Journey Through Change
Congratulations to TIME for its Summer Journey issue, "Travels Through Islam" [Aug. 1-8]. The articles were like taking a cultural vacation.
In your special on Ibn Battuta, you rightly stated that even though he traveled more widely than Marco Polo and others, he has not been accorded the prominence he deserves. I first learned about Ibn Battuta and his travels in West Africa as a young student in Nigeria, but your issue made it clear just how far and widely he traveled.
I picked up my copy of TIME, and my
first thought was, "Ibn Battuta who's
he?" Well, I soon found out, and what a
wonderful journey I made following his footsteps. Every article was well documented and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the piece by Pico Iyer, and Lisa Abend's article on the Moros y Cristianos festival made me want to return to Andalusia immediately. As for the report on Dubai, Michael Schuman presented a more humane view of the glitzy capital. This type of thought-provoking journalism is what makes TIME magazine stand out from the others.
This special report is one of the best TIME has produced during my more than 45 years' subscription.
Islam's Global Identity
Your special issue offered a welcome breath of fresh air to help clear the awful Islamophobia of recent years. Reza Aslan's analysis of Ibn Battuta's travels and writings is one of the most astute I have read ["World Wanderer," Aug. 1-8]. His focus on Islam as a globalizing agent is both powerful and apt since, even in today's world, Islam is the glue that holds our ethnically and racially diverse ummah together. Sadly, Aslan is also right in saying that the halcyon days of great Islamic contributions to science, trade, mathematics and architecture have been eroded by colonialism, imperialism, corruption and civil strife. One could also add dictatorships as the cause for the current stagnation and as a major contributory factor to the fragmentation of the Muslim world. Young Arabs are currently rising against their oppressors, and I wish them the very best in their endeavor to create a new world for themselves.
Talking about Islam while limiting it only to the Middle East, Europe and Africa does not illustrate the broader change and challenges of the Islamic world today. As the world's third largest democracy, with the world's biggest Muslim population, Indonesia should have been mentioned by TIME (as Ibn Battuta did in his travelogue). So should other predominantly Muslim countries in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Brunei.
Endah T. D. Retnoastuti,
I thoroughly enjoyed this special issue, a snapshot of change in the Islamic world told through fabulous images and stories. Having been born and raised in the Middle East, I feel some sense of connection to the land. I'm also reminded of the hypocrisies that continue to exist. Aryn Baker's "In Pursuit of Romance" raised the contradictory and conservative Islamic rules around love and marriage that I hadn't paid attention to before, while a quote from a pirate in Alex Perry's "Somalia's Sea Wolves" ("When I want a woman, I give her money and she becomes my mistress") shows who is not spoken for in a failed state: women and children.
There's More to Turkey
How can the new Turkey economically strong, touristically charming be characterized by a little remote manufacturing district of Istanbul populated by immigrant citizens ["It Takes a Neighborhood," Aug. 1-8]? With people moving across international borders to make a living, the movement of a nation's own citizens between its cities shouldn't be big news. I suggest you dig deeper into the gray areas to better explain the sociocultural dynamics of modern Turkey.
A Pirate's Life
Pirate Mohamed "Fingers" Noor says he does not depend on anyone, that when he needs a ship, he takes one ["Somalia's Sea Wolves," Aug. 1-8]. How convoluted. He depends on everyone who tries to earn a living transporting goods while employing others. The only thing Fingers is doing himself is proving that he and his confederacy of pirates are human leeches, sucking lifeblood out of numerous industries, creating nothing except havoc.
Mount Isa, Australia
Spain's Different Sides
Re "Spain's Identity Crisis," [Aug. 1-8]: Lisa Abend says Spain "characterizes itself as conservative, homogeneous and very, very Catholic." Most Spaniards would not describe their society that way. In Spain homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexuals, including marriage and adoption. I don't see that happening in countries like the U.S. anytime soon. No one in Spain is trying to keep the theory of evolution from being taught in schools. Here politicians are not expected to go to church, pray or mention God in their speeches, and nobody cares about their marital issues. There are conservatives in Spain, of course, but to depict our society as a whole as conservative and religious is wrong.
I read with interest your article titled "India's Leading Export: CEOs" [Aug. 1-8]. As someone who grew up in India, then worked with leading American companies for over 15 years in the U.S. and subsequently spent the past four years working in India, I can testify to differences in the corporate makeup and thinking between the two great nations. I have found that Indian CEOs do tend to think bigger, bolder and more long term. They are not satisfied with incremental market share, and anything less than double-digit growth is considered a failure. And they are willing to forgo smaller details and make bigger bets.
It is impressive to see so many Indians leading the world's top multinationals. The factors cited (educational background, life experiences, business idiosyncrasies) form a good attempt at explaining their success, but surely there are many other places in the world that are just as conducive to producing outstanding business leaders. Strong communication skills, highly valued in the West, could ultimately explain why you can find Indians but not Japanese or Chinese leading top global corporations.
The Wisdom of Alan Simpson
Your interview with former Senator Alan Simpson should be required reading for every member of Congress [10 Questions, Aug. 1-8]. As a registered Democrat, I'd vote for Simpson in a heartbeat, because he gets it. Being an elected official is not about signing pledges or just saying no. The intransigence of the men and women we are paying to represent us in Washington is truly un-American.
James M. Coyne,
Mendon, N.Y., U.S.