British Summer Time, Muslim/Christian dialogue and others

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is time to stay with British Summer Time all year round

It is time to stay with British Summer Time all year round

Sir: Surely it's now time to leave the clocks alone? Daylight saving has had its day, I thought, as I went through the usual twice-yearly ritual of changing the clocks and timers in my house. I counted them - 20! Video-players, wall clocks, alarm clocks, wrist-watches, computers, cooker, central heating, the car, even my digital camera! Why do we just accept altering the clocks without question?

Why not stay at GMT+1 (British Summer Time) for the whole year? There we were enjoying lighter mornings last week, only to have them snatched away from us - just as the powers-that-be decide that we should have the evening light snatched away from us when we turn the clocks back again at the end of October. It's time to stop this nonsense. Does anyone like it getting dark at 3.30pm in December?

I seem to remember that the argument for daylight saving is to make the mornings "safer" and that without the reversion to GMT at the end of October, sunrise would not be until 10am in Scotland, but where's the evidence for the benefits of "daylight saving"? Surely drivers and schoolchildren are more likely to have accidents in the dark afternoons when they are tired? And socially, most people would rather have lighter evenings.

The vast majority of the British population live in the South East and the Midlands, less than one-tenth live in Scotland. The Scots can adjust their clocks by -1 hour in October and we'll have a different time-zone for the rest of the UK, staying at BST permanently. It works in other countries.

We have no problem trading with Europe with different time zones, so there is no reason that an hour's difference with Scotland for six months of the year should create any domestic problems.

London N17

Muslims and Christians must form a dialogue

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is to be thanked for her truthful and gently withering account of Christianity vis-à-vis Islam ("Is Christianity really better than Islam?", 29 March), following former Archbishop George Carey's recent speech about the problem with Islam today. Perhaps the following story can add to our interpretation of events.

Whilst a postgraduate student at Oxford I attended a lecture by an elderly Anglican cleric on "comparative religion", and something he said struck me like a thunderbolt. He predicted that the third world war would be brought about, not by the conflict between communism and capitalism, but by the collision of a "resurgent Islam" with the West. He added: "I can see the signs now". That was during the Michaelmas term 1955.

I have quoted him repeatedly over the intervening years, always noting that the clash that he predicted was not one between Islam and Christianity as such, but between Islam and the Western world.

It would seem that the Church, in its more reasonable and informed incarnation, has not been entirely blind to the approaching storm over the past half-century; and that, if a catastrophe is to be averted, what is needed more then ever is a reasonable and informed dialogue between these two world faiths on a basis of absolute equality.

So may I appeal to Dr Carey, whose courage and patient endurance as our archbishop was never in doubt, to allow his successor to get on with this task. For innumerable people, Rowan Willams - with his profound intellect and imagination, and his Christ-like openness of mind - represents our best hope of making the Christian faith meaningful and more effective in overcoming the dangers of our time.


Sir: I thank Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for the content of her article on Christianity and Islam, which contains a challenge to both faiths to look at themselves and some of the things with which they are associated. From this kind of base can come the foundation of mutual discussion and community-building among the millions of reasonable Muslims and Christians. This is not only desirable; it would also stand us in good stead if this country finds itself faced with a situation which the US and Spain have already faced.

Radcliffe, Gtr Manchester

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asks whether faith corrupts societies. While she is right to point out that most religions are not innocent of encouraging or carrying out atrocities, such quantifying and comparison is misleading and draws us away from the philosophical dilemma she raises.

We need to answer the question about the corrupting influence of all faiths. Faith in a supernatural power, and submission to the doctrines of a religion often sanctions inhuman behaviour "in the name of" whichever deity. The sooner that all "Gods" are recognised as being figments of our fertile imaginations, the sooner the world can begin to talk the same language.

It is also naive or disingenuous to conceive of the actions of national governments in religious terms. The potential confusion that may arise when so-called pious Western Christians commit atrocities can soon be removed by substituting "Christian" for "Capitalist" and "God" for "Mammon". World leaders do not act on religious impulse, they act according to the needs of their "interests". A cynic may say the same is true of all "believers".


Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is quite right. Christianity is no better than Islam. In fact all three of the main religions of the world are suspect. They are ultimately based on the Old Testament which is full of violence, killing and sacrifices.

They all go back to Abraham who even, so we are told, was prepared to sacrifice his own son to show that he loved God. How daft can you get?

The golden rule, which should be self-evident - treat the other person as you would want to be treated yourself - purports to be a universal behaviour code in most of the world's religions. This is ignored by most in all three main religions.

It seems to me that the only thing to do is to forsake all religions and become Humanists or freethinkers. We would then have a much calmer, safer world.


Taliban meeting

Sir: Your article on the 11 September Inquiry ("The President's man was calm under fire. But was he alert to the dangers?", 24 March) quotes the preliminary findings of an American commission looking into the events of 11 September.

This wrongly suggests that I used "a mixture of possible bribes and threats" to Mullah Omar when trying to get the Taliban leader to hand over bin Laden.

Indeed I did meet Mullah Omar and tried to persuade him to hand over bin Laden but at no time did I offer to bribe him and neither did I threaten him. I suggested to him that he would improve his relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if he handed over bin Laden. As you correctly report he backed down on this deal.

