IoS letters, emails & online postings (19 September 2009)

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Brian Brady's report on the role of jihad and al-Shabaab in Somalia attributes the threat of international terrorism to close links between the Somali-based al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam with al-Qa'ida ("The Somalia connection", 13 September). The situation is even more complex.

Hizbul-Islam is an umbrella organisation of a group of jihadist organisations, such as al-Ittihad al-Islami, which first emerged in the mid-1970s to reject Siyad Barre's scientific socialism and fought on a nationalist Salafist platform long before al-Qa'ida gained international repute. Al-Shabaab has a more pronounced Wahabist objective of establishing a Caliphate in Greater Somalia, which includes the Somali-speaking parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. As such, it presents a major threat to East African territorial integrity and has a destabilising influence on Islamic coastal populations, as far south as Mozambique.

Ultimately, dialogue between the Islamic Courts Union and more moderate elements of Hizbul-Islam may re-establish a national consensus, in the wake of Somalia's worst humanitarian crisis, with half of the population in need of emergency aid.

There are many reasons why "many younger British Somalis have become detached from wider society", including a disturbed background of conflict , low levels of English literacy and social skills, high dependency on the welfare systems and difficulties of reconciling religious values with what often appears to be a dominant, hedonistic society.

Jihad and martyrdom appeal to marginalised youth, as recent evidence from diaspora communities demonstrates in Minnesota, Sydney and the UK. The 2009 paper by Communities and Local Government on the Somali Muslim community in England hardly perceives this problem and is deficient in specific solutions.

Joseph Mullen

Manchester University; lead consultant on Somalia to the UN (1994) and EC (2005)

***

The English Defence League supporters are Islamophobic, but they hate Islam because in their view every follower of the religion is Asian ("Islamic leaders say authorities caved in to white extremists", 13 September). In reality, religion is no particular guide to ethnicity – unless you are a racist.

Keith Flett

Via email

***

The BBC is indeed too big, continues to grow and devours more and more money (Janet Street-Porter, "The BBC is too big for our good", 13 September). Its programme budgets get thinner and thinner while more and more managers are appointed on vast salaries to head each new section. The answer is to identify one or two core radio and TV services, ie, real public services that could be left free, and charge a subscription for the rest, including of course its website. A stand-alone BBC satellite subscription channel to rival Sky Sports, for example, would not only prevent an excess of sport on occasions on BBC1 and BBC2, but also generate huge revenues for the corporation. Yet they have two free-to-air children's channels as well as minority BBC3 and 4. The BBC, before my time, called one of its networks the Empire Service. Now it is the "Empire Building Service".

barrieredfern

Posted online

***

Derren Brown "predicted" the Lotto result with a simple split screen camera illusion ("Why doesn't Derren always win the pot?", 13 September). But he used a misdirection of mathematic plausibility to convince 24 people (and half the nation) that they had predicted the result. Here you have to read between the lines. He told us how it was done, but not explicitly. Derren Brown is all about how easy it is to get people to believe something and be directed to do things. And it is this that we should all find deeply disturbing.

neil_wilson

Posted online

***

Sex is only morally and socially unacceptable when it is used to abuse others ("Lesbians united", 13 September). Whether you are homosexual or straight, when two people are committed and cherish one another, and don't have to march, protest, insult or gain sympathy with others to prove their point, society accepts them for what they are: a loving couple.

sjkillman

Posted online

***

It is uplifting to read that so many dads share parenting as never before ("Marigold Man...", 13 September). Fathers who leave it all up to their partners should remember that once their children are grown up, there is no second chance to get involved.

Jim Jackman

Castleknock, Dublin

***

Your cheering feature on "Twiggy at 60" (13 September) illustrates perfectly that 60 is the new 50 (just as 50 is the new 40). As retirement age for many edges towards 70 and beyond, and life expectancy rockets off the graph, we need to redefine our age bands. So many happy returns, Twiggy: you'll find it's grand being middle-aged.

Anna Distin

London E1

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters @independent.co.uk (no attachments, please); fax: 020-7005 2627; online: www.independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2009/September/20

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