The horrors and comforts of my internet postbag

My least favourite e-mailer is Ted from Texas, who writes with alarming frequency to tell me to shove off to where I came from
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First, a million thanks to all of you who let me know exactly how you feel about the columns. Your missives have made me think, laugh, cry, scream and sometimes shiver fearfully through sleepless nights. Hundreds of e-mails arrive each week from around the world. It may just be because I am, at present, the only non-white regular newspaper columnist in Europe. I used to count the positives and negatives and drown in pathological anxiety. No more. Although it is enraging to hear from racists, Muslim Stalinists and unwavering ideologues, it is important they do write in and I am getting tougher so it hurts less. These conversations are an essential part of the job, which I love.

First, a million thanks to all of you who let me know exactly how you feel about the columns. Your missives have made me think, laugh, cry, scream and sometimes shiver fearfully through sleepless nights. Hundreds of e-mails arrive each week from around the world. It may just be because I am, at present, the only non-white regular newspaper columnist in Europe. I used to count the positives and negatives and drown in pathological anxiety. No more. Although it is enraging to hear from racists, Muslim Stalinists and unwavering ideologues, it is important they do write in and I am getting tougher so it hurts less. These conversations are an essential part of the job, which I love.

As I cannot be depended on to follow a certain line – for example, always pro-Labour, anti-racist, pro-feminist, pro-Islam – I get many accusations of gross betrayal of this group or that. I am still getting such letters from over-excited sisters who objected violently when I wrote about how I was trying to become a less choleric wife to my husband after reading The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. I have got back into bad old habits again, by the way.

If I discount the demonic haters and killers – of whom more later – my least favourite e-mailer this year was Ted, who writes in with alarming frequency to tell me to shove off to where I came from. Ted, you are American from Austin, Texas. It is one thing to be invited to leave this island by the fans of Norman Tebbit, but what gives you the authority? Have you really come to believe that we are now just another one of your many states?

Then there's Edward, who longs to rip my clothes off and do me over: "You Pakis with your shaved-off clits, need to be fucked senseless by English patriots and thrown to the sharks, like in those James Bond Films." There's no stopping Sharon or Michael either, oh no. Since I wrote I was going to boycott Israeli goods (latest: check the labels of all the herbs in supermarkets), these two have been bombarding me with "evidence" of Palestinian barbarisms, never those perpetrated by Sharon and his army.

One hundred and eighty-seven apoplectic Australians wrote in after I criticised Australian political attitudes following the bomb in Bali. They were the most easy-going people in the world; how dare a bloody Muslim say otherwise? Egocentric Americans continue furiously to demand a blind and unconditional approval of their nation. I must mention the O'Dwyers and Maureen and Milo (who likes to call me a "trashy girlie"), who are hysterically opposed to black immigration and repelled by my uppitiness. But Ted from Texas was the outright winner.

Among my most favourite were the readers who surprised me. Ali Santos, a Muslim convert in Argentina, shared his love for his adopted beliefs. A Middle Eastern prince expressed dangerous approval for the need for human rights values, especially in Islamic countries. A confused ex-BNP supporter said he was madly in love with Lisa, jet black and a Zimbabwean asylum seeker, whom he met on a packed coach to Manchester. He had had his wallet nicked; she had given him a fiver and they have been seeing each other ever since. She has no idea what the BNP is and he doesn't want her to find out. What do I think?

More than 200 black Britons agreed with the column that argued peer group pressure was as damaging as racism to black men and boys. When I wrote similarly on Damilola Taylor, many black Britons were horrified. It was "rubbish", in the words of one reader. Lucy, a white City broker, wrote in to say she was mentoring a young black boy for the very reasons I brought up in the column. By far the highest number of approving letters arrive when I criticise the rampantly sexualised culture surrounding our children. I only wish those in charge of our public culture would take some notice.

Most useful for my own enlightenment were readers who put me right on facts, new developments and media assumptions. I was unfair and plain wrong when I said that Zadie Smith had moved to the US because she was a prima donna who couldn't stand any criticism.

I made a foolish error by not checking when I claimed the surgeon Magdi Yacoub was a Muslim. Omar, a barrister informed me that it is normal for barristers to refuse to look at papers, after I'd disbelieved Cherie Blair's description of what happened to the faxes on the immigration case of Peter Foster that came to her study. Jonathan, a civil servant, provided useful information to show that the Government is not slavishly following the agenda of the right-wing papers on immigration policies. Asad asked quite rightly why he should, as a Muslim, always be expected to denounce what other Muslims do. Are Catholics being asked to distance themselves from paedophilia? And I was reminded of Ross Parker, the poor white teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in Peterborough by three young men of Muslim origin. He was attacked with CS spray, a hammer and a knife. His story was not on the front page of too many newspapers. There was no demonstration. I did not write about him. I failed.

It is always hard, this. When news broke of the horrible murder of two-year-old Ainlee, I prayed her parents, the killers, weren't black. They were. A gang jailed for carjackings and violence this week was black, and three other Muslim men were convicted of the murder of a father of two young children after he tried to stop them stealing a car. These dastardly acts are not worse because they are committed by black people but nor are they automatically more understandable because of racism. I will and do fight against injustice and inequality and the power merchants who apply no ethical standards when victims are Muslim. But the rot within also destroys too many communities.

To the readers – black, white, Asian, Muslim, American – who have expressed enthusiasm for my writing, I am immensely obliged. I am particularly encouraged that the vast majority of Muslim correspondents agree that we need to reform ourselves. These people help to stop me from going mad, and not to capitulate to the dozens of fanatics who write e-mails like this (from Shahin, who distributes lofty thoughts from Eaglet163@yahoo.co.uk): "Moderates like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown are our eternal enemies ... her face is like a dog's backside, she denounces true Muslims who have taken the trouble to fight for true Islam. Wake up Ms Apostate Brown. Allah shows us how to recognise these traitors. Alibhai-Brown has even supported the adulteress in Nigeria when all true Muslims know fornicators must be punished. She supports sodomites, she has Jewish and Christian friends. The only reward for these people will be death, crucifixion. We must undermine and silence these 'Moderate' reformers."

Other true warriors have asked for me to be "burned without mercy". Add to these the Friends of the USA, who also want people like me or Robert Fisk or Mark Steel first tortured then dead; the Russians who warned me off after my piece on their treatment of Chechens; the Hindu fundamentalists who want me never to set foot in India and you begin to understand the chaos of the 21st century.

Still someone obviously likes me enough to put up more than £1,000 to cook them an Indian meal, part of the Indy auction for charities in Africa. Have a peaceful New Year and join the anti-war movement, so the poor Iraqis do, too.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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