-men paradigm of human relationships. Walrus readers should check out what other women in the sex industry have to say. On the website of Montreal’s CLES sex workers coalition, for example, one woman tells of receiving an email from a young college student who wanted her advice and support because she was considering becoming an escort to pay her way through school. Her advice to the young woman? “Car même si tu le fais, comme moi, dans les meilleures conditions et avec le meilleur respect possible de toi-même, tu vas perdre beaucoup plus que ce que tu vas y gagner.” (“Even if, like me, you have great working conditions and tons of self-respect, you’re going to lose much more than you’ll ever earn.”)
Lovely article. I was a sex worker for years while attaining an honours degree in women and gender studies at a Canadian university. I got out of the industry after experiencing burnout: the stress of worrying about the law, potential bad men, and my limited options when a man did turn violent finally got to be too much. I miss parts of the job, though. The majority of clients were very nice men looking for company. Legal brothels provide the best protection for the women, and should be welcomed into Canada without hesitation.
Sophie W. (online)
I lived in Saudi Arabia from 1978 through mid-1983, a period that included the attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Perpetrators were divided into small groups and executed at locations around the country. Video of beheadings followed the evening news (“Chop Chop Square,” May). I was also there when reports circulated that a couple of Korean guest workers had robbed and killed a gold merchant in al-Khobar. They were caught at the airport, tried, sentenced, and executed within five days. Then there was the police officer who had been caught multiple times for stealing things from automobiles and had his hand chopped off at Friday mosque. The grey, severed hand was held up for all to behold. When I returned to the USA on leave each summer, people would ask me if I wasn’t concerned about my safety living there. My answer was always “Are you kidding? The most dangerous thing I do every year is come back to the USA.” I don’t condone the Saudi justice system, but I have to say that (as long as you are not a person of interest) there is nothing like a well-run police state for personal safety. And I’m really not certain that it is any worse than the American justice system, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
In the late 18th century, Great Britain had a soaring crime rate. It also had one of the harshest penal code systems of the time. Children were regularly sentenced to death by hanging for stealing a loaf of bread. Thousands of people were transported to Australia and (prior to US independence) the American colonies every year. It took an early economist to notice the disparity between these two statistics. And it was one of the founding principles on which the concept of punishment according to the crime was built.