We can all hypothesise about what might have happened had Mullah Omar handed over bin Laden at our unsuccessful second meeting, or indeed what might have happened had bin Laden been caught before the terrible events of 9/11. Instead these horrific events haunt us all. What remains at this moment is our commitment to ridding our society of this evil. It is a fight we must not lose and that the international community must unite in pursuing in every corner of our world.

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
London W1

Palestinian deaths

Sir: In his letter (29 March), Alan Senitt claims only 35 per cent of Palestinians killed have been civilians. The Palestine Monitor, a Jerusalem-based information agency, gives weekly up-dates of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the Intifada began in September 2000 and as at 23 March 2004, the number stood at 2,936. Of these, 366 (12.4 per cent) were children aged 15 years or under and 189 (6.5 per cent) were women. The vast majority of Palestinians killed have been civilians although the total figure includes policemen.

Killings, whether of Israelis or Palestinians, are to be deeply deplored and every additional death makes a peaceful settlement to the conflict more difficult to achieve. The Israeli government has it within its power to end the slaughter by complying with UN Resolution 242 and withdrawing from the Occupied Territories.

Westerham, Kent

Sir: The photo of a young Palestinian boy adorned with a suicide belt is heart-rending (25 March). If spiritual leaders such as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin are teaching that murdering is a religious obligation, maybe Israel's policy of targeting these type of "leaders" is the only way to stop the growth of a new hate-filled generation of Palestinians.


Horse exports

Sir: Marie Woolf is unwise to accept as fact the misleading suggestion that up to 10,000 live horses a year could be exported to other European countries for food (22 March). There is no evidence of any demand for a trade in live horse exports from the UK and this situation is unlikely to change as a result of any EU legislation.

Far from "giving in", Defra is working to strengthen the protection of horses and has also funded research that will lead to a first government strategy for the horse industry.

There is no current ban on the exporting of live horses for slaughter. Current rules apply only to some categories of working horses and ponies, and are far from being a block on trade as has been implied. Furthermore, we have consistently reassured animal welfare organisations that we will not withdraw these controls until they have been replaced with measures which provide at least equal protection.

Our approach will improve horse welfare in the UK and Europe, including the accession states, which is surely a more sensible way forward than pursuing an "opt-out" which would be unworkable and unenforceable.

Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
London SW1

Prozac issues

Sir: On the face of it, it is deeply unfortunate, to say the least, that over-prescription of anti-depressant medication seems so rife - and that provision for psychotherapy in the NHS is nationally so poor ("Prozac Nation, UK", 30 March).

But at one level, this may be the nation's collective choice. Many, or all, psychological problems involve avoidance to some degree; and it seems to be a more palatable option for many - including corporate interests - for the individual to take a tablet and so avoid the possible temporary emotional disturbance, and practical consequences, that proper engagement with the underlying issues would entail.

Clinical Psychologist
Hellesdon Hospital
Norwich, Norfolk

Poetry 'fix'

Sir: Professor Brian Cox (letters, 29 March) puts forward the intriguing idea of the Arts Council funding an annual pamphlet featuring the work of our best modern poets. For those of us who know that poetry extends beyond those little hardbacks that are supposed to help us get through till breakfast, this would be a much more sustainable "fix". And if they could find their way to the likes of schools, libraries and hospital waiting rooms, for free - as well as to retail outlets, at the modest price suggested - it would be a very welcome development.

Poetry has the power to entertain, to educate, to elucidate and to evoke our strongest emotions. It doesn't need glitz to get its message across. It just needs to be read.


Stubbed out

Sir: I hope that our government will soon follow the lead of the Irish one by banning smoking in all public places (report, 29 March). Non-smokers - who form the majority - have an absolute right to enjoy a smoke-free environment during a visit to a pub or restaurant without emerging stinking of foul tobacco odour. Let smokers enjoy their expensive and dangerous habit at home or in the street - without subjecting the rest of us to their lethal fumes.

London SW7

Citrus fruits

Sir: Regarding the value of citrus fruits as a guard against scurvy (Letters, 25 March), the consumption of lime juice was in fact in error, as lime juice has little anti-scorbutic value, they should have carried unripe lemons. These are of high value and are also the same colour as limes, a case of mistaken identity.


Taxing situation

Sir: I rather hope that the Inland Revenue take a lively interest in William Kay's contact (a senior city figure) quoted in his article (27 March). Apparently his contact's wife makes up to £2,000 per week which she does not declare to the revenue. She doesn't need to "as her husband's ample earnings are an explanation for their comfortable lifestyle".

Shame on all concerned. Despite government propaganda to the contrary, the NHS is being squeezed until the pips squeak. The revenue from these dishonestly concealed earnings would pay the salary of three trained nurses. Pay your taxes madam and stop cheating!

A P Corder FRCS

Take no notice

Sir: I sympathise with Mr Flanaghan over his difficulty in following instructions when travelling by rail (letter, 24 March). In spite of substantial efforts, I have not yet managed to comply with any request to "make use of all available carriages".

Orpington, Kent