In his Dec. 1 Outlook article, "Turn East From Mecca," Ralph Peters noted that an immense struggle is underway for the soul of Islam and that U.S. Muslims have a major role to play in bringing about liberal reformation of Islam. But U.S. Muslims cannot participate in such reformation without having significant contacts with fellow Muslims in Muslim countries.

But such contacts are not to be encouraged, Robert Satloff implied in the same Outlook section ["Voices Who Speak for (and Against) Us"], unless Muslim Americans buy into the Bush administration's political and geopolitical stands. Mr. Satloff took issue with a minimal effort carried out by the State Department that spends $15 million to reach a billion Muslims. Mr. Satloff seems to be bothered that many of the speakers involved are from Arab or Muslim advocacy organizations, oppose war against Iraq or are critical of Israel.

Yet many Muslim and Arab Americans believe that they have a special role to play in explaining their country's policies and values, as well as its inconsistencies, to their friends and relatives in Muslim and Arab countries. We need greater, not less, participation by Arab and Muslim Americans in public diplomacy, regardless of where they stand on specific political issues. We equally need their contribution to policy discussions within our country and our government.

FUAD K. SULEIMAN

Lusby, Md.

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The Nov. 30 news story "Conservatives Dispute Bush Portrayal of Islam as Peaceful" glossed over Islam's central problems:

* Almost universal human rights abuse where Islam predominates.

* Almost universal diminution of the rights and privileges of women.

* A parsimonious history of tolerance in many modern Muslim nations.

* A stingy history of tolerance when it comes to those who are not "People of the Book" (Hindus, Bahais and atheists, to name a few groups).

* An overwhelming predominance of autocratic government.

Despite its remarkable history of scientific inquiry, the abolition of doubt is a cherished principle in Islam. But it is doubt that keeps our bad behavior in check and makes us question bad governance.

Islam's central problem is its unwillingness to police itself. Fanatical Muslims are accepted for having made the professions of faith. Terrorists and zealots meet and plot under mosque and madrassa auspices. If not lauded, bad behavior in the cause of Allah is at least tolerated. Islam makes no effort to excommunicate those who act satanically in its name.

Only when Islam raises up an army to extinguish its zealots and forbids them to enter Mecca, Medina, mosques and madrassas can Islam join the family of man as a beloved equal.

PETER HUMPHREY

Alexandria