Letters

The Debate Continues

Re: "No Land's Man" by Rochelle Renford (Jan. 24-30)

Your argument on behalf of Sami Al-Arian with respect to academic freedom is very weak at best. If he was affiliated with the philosophy department, religious studies department, even the history department, maybe your argument would have some merit. However, he was a member of the computer department, and therefore university president Judy Genshaft has my full support.

Andrew Franklin Baxt
Via e-mail

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I would like to express my thanks to you and the editors of Weekly Planet for a very long and extremely interesting article. You used Mr. Al-Arian's words, and your article was that of journalistic integrity. Your opinions remained for the most part out of the article while you placed words from the mouths of several people. I only wish there were more journalists like you out there.

Mohammad Smidi
Via e-mail

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How much did Al-Arian have to pay for the coverage?

Diane Belmont
Via e-mail

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You wrote an incredibly good, well-balanced piece. I vouch for that as a white male American who lived in Saudi for 11 years. You were really well organized, well spoken and fair. Thanks for having the courage to investigate and tell the truth to an uninformed, provincial, jingoistic American public.

Barrie Macrae
Bozeman, Mont.

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Thank you for your in-depth article on Dr. Sami Al-Arian. His story is an interesting one and explains why his passion for his people is so poignant. No land's man indeed. I hope his lawsuit against the university for reinstatement is successful. If his rights are violated, this does not bode well for freedom of speech both on and off college campuses.

Joan Davis
Bradenton

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Thank you so much for your clear account of the Al-Arian incident. It was much more than that. It located his conflict dead center in the US-Israel vs. Palestine conflict. You really did your homework. You sound as if you know your history and how to interpret it. From now on, I will look at the Weekly Planet online. It is good to know there are a few journalists in this country who know the score and aren't afraid to speak up. Congratulations. You are a hero!

Rhoda Shapiro
Encinitas, Calif.

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I read you article several times and found it to be very good. As a young Jewish woman, I have never responded to any article of any type. What I say is my personal opinion. Professor Al-Arian was not fired for his extremely racist, inflammatory views. As stated, he may say whatever possesses his mind. However, Professor Al-Arian was fired because when he was on the O'Reilly Factor he did not state that this was his personal view. He left the impression that USF felt the way he did. That was where he is wrong. The issue that should be focused on is not his ideas, but rather again, that he failed to mention that they were his ideas, and not USF.

I found your article most informative, very balanced. Good job!

Melissa McCall
Via e-mail

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Thank you so much for having the courage to research and print the real story here. I have met and spoken with Dr. Al-Arian several times and I am amazed at the calmness and inner peace this man can maintain, given all that has happened to him in his life, particularly most recently. The manner in which this country applies its double standard with Israel and the Palestinians is a joke. We can give billions of dollars to Israel, sell them sophisticated arms, to be used against poor, displaced Palestinians who had the misfortune of living for eons in a land that the U.N. and the Zionist movement decided it wanted for its own, no matter the cost. Yet anyone who dares raise a word of criticism for Israel is vilified at best and labeled racist/terrorist at worst.

I am a graduate of the University of South Florida, and never before have I been so embarrassed to admit it. I am appalled at the firing of Dr. Al-Arian and the treatment he has received from the President and Board of Trustees. I am also appalled, but not surprised, at the way the government and media (in collusion perhaps) have actively campaigned to harass this man.

It sickens and saddens me that this can happen in our country, but I am not naive. I know the depths of the evil that pervade our government and political system. What is frightening is that this could happen to any of us, regardless of the topic or issue. It is no longer a free society and hasn't been for a while. It only has the illusion of one.

Bless you for having the courage to speak the truth. Keep up the good work.

Tim White
Sarasota

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I commend Weekly Planet and staff writer Rochelle Renford for this excellent article on Sami Al-Arian and the controversy surrounding him at USF. You have done residents of Tampa Bay a service by describing the way this situation actually occurred.

There has been an active campaign to discredit Dr. Al-Arian and USF. Your article is a welcome contrast to the distortions, unsupported allegations and plain hysteria reported in other local newspapers.

I was glad to see that you talked to Arthur Lowrie about the Middle East Studies Committee at USF. He was involved in establishing this committee, which was successful in bringing prominent American, Arab and Jewish leaders to speak at USF on Middle East affairs. This program is now moribund, largely due to opposition from local community leaders. Today one must be very careful about expressing any opinion about the Middle East on the USF campus.

Joseph Mahon
St. Petersburg

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I read with keen interest Rochelle Renford's feature on Professor Sami Al-Arian's present difficulties. While it deftly traced the Horatio Alger-like journey of a disenfranchised Palestinian from refugee camp to American prosperity, nowhere did it directly address the core issues: that Arabs and Hebrews (read: Muslims and Jews) simply hate each other and will not share and share alike together in their ancestral homeland at that.

While ethnic profiling and guilt-by-association are considered generally wrong, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, drastically and tragically upped the ante for all of us. Comparing Sept. 11 to Pearl Harbor is a blunder. Pearl Harbor was a conventional military targeted by another military power. The thousands of men, women and children murdered in last year's carnage in one swoop were killed not for what they did, but for who they were. And one of the few truly intelligent things President George II has said is, "There is no such thing as a good terrorist."

At present, I for my own part am practicing a form of good old personal Stalinism: I am cordial and courteous to my Middle Eastern neighbors and associates while remaining suspicious and watchful.

R.M. Campbell
Tampa

Still Skeptical

Re: "Come Out of Your Corner" by Fawn Germer (Jan. 24-30)

Your column really made me think. It's sad that the argument over this issue is driven by extremists who do not deserve the credibility the media gives them. People like Al-Arian see to it that the middle ground is never considered or discussed, and present a distorted reality to throw gas on a fire that is already out of control. I liked what you wrote because you show a skepticism that is absent in the rest of this week's issue. I left my corner and read what he had to say, and it made me wonder how this man was ever given an academic position in the first place.

Terry Roberts
Via e-mail

Rigau Revisited

Re: "Who Killed Earlene Barksdale" by Francis X. Gilpin (Nov. 22-28)

Abel H. Rigau was a law enforcement officer in the 1940s and did not know Detective Bebler. Also, Abel Rigau's practice, while it was not limited to DWIs, continued to enjoy a high success rate for DWIs even after the Tribune expose. Your article suggested to the contrary. Also, Abel Rigau and Fred Barksdale were never law partners.

Roger V. Rigau
Tampa

Correction

In our cover story "No Land's Man," we misspelled Arthur Lowrie's last name. It is indeed Lowrie.

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