Most readers of our Feb. 12 report on Europe's church makeovers despaired over ebbing faith. One "found it abhorrent that [churches] are converted into bars." But another reported "a regeneration of Christianity is taking place in Eastern Europe ... new churches are being built."
I would like to add some remarks to your article "Remodeling the Churches." Other symptoms in connection with religious life can also be seen in Europe, especially in Hungary. Believers are moving from traditional churches into smaller churches. Some Western nontraditional churches are sending money and priests to support their East European counterparts. Public worship often includes pop and rock music to attract the younger generation. Members of these churches pay 10 percent of their salaries as a fee for services. The ebbing of faith is a result of Europe's atheist regimes, but it is sad that today's young do not go to church.
Browning of the Blue Marble
David Milibrand is right about global warming ("Kyoto Can Be Made to Work," Feb. 12). Thirty years ago the Earth looked like a sparkling blue and white jewel as Edgar Mitchell, onboard Apollo 14, radioed from the moon. Now it is filthy—filled with dark, swirling clouds of dioxides of carbon and sulfur. The culprits are the developed countries. They should have started going green years ago. America has more than 13,000 windmills generating electricity. If all its suitable sites were developed, the country could generate more than 20 percent of its current electric needs from wind power. While Brazil uses ethanol as car fuel, auto pollution is still a cause for concern in America and in big cities like London and Paris. Rich nations should lead the way to green technologies.
Challenging the United Nations
Ross Mckitrick's essay ("What the U.N. Won't Tell You," Feb. 12) could mislead and confuse those without a good understanding of the science involved. For example, he claims that the "hockey stick" graph implies warming began with industrialization. The graph is actually designed to show the rapid surge in global temperature in recent years. Further, he casts doubt on data collected from urbanized areas due to local warming without mentioning the overwhelming evidence from other areas not affected by this trend. He suggests that the IPCC ignores science that disagrees with its agenda, as if the theory of man-made global warming was some vast U.N. plot to stop people from burning oil and coal. Shame on you, NEWSWEEK, for not providing a balancing article from a genuine climatologist (McKitrick is an economist) on such an important issue.
It is time the United Nations got a handle on the Darfur issue in Sudan to bring about an international consensus for intervention so the deaths there can be prevented. The surrounding African nations should be recruited to help in this mission. Sudan needs to be isolated and an ultimatum given to it. Why not get Nelson Mandela to publicize the issue and organize a crisis committee? Kofi Annan, who is originally from Africa, can pull his weight and maybe the United Nations can bring him back to focus on this problem and work out a quick solution. It appears that 2007 will be full of challenges for the United Nations (Iraq, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Iran, Africa, refugees, etc.), and it should have a greater role to play. This might be the time to rethink how that organization should function and redraw a road map for its future. It is more than 60 years since United Nations was founded to replace the League of Nations. Newly emerging powers like India, China, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and even Iran may have things to contribute to the future mission of the United Nations. Too much is at stake and the investment the world has made in creating and developing the United Nations as the main body for solving conflicts and issues should not be allowed to go to waste.
Auckland, New Zealand
I was disappointed to see the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopt Resolution 1737. This resolution, clearly doomed to fail in its objectives, promotes instability in the Middle East and the perception of double standards in Western foreign policy toward certain Middle Eastern countries. It also hurts the United Nations at a critical time when constructive U.N. reform should be a priority of every member state. Resolution 1737 aims to punish Iran for doing what it is legally entitled to under its Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments, commitments it has honored more rigorously so far than the United States. Furthermore, there is no evidence—only suspicion—that Iran intends to employ its nuclear technology for anything but peaceful purposes. Remember the "proof" that the United States presented to the U.N. Security Council four years ago, "demonstrating" the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq? Four years, one war and thousands dead, and still no evidence of Iraq's "proven" WMD capacity. Why go down this same road again? While this weak resolution paves the way for "tougher" further action, any attempt at tougher action will clearly and rightly be vetoed by China and the Russian Federation. Once again, the United Nations will be seen as weak and ineffective. If the United States and Britain are truly committed to an effective U.N.—two of only five nations empowered to achieve this—endorsing this resolution was a grave mistake. There is no legal basis for its adoption, which damages the credibility of the U.N. and destabilizes the Middle East by alienating a potentially useful Middle Eastern partner. It is time to embrace Iran.
