Letters: Muslim Dress; Harry Lee; and George

Michele Norris and Robert Siegel read from listeners' emails. We have clarifications on a few stories we ran, as well as comments about our story about two Muslim women's decisions to wear the hijab, our profile of Sheriff Harry Lee of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, and our remembrance of George Harrison.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

On Thursdays we read from your e-mail.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And we have a couple of clarifications to begin with.

SIEGEL: On Monday we mentioned that the war in Iraq has now lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II and we noted how long other wars lasted as a point of comparison. Well, several of you point out that the length of time we gave for World War I, four years, four and a half months, was the length of the entire war. We should have said that U.S. involvement lasted only a year and a half.

NORRIS: Listener Scott Gregg writes to say he found a discussion we had earlier this week about Polonium 210 misleading. That's the radioactive element that was used to poison a former Russian spy in London. Gregg writes, “The idea that Polonium 210 is hard to get or that you would have to be in a nuclear facility to get it is nonsense. You can buy small amounts of the stuff in the form of a Static Master brush. Those brushes are used in darkrooms and laboratories.”

SIEGEL: We received some interesting responses to our story about two Muslim women in Dearborn, Michigan, and their decision to cover themselves or not.

NORRIS: Nadin Saddiki(ph) of Canton, Michigan, was impressed. He writes, “It was refreshing to hear NPR give a balanced perspective on the struggles faced by Muslim Americans every day. As you pointed out in the story, rather than being forced to wear the hijab, many young Muslims have to justify their decision to their parents. Even while my wife was doing her Ph.D., she found that some people would slow down while talking to her thinking the hijab impaired her listening or that her English was weak.”

SIEGEL: Roger Rossman of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, says he empathized with the women in the piece. He writes, “I am Jewish and I was struck by the similarities between their issues and the issues of Jewish people who refuse to wear a keepa or yarmulke, the Jewish head covering.”

He continues, “I do not wear a yarmulke and one perspective I have on the issue is that I am not immediately identified as a Jew. I must stand up, take pride in my religion and state to people my beliefs. I get into conversations with people who may not have started talking to me had they known that I was Jewish. It gives others a chance to find out what a Jewish person is really like.”

NORRIS: We also received emails about our profile of Harry Lee, the outspoken Chinese American sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. We reported on a couple of controversial statements Sheriff Lee has made over the years, including this off-hand comment regarding an uptick in crime.

Sheriff HARRY LEE (Jefferson Parish, Louisiana): If the crime's in the black community, why should I waste any time in the white community?

NORRIS: We went on to report that despite his comments, the sheriff has a good reputation for trying to solve problems in the black community.

SIEGEL: Well, Mary Zebel(ph) of Ithaca, New York, was not happy with the story.

NORRIS: “I cannot believe how insensitive the timing of your story about Sheriff Harry Lee was,” she writes. “It followed the account of the FBI investigation into the police shooting of an elderly black woman in Atlanta and in the midst of the news of the shooting deaths of two black men by police in New York. While we mourn these tragedies, NPR is comfortable celebrating those in law enforcement who perpetrate racial profiling. How dare you?”

SIEGEL: But William Osai(ph) of Houston has a different view. He writes, “In the age of obfuscations, political correctness and outright of certain segments of our community, it is nothing but a breath of fresh air to hear a politician speak frankly about community problems and propose solutions.”

NORRIS: Finally, these words from Elisa Winter of Kingston, New York, who was touched by our appreciation of George Harrison on the fifth anniversary of his death.

SIEGEL: “The people who spoke, they are my brothers and sisters although I don't know them at all. Like some of the, I find it impossible to hold back the tears when I listen to ‘Isn't It a Pity?' despite having listened hundreds of times. And even now, ‘Here Comes the Sun' is the song I sing in my head all day at the winter solstice. The joy never diminishes. Whoever thought to put together this piece so beautifully, my pet cockatiel, who's named Harrison, and I thank you.”

NORRIS: We thank you for all your comments and criticisms. Keep them coming by going to our web site, NPR.org, and when you're there click on Contact Us at the top of the page.

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