Ground Zero Mosque
In his eagerness to bash Islam, Christopher Hitchens (“The Mosque at Ground Zero,” FI, October/November 2010) misses the point. Meaningless ritual and incantations—if they are OK at St. Patrick’s Cathedral—should be OK at 51 Park Place, which, by the way, is well out of sight of Ground Zero. This is in keeping with the humanistic and philosophical principles of America’s founding.
Rohan Perera, MD
East Setauket, New York
Rights, Gay and Otherwise
After reading Leo Igwe’s “Homosexuality in Africa” (FI, October/November 2010), I was a bit in shock about the thrown-in statement, “In addition, much of the intolerance . . . must be understood as legacies of foreign influence and colonialism, evangelical Christianity, and Islam.” While I do not necessarily disagree with his statements about Christianity and Islam, I must question the reference to colonialism. It sounds like the usual apologetic mantra I have heard since my childhood whenever something about Africa is criticized. Yes, they waste foreign aid to support dictator X’s harem, but it’s because of colonialism. Yes, they cut each other’s heads off, but it’s because of the white man. Yes, in fifty years of independence they haven’t made any progress in their country, but it’s because of colonialism.
Germany went from a country of rubble to the most prosperous society in Europe within ten years after World War II. Yes, they had the Marshall Plan, but there has been a lot of money and aid pumped into African countries as well. I don’t want to attempt to explain the difference, but I don’t believe that colonialism can be used as an excuse after such a long time. There are no sources or studies mentioned, nothing that supports the allegation that “Africans kill homosexuals because of the legacy of colonialism,” just a sentence in which Western societies are once again blamed for the mess in Africa, and we are supposed to accept it. Out of guilt? I think it’s time to stop finding excuses for their situation.Whatever problems they have, they are self-inflicted ones and can’t be blamed on white men who left fifty years ago.
Los Angeles, California
Leo Igwe responds:
I agree with Patric Lagny that the idea of blaming colonialism for whatever goes wrong in Africa, decades after independence, is quite unreasonable. Unlike the black continent, other continents that were colonized in the past have moved on. Sadly, for Africa, colonialism has become a scapegoat for its self-inflicted woes. But that does not negate the fact that the structures introduced and left behind by erstwhile colonizers, which Africans have refused to dismantle, are having very negative effects on the continent’s growth and development. Moreover, former colonialists still wield a lot of influence on the politics of their former colonies in Africa.
For instance, the anti-homosexual laws currently in force in most African countries were introduced by the colonial powers. They were then adopted by African leaders at independence. Of course, this does not mean that African leaders couldn’t have introduced such laws—or worse legislation—without any colonial influence.
The fact is that many groups in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East use their money, influence, and connections to lobby African lawmakers and politicians, fan the flames of homophobia, and frustrate efforts to repeal such obnoxious legislation.
Absurdism and Humanism
Re “Absurdism Is a Type of Humanism” by Stephen J. Gallagher: besides Albert Camus, at least one other twentieth-century philosopher who intimately experienced the horrors of World War II managed to describe exactly what humans are for: Viktor Frankl. Although he didn’t (like Nietzsche) have the nerve to kill God (he just put him in suspended animation), Frankl deserves mention as one who valiantly fought against the absurdity of life and came up with his own recipe (logotherapy), which some may find useful.
Secular Humanists and the Holidays
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your latest issue of Free Inquiry. Of special interest was the article “They Say ‘Merry Christmas’ and You Say . . .?” Author James H. Dee sure nailed it when he noted how unconcerned the religious are about our feelings regarding them saying “Merry Christmas” to us. Our feelings don’t matter to them. I’ve noticed this time and again with religious people. I’m sure the idea of Saturnalia would cause them to go ballistic, which might be amusing to watch.
New Bern, North Carolina