Rory E. Morty
Turkey's Orthodox Patriarchate
The various problems that the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople faces from the Turkish government are of world importance ("Hoping to Bridge a Different Divide," Dec. 4). George Weigel points out that the issue has to do with respect for human rights and religious liberties. Indeed, the patriarchate exists as the spiritual leader of about 300 million people of the Christian Orthodox faith and is not, despite what some fanatics in Turkey might believe, a nongovernmental lobbying institution based in Istanbul. Furthermore, the patriarchate presents no threat to Turkey's secular state or to Islam. Patriarch Bartholomew is among the first to support and promote Turkey's efforts to become part of the EU. He is also among the first religious leaders to promote interreligious dialogue between Christianity and Islam. It is unacceptable for Turkey, a potential future member of the EU, that wants to be regarded as a model modern Islamic society, to have put such unneeded restrictions on the patriarchate, a religious institution with centuries of history and legacy.
Elections, Not a Coup d'Etat
As a member of Turkey's democratically elected Parliament, I strongly protest any speculation or doubt about my country's democratic credentials ("The Coming Coup d'Etat?" Dec. 4). The Turkish government and Turkish democracy are strong and look to the future, while military coups belong to the last century. A coup is a shame in any country, at any time. Turkey is a year away from scheduled general elections, and the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party will proudly face the electorate for a renewed mandate and keep Turkey on the European Union path of democracy, accountability, secularism and the rule of law and free markets. Zeyno Baran's revelations in NEWSWEEK are sheer lunacy.
Zeyno Baran's views are symptomatic of secularist Turks, who are unwilling to accept that democracy entails surrendering the possibility of exercising full control over state and society. Kemal Ataturk's self-proclaimed heirs in the Army have meager democratic credentials, to say the least. A quick scan through complaints brought against Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights would prove this point. Moreover, this vision of secularism has little to do with the freedom of religion; rather, it implies the total control of religion by a secularist state. Admittedly, Turkey's Islamist movement has undemocratic roots. But the AK Party entered government with a huge popular mandate, recognized the rights of the Kurdish minority and brought national legislation more in line with European human-rights standards, all while remaining within the legal framework of the Constitution. That it wishes to allow girls with headscarves to attend university cannot be regarded as anything other than normal from the perspective of most liberal democracies. It is only normal for the Army to regard itself as a guardian of the Constitution. But in a democracy, this implies that the guardianship is directed against the violent overthrow of the system, not against political parties that win elections and govern in accordance with national and international law—even if they change things. Turkey's military is at a crossroads: will it remain in the barracks and let Turkey become a full-fledged European democracy under a liberal Islamist government, or will it usurp power once again in obvious defiance of everything the term "democracy" stands for? Baran should have paid closer attention to the political history of America, where she resides. Only a government of the people, by the people and for the people will survive for 200 years and more.
The Hague, Netherlands
Life Under the Burqa in Britain
Apropos "the Politics of Dress" (Jan. 29) and "Beyond the Veil" (Nov. 27), please correct misunderstandings and erroneous allegations by identifying the real and serious issues that responsible British Muslims and British politicians were actually voicing concerning the niqab. Fareena Alam's article "Beyond the Veil" offers an opinion about "the right of Muslim women to wear what they want to wear." However, citing Jack Straw and Tony Blair as objecting to veils and headscarves misrepresents the real and serious issues of what many British politicians were objecting to. Straw was complaining about women who wear the niqab or burqa at all times, except indoors. These garments cover the face, leaving space only for the eyes, and make a person devoid of recognizable, personal identity. One telling reason was offered by the British modernist, Muslim journalist and TV broadcaster Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who gave a terrifying glimpse of life under the burqa. When she was contacted by a woman in distress, Alibhai-Brown says that upon removing the burqa she "proved to be a woman so badly battered and beaten that she looked painted in deep blue, purple, and livid pink; the sides of her mouth were torn." The woman's father and brothers had forced her to wear the burqa so no one would see what they had done to her for trying to live a normal social life of independence. Alibhai-Brown says many Muslim families beat women who are seen as too independent, and that the burqa conceals violence within marriage so as to conceal the "honor" of the males who carry out such violence upon women in secret. Of course, not all Muslim women wearing the burqa are victims of violence. In some British schools, Muslim parents refuse to allow their girls to take part in PE, or to swim or act. These are some of the real social issues of Muslim women wearing burqas in Britain.
Christopher A. Pirie