IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
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"Now that the joke has been had..."

Muslim mosaic
It was good to learn that Richard Shweder and his Ph.D. students will be studying Muslim communities of different nationalities and cultural heritage ("Investigations," August/02). Sadly the media in the United States (including the University of Chicago Magazine, unfortunately) tend to portray Muslims as all being of one mind, and of one which is very, very conservative, especially where women are concerned. The comparison in the Magazine with Hasidic Jews and Christian Amish is in this view, as is the highlighted question "Could a woman forgo the veil and still be Islamic?"

Many of the habits we characterize as Muslim are, in truth, cultural customs of various countries. Egyptian women, of course, have not been veiled for almost a century, despite their Arabic cultural heritage. Would you consider Indians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, and French all to be of the same mind because they are all Christians? Of course not. Why then does this blind lumping together of different ethnic and cultural groups occur when they share the Islamic faith?

I hope that Professor Shweder's work will help in differentiating the various Islamic groups and destroy the myth that Islam is the primary menace to Western democratic values.

Sarah L. O. Smith, AM'68

The University of Chicago Magazine invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space or clarity. In order to ensure as wide of range of views as possible, we ask readers to try to keep letters to 500 words or less. Write:

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