Date: 5/10/2004

To: letters@nytimes.com

According to Mr. Friedman the "Arab world" is full of bad habits, and "need to look in a mirror." Mr. Friedman tells us it is "cursed by oil." The curse with oil may affect Texas oil men such as Bush and Cheney, but the large "Arab" oil state of Algeria had a democratic presidential election recently. A more important problem with the Arab world is dictatorial Islam. Like its predecessor, dictatorial Christianity, it smothered the societies it parasitized. Because Islam was not instantaneously imposed (as Christianity was), there was a delay of several centuries during which the intellectual refugees from dictatorial Roman Christianity, and their books, could partake in the Golden Age of Islam. When Islam became fully dictatorial, the consequences were catastrophic. Whereas dictatorial Christianity was submitted and civilized by the pagan Franks, nothing similar occurred with Arabic Islam. Aware of this, most reformers in the Middle East have tried to domesticate Islam, from the Young Turks to Algerian generals. But the US has not seen an archaic regime it did not love, especially if "cursed by oil." Fundamentalist dictatorships, such as Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, became close associates to the US. Inside the US, religion is used for "allegiance," outside it is used for oil. That makes it hard for the US to see how much religion can be a problem. Instead the US has long viewed secularism as a problem. In Afghanistan the CIA trained bin Laden's friends to bomb schools (maybe by proxy; ref: George Crile, 2003' "Joe Wilson's War"). When Arabs look into a mirror, instead of seeing themselves, all they may see is America and its curse with oil.

Patrice Ayme'