Letter: Positive impressions of Muslim tolerance

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The Independent Online
Sir: How refreshing it was to hear berated the intolerance which the liberal establishment shows towards Muslims ('A new Islam for the West', 14 February). As someone who has worked overseas for lengthy periods in two Muslim countries (Morocco and Brunei), I never experienced any equivalent to the cultural jingoism of the British intelligentsia; on the contrary, I was struck by the tolerance that Muslims showed towards foreigners who were generally much better paid than themselves.

The impressions I had of the influence of Islam on social behaviour were generally positive: it placed constraints on certain types of behaviour which are accepted as either anti-social or taboo in many cultures, for example, theft, sexual infidelity and drunkenness. As regards personal behaviour, it encouraged acceptance of - rather than anger or frustration towards - all types of everyday problems: financial, political or in terms of personal and family relationships, and it gave a type of inner resilience that I found increased the level of outer confidence. In short, it gave a sense of peace.

Since I worked in these Muslim countries as a teacher in mixed schools, I was in a good position to observe the influence on young people and the relationships between the sexes; it seemed to me that constraints on public display of sexuality in fact enhanced desire rather than reduced it.

Women take an active part in both private and public life, with full involvement in the professions, and generally appear to be better cared for, playing a central role in family life, and, as a result, are more loved than many of their Western equivalents.

However, I think the most beneficial effect I noticed was that the fasting month of Ramadan seems to create a sense of social purpose and unity which is sadly absent in our individualistic and competitive society; it also ensures a rejection of consumer values for at least part of the time, and that appears to be no bad thing for mind, body or soul.

Yours sincerely,

JONATHAN CHARTERIS-BLACK

Guildford,

Surrey

15 February

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