IoS letters, emails & online postings (29 September 2013)

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I believe the reason we, as a nation, are being so polite regarding the niqab, in answer to Joan Smith (22 September), is obvious. The British are famously polite. Is not polite debate preferable to absolute chaos?

I must say to call something "ridiculous", though Joan's perfect right, is rather harsh, and not at all in the tradition of politeness! I agree that the niqab should not be banned, except in specific situations that would incur difficulties for practical reasons.

However, I would like to point out that the "modesty" argument does not have to wash with Joan, or anyone else for that matter; it is meant, as I understand it, purely for God, and I cannot see how it is up to any of us to dispute somebody else's personal relationship with their God. If they believe it creates a closer relationship with more piety, and thus modesty, then it is subjectively so.

Whether it is, in reality, more modest or not is irrelevant to a dispute that should surely be centred on more practical reasonings? We cannot alter belief or opinion just proffer our own. It certainly wouldn't be very polite to try in any case.

Helen Brown

Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Joan Smith says it is OK for a woman to wear the niqab on the 94 bus. Does that bus have CCTV? Allowing people to hide their face makes it ineffective. The only equitable answer is a ban on all headcovering in public which is designed to hide the appearance and which would also include young men wearing hoodies.

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

I wonder if the Which? survey into food prices took account of how much food is discarded, partly because of strict adherence to "best before" and "use by" dates, and also because of a reluctance to use left-overs ("One in three struggling to feed themselves", 22 September).

You have reported in the past that as much as one third of food is jettisoned in some households, and it's not rocket science to think that the two may be related. Janet Street-Porter in the same edition espouses cookery lessons in school, which would make the young more aware of what can be achieved by judicious use of "raw materials". Providing free school meals will not help with this, though there are more practical reasons for supporting such a proposal.

Dave & Carol Fossard

via email

Those of us who are opponents of independent education should nevertheless welcome as a temporary ally the new chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference ("School boss tells Michael Gove: The system isn't broken", 22 September). As Tim Hands implies, state schools under Michael Gove have no incentive to innovate, only a perverse incentive to conform to an increasingly dirigiste, test/examination-dominated regime. I would urge all state primary and secondary schools to follow Tim's example and devote at least an eighth of their curriculum to non-examination learning – "Independent Studies" .

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

I disagree with the Department for Work and Pensions spokesman that "sanctions are only used as a last resort" ("Homeless jobseekers hit hard by benefit cuts", 22 September). I know of someone who lost money simply by being late for an interview, while others have been penalised for not applying for enough vacancies.

In a place like Grimsby there isn't much work and the unemployed are forced to go for jobs they know they won't get simply to meet job-centre targets.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

I read the article "Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal" with dismay (22 September). This is a cruel method of killing animals. This country brought in laws to stun animals before slaughtering and then allows certain groups to ignore them.

Another worry is that we could be buying and eating halal meat which is not labelled as such. We have the backing of scientists that animals should be stunned before slaughter.

Jenny Bushell

London SW19

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Letters to the Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF. Email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk. Online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2013/September/29

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