To the editor:

It seems many columnists, university professors and church leaders - the so-called intellectual voices among us - claim that the abject poverty found in most Mideast nations fuels terrorism and that American foreign policy somehow bears the brunt of the blame.

But what they evade is the fact that the recipe for prosperity has been free for the taking for over 200 years; Islamic fundamentalists have simply shunned the ingredients: freedom, individual rights, and capitalism.

Having integrated their otherworldly beliefs into every aspect of their lives, including their politics and economics, Islamic radicals then wail that material abundance and this-worldly success escapes them.

Indeed, Muslim fanatics are poster children for people who want to have their cake and spit on it too.

Consider. They believe human reason should play second fiddle to faith - and then grumble about how their situation is ruled by unreason. They teach that life in "this world" is merely a test run and that only death delivers eternal bliss - and then lament that their lives are hell on earth. They scorn the material realm - and then moan about lacking even basic necessities. They renounce earthly riches - and then cry for more Western aid. They denounce pursuing personal goals - and then whine about being dissatisfied. They discourage independent thinking - and then bewail their economic stagnation. They enshrine humble obedience - and then lament being ruled by thugs. They laud self-sacrifice - and then complain about so many "selves" being sacrificed.

In short, the faith-filled of the Middle East want what never has been and never will be: a religiously run state whose inhabitants are happy and prosperous.

The "intellectuals" in our midst have it wrong: American foreign policy isn't standing in the Arabs' way. Reality is.

Wayne Dunn

Murfreesboro, TN