Al Qaeda's New Face of Terror

Readers responding to our Dec. 12 cover story expressed outrage at what they called the murderous acts of female suicide bombers. Many took issue with the suggestion that living under Israeli rule has damaged Palestinian families, thus making their young people vulnerable to extremism. "The real root cause is the Palestinian Authority, which continues to encourage and incite suicide bombers, including women and children," said one. Added another, "The PA glamorizes suicide bombing by giving the murderers hero status." Others thought we were too sympathetic to the women bombers. "How about a story on the immeasurable agony these killers have brought upon their victims' families?" asked one. Some concluded that, in certain cultures, women have nothing left to lose. Wrote one, "Islamic extremists provide the only avenue by which these women are allowed to participate in their oppressive societies."

The Women of Jihad There was so much good in your Dec. 12, 2005, cover story on female suicide bombers, but it was marred by the suggestion that these unfortunate women are motivated in part by religious zeal ("Women and Terror"). There is little evidence to support this. We are told more convincingly that these women are either pushed by cell leaders or husbands or, in the case of many women, by the hopelessness of their lives that has nothing to do with politics. We need to change our minds about mourning Chechen widows seeking "revenge." The article tells us that "marriage" in Chechnya is the result of kidnapping, so why should a widow mourn the loss of such a "husband"? These women take to suicide missions because they have no lives after widowhood; their countrymen do not want a nonvirgin as a wife. It was recently reported that a young Iraqi girl was killed by her family after she had been kidnapped; the family suspected she was no longer a virgin and, thus, they were "dishonored." Why should a girl from such a culture not become a suicide bomber? A flamboyant death is better than her guaranteed miserable life.

Laina Farhat-Holzman Aptos, Calif.

In your article on female suicide bombers, Dr. Eyad Sarraj, director of Gaza Community Mental Health, suggests that it is Israeli rule that promotes suicide bombings by Palestinians. If this is so, how does she explain the nearly daily suicide bombings in Iraq? The motivation certainly cannot be the Israelis. While frustration with, and hatred of, Israel are undoubtedly contributing factors, the fact is that the Palestinian Authority encourages suicide bombings. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a new law financially supporting the families of suicide bombers ( shahids). Each family will receive a monthly stipend of at least $250. The family of a married shahid will receive an additional $50. Parents, each additional child and/or sibling will also receive money. The world should condemn the PA's message that suicide bombings are worthy of state compensation.

Debra Sincere Holliston, Mass.

I read "Women and Terror" with a heavy heart. It is clear that these terror attacks are due to frustration, revenge and brainwashing. They have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Islam derives from the word "peace"--peace obtained through obeying the commandments of God and through caring for your fellow human beings.

Amatul Latif Zirvi Fair Lawn, N.J.

Regardless of whether suicide bombers are men or women, they are cowards. Let there be no glorification of selfish martyrdom. Unless and until we can all reject their right to be viewed as heroes, their mass murder will continue.

Paul Sanders New York, N.Y.

My wife and I spent seven years living in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. In my job, I traveled all over the region and had an opportunity to be touched by the mixture of cultures that exist there. My wife was heavily engaged with a women's organization involving 450 women from 52 different countries. Two years ago I was privileged to address women's groups at two universities in the United Arab Emirates. It was noteworthy that there were more women attending universities than men. When I asked the women what they planned to do after graduation, there was a resounding chorus of "work!" Congratulations to Lorraine Ali, whose article "Not Ignorant, Not Helpless" has done much to dispel many of the Western misconceptions about Arab women.

Joe Motheral Leesburg, Va.

My female cousins in Iran who are university professors, lawyers and doctors would be very surprised to find themselves lumped in with Saudi and Afghan women as "extreme cases of oppression" in Lorraine Ali's article. Being deeply religious, my cousins wear the chador willingly, and have always worn it, even during the shah's reign. They often ask me how I can walk about "naked" in America. This letter is not in support of the Iranian government's policies, but rather of the remarkable Iranian women: women who forced the genie out of the bottle decades ago and refuse to allow it back in.

Azi Najafi Belvedere, Calif.

Howard's End Your article on Howard Stern is a wonderful expose of the evils of censorship ("True-Blue Howard," Dec. 12, 2005). How poor Howard has suffered! My only question is, why does he not use the wonderful world of free speech and do something noble, beautiful, wholesome, beneficial or uplifting? Why just filth?

