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PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED

The L.A. Weekly feature “White
Muslim
” [by Brendan Bernhard, December 3–9] is thought-provoking and
haunting. What I see here is not so much the successful rise of a religion but
the descent of a lonely and self-hating person.

Vincent represents the America that America forsakes in pursuit
of greed and wealth. Vincent is like the typical rebellious youth who turns
to extreme social settings to get attention and feel like he belongs in a world
that wasn’t made for him. He is the archetype of the initiator of extremism
in a religion, in which a newly converted member, in his path of hyper-immersion,
begins to act as if his new religion is his own to portray. I am appalled by
how Vincent looks at the imam in disdain because he believe he must “bend
the rules.” As if the rules were his to begin with! Now I am beginning
to understand the meaning of hijacking a religion.

The fact that Vincent comes from within the system is why this
article is haunting. If the article was about a Michigan doctor who had stumbled
across the Koran, and whose life seemed to have been complemented by Islam,
I do not think it would have been as effective. In Vincent, we see how American
domestic policy can create anti-U.S.A. struggles within our borders as our foreign
policy does in other lands.

—Mickel A. Paris

West Hollywood

“White Muslim” is the most incisive article on this
topic that I have read in any newspaper in the last three years. Kudos to the
reporter.

—Peter Glasser

McMurray, Pennsylvania

The title “White Muslim” will scare many readers who
believe the word “jihad” means holy war, as the media keeps telling
them. This is a very common misconception that journalists ought to set straight.
Jihad is an Arabic word that means “exerting an effort that meets with
resistance.” If you tried to stop smoking or lose weight and it was a struggle,
you were doing a jihad. When the untouchables were after Capone for years before
they nailed him, they were doing a jihad. The war on terrorism is a jihad. You
get the point. That is why jihad is touted as the noblest endeavor in Islam.

The radicals who call their campaign of terror a jihad rape this
concept, but just because they call their crimes a jihad does not mean we should
follow their lead. They do not represent Islam or Muslims.

No one benefits by misrepresenting Islam. The Muslims are hurt
by hearing negative things about the religion they love, and have become apprehensive
that a new wave of hate crimes will affect them. The non-Muslims do not benefit
because they are kept away from discovering Islam’s beauty.

—Dr. Ayman Abu-Mostafa

Costa Mesa

Bernhard replies: That the word “jihad” has several
different meanings and applications was made clear by my account of the sermon
on jihad by Sheik al-Yaqoubi, where at least three different meanings of the
word are discussed.

THE WEAK IN REVIEW

In his ironically titled column “Weaker
Than Ever
” [Dissonance, December 3–9], Marc Cooper argues a contention
that’s not even there. As he declares himself not the pro–King George polemicist
and certainly not the anti–King George polemicist, but only the I Haven’t a
Clue “confusionist” who seems to be currying favor with the administration
from afar — a kind of incipient latter-day David Horowitz — he completely evades
the fact that Bush did not win by 4 million votes, but lost by a margin yet
to be determined, and probably never will be if “Repuglicans” have
their way.

Cooper is the quintessential paradigm of a PsyOps figure Chomsky
has oft pointed to: the man who has been unknowingly subsumed by the opposition
into what he thinks is a counter-argument, but is actually only a carefully
contrived, feeble, oppositional element designed to stand no chance of effective
refutation to the matters at hand, purposely placed to deceive the public that
dialogue is occurring.

Cooper’s correct, however, in that liberals are pathetic, perhaps
less so than conservatives (both of whom are trumped by the lunacy certified
as neoconservatism) but pitiful nonetheless. His evidence lies in the mirror
of his own pen. We applaud his self-referential maundering.

—Marc S. Tucker

Manhattan Beach

A DIVA SUPREME

As a lifelong fan of Diana Ross, I feel most critics don’t acknowledge
her accomplishments. Ernest Hardy does. Bravo to his brilliant piece about her
concert at the Pantages [Live in L.A., “Ain’t
Been Licked
,” November 26–December 2]. The closing line — “And,
of course, the hair was fucking insane” — is a keeper.

—Martin Osika

New York City

WINNIPEG: MORE THAN JUST A TOWN

In his review of the Royal Art Lodge [“Canadian
Club
,” December 3–9], Arty Nelson refers to the artists’ home, Winnipeg,
Canada, as a “town.” Although this reference serves to make the artists’
endeavors seem more quaint, it is incorrect. I was born and raised in Winnipeg,
which now boasts a population of 650,000. Winnipeg has its own Canadian Football
League team, the Centennial Concert Hall, Planetarium, Winnipeg Art Gallery,
and just about anything you would find in a town like L.A. And, oh ya, the people
are genuine and friendly.

—Steven B. Diner

Los Angeles

ACCOLADES

The Southern California Booksellers Association awarded L.A.
Weekly
contributor Michelle Huneven the 2004 prize for fiction for her novel
Jamesland. Also, Jon Friedman of

CBS.MarketWatch.com gave Weekly columnist Nikki Finke the “Ms. Must-Read”
Media Web award for her coverage of Hollywood.