Michael Skube's Oct. 21 Outlook piece, "Either You Are a Believer or an Infidel," attempted to paint Islam as a belligerent and unenlightened religion that by "its very nature seems to be one of intolerance."

Was this exemplified by the fact that Muslims and Jews peacefully coexisted under the Medina Document during the life of our beloved prophet, Muhammad?

Or by the fact that during the Ottoman caliphates, people of minority religions were able to set up their own religious courts to deal with their own religious affairs?

Or was it that the intolerance was evident as Ottoman Muslim soldiers defended the land, lives and families of their Muslim, Christian and Jewish constituents?

Every faith has fringe elements: Remember the Spanish Inquisition and the Thirty Years' Wars, in which Christian conquistadors murdered and pillaged "infidels"? Shall we remind him of the crusaders, who slaughtered thousands of Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs.

Mr. Skube says of the Koran that the "text makes clear, the sword is to be taken up." He grossly failed to understand the context in which any mention of a self-defensive action is to be taken. Christianity has a concept of a "just war," which like in Islam, has to be fought in self-defense only and under a legitimate state authority.

That women are oppressed in Islam is another of Mr. Skube's claims. He didn't mention that the Prophet Mohammed's wife, Khadijah, was one of the most successful merchants of her time. Under Islamic law, a woman is not obligated to change her maiden name, and her husband has no legal rights to her income. Islamic women had the right to own land centuries before the "enlightened" West allowed women to do so.

As an American Muslim and a student of law, my feelings for Mr. Skube are evident by the great words of Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

ARSALAN TARIQ IFTIKHAR

Midwest Communications Director

Council on American-Islamic Relations

St. Louis