Letters: Islam and assaults on women

These letters appear in the Wednesday 19th June edition of the Independent

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I have read Owen Jones’s article about the English Defence League (17 June). I very much admire Owen and in no way do I support the EDL. However, as a woman of a certain age (70) with two daughters, I know how much women in this country fought for equal rights.

I have no concerns about people of the Muslim religion coming to this country to work and integrate into our society. What I cannot accept is a culture which does not recognise equal rights for 50 per cent of the population. After all that women went through in this country to acquire equal rights, I cannot accept a culture which segregates women.

I despair when I read of swimming pools where males and females cannot swim together, or university lectures where women are separated from men. Nor can I accept forced marriages or “female mutilation”. This is not the country I recognise, where earlier generations of women fought hard and long for equality. 

Dorene McCormack, Hythe, Kent

The 15 June bombing of a university bus on the campus of Sardar Bahadur Khan University, Balochistan Province, Pakistan, is just one more example of an attack on higher education. This attack is all the more deplorable as it targeted the province’s only all-female university, leaving 14 female students dead and a further 11 injured, and was followed by an attack on the Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta, where the injured were taken for treatment.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the group that has claimed responsibility, is known for its ties to the Taliban, which has a record of excluding girls and women from education. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, has expressed concern that violence against women and educators has increased in recent years, with the aim of keeping girls from attaining the right to education.

Elsewhere, in parts of the Middle East, we are witnessing other explicit or implicit attacks on girls and women in all levels of education, including universities. In Iran, a recent policy has sought to limit access for female students to specified subject areas. In Egypt, female academics are reportedly being sidelined or excluded as academic members of staff. In Algeria the careers of female academics are constrained by societal norms that have led to a major exodus of educated women in the past decade.

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics condemns this attack in the strongest terms, and calls on all governments to protect their educational institutions and educators, and to take active steps to support women in education.

Anne Lonsdale, Chair, Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, London SE1

Exams won’t ‘win the  global race’

Michael Gove’s claim that his GCSE reforms will equip the nation’s children “to win in the global race” is simply silly. No system of education that measures a pupil’s success solely on final examinations can ever be described as world-class. Making exams harder will not necessarily raise standards and will certainly not hone the crucial set of skills such as independent critical thinking, team working, project management and using multiple sources which are needed in higher education and the workplace. 

The timing of Gove’s announcement, when many pupils were sitting their GCSEs, could not have been worse. Drawing attention to the “flaws” in the system and announcing such radical changes will only demoralise young people who are working hard trying to achieve good grades. 

A modern assessment system has to have multiple elements, each rigorous and demanding, not just a single element. Examinations have their place, but there are problems with their effectiveness as the only test of intellectual ability. It is deeply concerning that such hasty reforms, with an antiquated focus on examinations, have been put forward by the Government. What our society needs in order to “win in the global race” are independent critical thinkers, not parrots.

Dr MalcoLm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire, Preston

Why is Stephen Twigg restricting himself to clearing up Gove’s mess? He needs to be less of a Hoover and more of a Roosevelt. A New Deal for English state education is urgently needed.

Professor Colin Richards, Ulverston, Cumbria

I wonder whether Michael Gove’s notion of a curriculum would include a history syllabus that treated – in detail - the modern history of education policy in England?

Roy Evans, Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Labour must fight for the NHS

Paul Gallagher gives us a clear insight into the privatisation which is under way in the NHS (“Mitt Romney and the NHS privatisation goldmine”, 15 June).

We know the Government of Conservatives and Lib Dems supports the policy, but the Labour Party, despite its historical backing for the NHS, remains remarkably quiet.

We pride ourselves on living in a democracy, but the privatisation of the NHS was not in any party manifesto at the last general election. Unless our elected representatives start making a major issue of what is happening, by the next election it will be too late to reverse the trend – clearly the intention of the Government, given the speed with which privatisation is progressing throughout government services.

If Labour is looking for a policy which will resonate with the public, it doesn’t have to wait until the next election. Action is required now.

John Baxter, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Escape from Ruritania

John McLorinan (Letters, 17 June) is right to target the spin doctors whose task is to persuade us all how wonderful it is to have a “royal” family. To the list he created we should add the Ruritanian nonsense that is the “Honours list” and consign it to history.

A comic actor and TV presenter becomes a knight – having been, presumably, adequately recompensed for his efforts – while a couple volunteering their time to the local community for 26 years get a British Empire Medal. Locally, a Crown Estate employee has been given a bar to his Royal Victorian Medal!

And wouldn’t it be good to think that any child born this summer might, when older, aspire to become an elected head of state? It’s time to become a proper, grown-up democracy, rather than northern Europe’s rival to Disneyland.

Richard Fagence, Windsor

Sport in decline? Not this one

If the situation regarding sport participation was really as bad as Sport England’s survey suggests then the Olympic legacy would be well and truly squandered (“What Olympic legacy?”, 14 June). I believe the figures to be complete fantasy.

Sport England reckons that participation in rowing has decreased 26 per cent in the past year, yet anyone with even the slightest connection with rowing would tell you that our clubs are bursting at the seams. I represent the West Midlands clubs on the governing body and all have long waiting lists for their learn-to-row courses and an unprecedented demand since the Olympics. Perhaps sport would be better served by Sport England not wasting money on useless surveys and putting more into the grass roots.

Christopher Anton, Birmingham

Family kept apart by UK border

A friend of mine’s niece met and married a man when she was volunteering at a mission in Ghana. They married exactly a year ago, at which time he was working as a chartered accountant in Accra and is therefore well able to support his wife and family if he were living in the UK.

The lady has just given birth to their son but the Immigration Service has denied him even a visitor’s visa to see and hold his new-born baby. They are a happily married couple who are desperate to spend their lives together but are being denied that privilege.

Is this really the kind of society we want to live in? So much for the Tories’ philosophy on supporting marriage and the family.

Susan Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk

One tax law for the rich ...

Within weeks I am due to receive my state pension. As expected, HMRC have issued a new tax code to me so that the Government can claim one-fifth of this extra income.

I am quite happy to pay whatever is due, but it is extremely irritating that companies and individuals avoid billions of pounds in tax by morally dubious means. I sincerely hope that the G8 summit has resolved the problem of tax avoidance.

Mike Stroud, Swansea

Why we went to war in 1914

It was not national honour or a duty to France and Belgium which drew Britain into the First World War (letter, 18 June). Britain did not want Europe dominated by the new German state. War would remove Germany as an imperial and trade rival. Belgian neutrality provided the moral cover.

Would Michael Gove’s proposed curriculum permit such a critical reading of our past?

Ian McKenzie, Lincoln

North in bloom

I have been driving regularly between Edinburgh and Liverpool for about 15 years, and I have to say that in all that time I have never seen such a display of buttercups and daisies in the fields between these two splendid cities as there is this year. It made me wonder how things are down south?

Peter Tallentire, Crosby, Merseyside

Ban web porn

It seems that the “dirty raincoat brigade” have become one of the most powerful lobby groups feared by politicians. Why else haven’t they insisted that hardcore porn websites are outlawed? Once young minds are exposed to such distortion of normal human behaviour, it can never be erased.

Brian Christley, Abergele, Conwy

Snoopers’ excuse

It seems that leaders of the G8 nations are rather peeved at being spied upon by GCHQ. Here’s a suggestion. Tell them that as long as they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. Let’s see if they appreciate that vacuous platitude any more than the rest of us do.

Tim Hinchliffe, Beckenham, Kent