Letter:Fundamental problem of Islamic symbols

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The Independent Online
Sir: If Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still wondering ("Sex ,veils and stereotypes", 22 December) why the traditional Muslim veil carries such negative connotations in the West, the hijacking this week of a French airliner by Islamic fundamentalists should help to explain the reason behind these prejudices. Three unarmed and innocent passengers became the latest victims of Islamic fundamentalists' wrath directed against foreigners in Algeria.

It is not what Islam stands for but how it is projected that leaves a lasting impression on the mind. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Islam has been projected by the fundamentalists not as a religion of compassion, justice and equality, but as an emblem of defiance, intolerance and militancy. What makes the situation worse is the reluctance, or the inability, of liberal-minded Muslims to counteract that negative image.

Islamic fundamentalists hold sway not only in mosques but also in many British universities, where recently a militant Islamic organisation has been banned for carrying out anti-Semitic activities.

Instead of blaming the Western media for misinterpreting Islam and Islamic symbols, such as the Muslim veil, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown would do well to ask liberal-minded Muslims to stand up and be counted. A step in the right direction might be for the Muslim parliament in London to pass a resolution condemning the violent activities of Islamic fundamentalists worldwide.

Yours faithfully, RANDHIR SINGH BAINS Gants Hill, Essex