John Ziebarth Fountain Valley, Calif.

I've been a Sirius satellite radio subscriber since its inception, and I can honestly say that the service is truly worth every penny and then some. I have been liberated from listening to free radio, and would gladly pay much more than Sirius's minimal monthly charge not to listen to the endless, overbearing, ridiculous commercials that free radio stations constantly feed their listeners. I couldn't take any more of the advertisements on how easy it was to make my hair thicker or my wife's breasts larger. What a shame it is that Howard Stern and his filth have to pollute this great service. Listen to a 24-hour Howard Stern channel? No thanks.

Ray Presnell Ozark, Mo.

Howard Stern in a boy scout uniform insults those in Scouting who work to show young men a better path of values. I just wish NEWSWEEK had taken a moral stand and not permitted this disrespect to the organization.

John Szpytman Dearborn, Mich.

Paying for Good PR Doesn't the fact that newspapers need to be bribed in order to print factually correct stories that suggest something more positive than the "colossal failure" in Iraq Jonathan Alter describes confirm the liberal media bias ("The Real Price of Propaganda," Dec. 12, 2005)? Furthermore, Alter should stop being a Monday-morning quarterback when the game isn't even over and come up with some suggestions on what to do differently. I am certainly no fan of Bush's, but the liberals have not come up with an answer for suicide bombers and the Islamic extremists who have no interest in Western values of tolerance, women's rights, democracy and freedom of expression. It seems they are suffering from a 1960s brand of naivete that doesn't address the simple truth that every nation must fight for its existence.

Neal Simpson via internet

More Nurses Needed As a nursing instructor at a community college and a registered nurse with nearly 30 years of experience, I am acutely aware of the nursing-shortage crisis afflicting this country ("Diagnosis: Not Enough Nurses," health for life, Dec. 12, 2005). Thanks to Anne Underwood's article, the reading public's consciousness has been raised to the intrinsic importance of the role of nurses. However, the all-female illustration accompanying the article fell short of accurately portraying those who are nurses. A growing number of men are entering the nursing field and make excellent nurses. A number of my own students are men, and though they are still few in number compared with women, it is gratifying to witness the high degree of competence and caring that men can possess at the bedside of a patient needing care.

Diana Eesley, R.N., B.S.N. Marietta, Ohio

Defending Randy Cunningham Your Dec. 12, 2005, article about the resignation of Congressman Randy Cunningham reflects an error in fact: at Commander, Naval Air Forces, San Diego, there was no "gathering of... admirals... delighted to see Cunningham finally get shot down" ("Top Gun's Tailspin"). On Nov. 28, 2005, and throughout the week, I was the only Flag Officer (Admiral) present at the headquarters for Naval Aviation in San Diego, and neither I nor my staff revel in the admitted mistakes of one of our nation's leaders.

J. M. Zortman Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy San Diego, Calif.

Editor's Note : NEWSWEEK regrets the error.

Corrections In "the real price of propaganda" (Dec. 12, 2005), Jonathan Alter cites reporting by author James Bamford in Rolling Stone that suggested the Rendon Group set up interviews for Judith Miller with sources who disseminated false information. There is no evidence that the Rendon Group did so.

In "Top Gun's Tailspin" (Dec. 12, 2005), we said that Congressman Randy Cunningham was convicted for accepting gifts including a "19th-century Louis Philippe commode, or chamber pot." In this case, the commode is a chest of drawers.

In "Technology: Shedding Light on a Literacy Problem" (Periscope, Dec. 12, 2005), we incorrectly reported that the Kinkajou project, now in 200 classrooms in Mali, would be expanded this year to 1,500 classes worldwide and to 15,000 more by 2009. While the U.S. Agency for International Development has funded the pilot program, it has not committed to any expansion. Also, Jill Harmsworth, vice president of the Africa program for World Education, did not say "there would only be a single light bulb," but rather "a single lantern" in describing the workings of the mobile projectors.

Due to incorrect information provided by the photo agency Getty Images, the caption in the Dec. 12, 2005, periscope item "New Way to Fulfill a Fantasy" misidentified the photo of former San Diego Charger Jesse Chatman as LaDainian Tomlinson. NEWSWEEK regrets the errors.

Al Qaeda's New Face of Terror | News