• Nicholas Kristof on Religious Leaders Denouncing Islamophobia  The New York Times columnist is horrified by Martin Peretz's recent post wondering whether Muslims really deserved First Amendment rights, as he is by a Newsweek poll finding 52 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama probably sympathizes with the Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose sharia law worldwide. "That kind of extremism undermines our democracy, risks violence and empowers jihadis." The combination of ignorance and bigotry, he says, is not all that different from the anti-Semitism which he "hear[s] in Muslim countries from people who have never met a Jew." Says Kristof: "bravo to those Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who jointly denounced what they called 'the anti-Muslim frenzy.'" He points, specifically, to the statement coming out of the ISNA Emergency Interfaith Summit.
  • Tariq Ramadan on What Muslims Can Do  The Oxford professor of Islamic studies observes in The Washington Post that much recent Islamophobia is not a matter of "hatred, but ignorance." He also points out that "negative perceptions of Islam are hardly new in the West--they date back to the medieval age, not to Sept. 11, 2001." He encourages Muslims to "understand the sources of this fear and ... behave accordingly," recognizing that the combined forces of foreign wars, Islamic fundamentalism, and economic downturn are difficult to combat. "It is time for Muslims not to be on the defensive, to stop apologizing for being Muslims and to be more assertive about their values, duties, rights and contributions to the society in which they live," he declares. He also thinks that Cordoba House should be built somewhere farther away from Ground Zero.
  • Sudhir Venkatesh on 'Five Myths about Prostitution'  In the wake of Craigslist's decision to remove its "adult services" section, the Columbia sociology professor takes to The Washington Post to make five statements contradicting common perceptions. First, she says, prostitution is no longer "an alleyway business. ... the transition from the streets to the Internet seems to have been very rapid." Second, prostitution is not just about men paying for sex--often they wind up talking and not getting around to what they paid for: "Approximately 40 percent of high-end sex worker transactions end up being sex-free." Third, it is no longer the case that "most prostitutes are addicted to drugs or were abused as children." High-end prostitutes who view sex work as "a part-time job" are increasingly common. Fourth and fifth, police and prostitutes are not enemies, and "closing Craigslist's 'adult services' section" will not "significantly affect the sex trade."
  • John Grisham on the Woman on Death Row in Texas  The thriller-writer tells the real-life tale of Teresa Lewis, a woman in Texas on death row while her two collaborators, who actually pulled the triggers, are not. "Lewis is not innocent," admits Grisham--she did conspire to kill her husband and stepson. But she also "confessed to the police, pled guilty to the judge and for almost eight years has expressed profound remorse for her role." Grisham argues that the judge's rationale for giving Lewis the death sentence--that "the killings were [Lewis's] idea"--doesn't hold water, as Lewis's markedly low IQ and dependent personality disorder make it far more likely she was a follower, not a leader. Nor does Lewis, Grisham points out, have any history, aside from this, of violent behavior.
  • Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus on How Increasingly High Tuition Fees Actually Get Spent  Students aren't "getting a lot of extra value for all that extra money," argue Hacker and Dreifus in the Los Angeles Times. Most of the money is going to sports teams, administrators, and tenured faculty. "Currently, 629 schools have football teams--132 more than in 1980. And all but 14 of them lose money." Furthermore, "the cost of sports continues to rise," with ballooning football squads and an increasing number of varsity teams, both for women's sports and new sports such as golf, few of which produce any revenue. Meanwhile, "since 1980, the number of administrators per student at colleges has about doubled; on most campuses their numbers now match the number of faculty." Nor is the amount being spent on faculty unquestionably worthwhile, they contend: "In theory, all this extra tuition money should permit the hiring of more junior faculty, which might mean smaller introductory courses." That's not happening.