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A Spirited Response

Clearing Cultural Smokescreens

I would like to commend you on a beautiful article ["The Muslim Mosaic," Spring 2005]. It was both educational and inspiring, both scientific and spiritual. Thank you for publishing this article that gives us insight into the world's most misunderstood religion and its relationship with modern public health issues.

Azleena Salleh Azhar
Fremont, California

I am a Muslim Egyptian working with the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Work that touches on taboo issues such as sexual orientation, sex outside of marriage and condom use is certainly a challenge here. However, I do believe that, as your article pointed out, Islam promotes healthy behavior. When religion (whether it's Islam, Christianity or any other religion) is used as an excuse for limiting discussions on HIV/AIDS-related issues such as condom use, I like to quote a UNAIDS colleague of mine who says, "Cultural smokescreens are an excuse for inaction."

Maha Aon, MHS '01
Cairo, Egypt

"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin." —H. L. Mencken. Cynicism is a highly prevalent problem in the Muslim world. This cynicism was fueled, if not created altogether, by actions of Western governments. The recent "crusade" to "liberate" the Iraqi people, which has led to more than 100,000 civilian deaths, is a recent example. JHSPH should be congratulated on its work that shows the good side of the West and reveals its mosaic.

Mohamed Sekkarie, MD, MPH '03
Bluefield, West Virginia

Out of Bounds

I read the Editor's Note ["Boundary Breakers," Spring 2005] with interest. Your purpose was well intended and appropriate, but I feel you undermined your message by writing that "...Francesca is a clear refutation of any notion that scientific research requires testosterone." This language is gratuitous and politically charged and does a disservice to Harvard President Lawrence Summers. The discussion needs to take place in the realm of scientific inquiry and not in the overcharged atmosphere of gender warfare.

Phil Palmer
Silver Spring, Maryland


Your "Anatomy of an Epidemic" about SARS, Fall 2003, mentioned every American in public health and virology who in a fringe way was connected with SARS. But you have knowingly and intentionally left out the man who discovered SARS, Professor Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong. Americans are known the world over in academic circles for stealing credit.

Susan Baker, MD, MPH
Sri Lanka

Editor's reply: We regret not including Professor Peiris's discovery and are pleased that you have highlighted it.

Kind Words on "Wise Words"

As an incoming MPH/MBA student, I have been thoroughly inspired by these faculty members ["Wise Words," Spring 2005]. Thank you! Keep up the excellence in your articles and publications.

Elizabeth Yi
Baltimore, Maryland


In the Spring 2005 story "TB: A Global Epidemic, A Curable Disease," we inadvertently referred to Mycobacterium tuberculosis as a virus. We regret the error.

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