Letters: A Muslim Lord, and the Border Patrol

Robert Siegel and Michele Norris read from listeners' emails over the past week. They comment on Siegel's interview with Britain's Lord Nazir Ahmed, a profile of a day in the work of a border patrol agent along the U.S./Mexico border, a report on the libel suit brought by director Roman Polanski against Conde Nast, and our report on military chaplains.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Thursday is the day we read from your e-mail.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

First, a correction. In a story from London, we reported that General Tommy Franks summed up US policy on Iraqi casualties when he said, `We don't do body counts.' General Franks made the comment in response to casualties in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

SIEGEL: On to your letters now, and my interview with Britain's Lord Nazir Ahmed brought in a number of them. Lord Ahmed is the first Muslim elevated to the British House of Lords.

NORRIS: During their discussion about the attitudes of Muslims living in Britain, Robert pressed Lord Ahmed on the perceived legitimacy of suicide bombing, whether in London or Iraq or Jerusalem.

SIEGEL: Brian Ruppel of Atlanta sent this comment.

NORRIS: `I thought Robert's interview of Lord Ahmed was the best piece of true journalism I've heard in years. His unwillingness to allow his questions to be dodged and his clarifyingly hyperbole thrown at him should be shown to journalism students as an example on how to do things the right way. Bravo.'

SIEGEL: Well, Mary Ollinger(ph) of Richmond, Virginia, disagrees. She writes: `Robert Siegel was unnecessarily antagonistic to Lord Ahmed. He got carried away attempting to get him to take a position on terrorism in Israel. It was as if he wanted to put him on the defensive on some broad issue and disregard Lord Ahmed's unique and specific vantage point on what happened in London. Mr. Siegel sounded like an adolescent who insisted on making only his point heard.'

NORRIS: Our reporter Ted Robbins spent a day with a Border Patrol agent along the US-Mexico border. His piece brought praised from William Wright of Portland, Oregon.

SIEGEL: Mr. Wright has this to say: `When I heard your story, my heart went out to those who attempt the crossing and those tasked with catching them. I've been a journalist most of my life, and I've been moved many times by stories, but this story really got to me. When I heard the young woman crying in utter despair after she and her companions were caught by the Border Patrol, I choked up.'

NORRIS: And Rudy Garcia of Ft. Worth, Texas, says that the story was `spot on' with his experience at the Border Patrol. Garcia writes: `Some days you're a cop; others, a missionary or a paramedic. The job takes balance, and any of us who have ever worn a green uniform along the desolate Southwest border share a kinship and an experience like no other.'

SIEGEL: Listener Rich Burge of Jefferson City, Missouri, was puzzled by our decision to report on the libel suit Roman Polanski won against Conde Nast. An article in the company's Vanity Fair magazine said that shortly after the murder of his wife in 1969, Polanski made crude sexual advances to a Scandinavian model at Elaine's restaurant in New York.

NORRIS: `I'm trying to figure out why this story was worth reporting,' Mr. Burge writes. `Polanski may be a respected artist, but the sleaziness of the trial subject matter had absolutely no intellectual value. I hope you won't report on such tawdry and irrelevant stories in the future.'

SIEGEL: Finally, Scott Thaio(ph) of Albuquerque shares these thoughts about our story on evangelical chaplains in the US military. He writes: `I spent seven years in the US Air Force as a Roman Catholic. While the Air Force encouraged me to practice my faith, there was never any doubt that in a conflict between duty to the country and my own personal beliefs, that duty to country was paramount.'

Thaio continues, `We ask Orthodox Jewish soldiers to fight on the Sabbath. We expect devout Muslim soldiers to refuse the call to prayer if duty calls. We expect the father of three to sacrifice his life and orphan his children in order to guarantee the success of the mission. But when asked to minister to soldiers in their time of need on their terms, we find out that some evangelical Christian chaplains feel that their faith is more important than their country. If a chaplain feels this way, then they belong in a church, not in the US military.'

NORRIS: We'd like to hear from you, and there's a new way to send us your comments. Go to our Web site, npr.org. In the menu, you'll find the words `Contact Us.' Don't forget to tell us where you live, and how to pronounce your name.

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