You quote Manwar Ali, an ex-Afghan jihadi, saying that dividing the world starkly into “them” and “us” (believers and non-believers) is the first step on the road to violent extremism (‘I am not afraid of confronting this mafia now’, 18 January).
Dividing people into two distinct groups, however, is the very first thing that all the main religions do and is central to their doctrines – the saved and the damned, the Jew and the gentile, the Muslim and the infidel, the righteous and the unrighteous. One group finds salvation and eternal life, the other is condemned to burn in Hell for all eternity, and usually given a hard time on earth first. This is deliberately divisive and elevates some people above others, purely on the grounds of their ideas about gods, and makes no distinction between those who believe in other gods and those who believe in no gods at all.
Bizarrely, this segregationist nature of religious belief finds its earliest expression here in faith schools with their discriminatory selection and employment protections. It is a tragedy that this is vested upon innocent children and encouraged by our governments in both Holyrood and Westminster.
National Secular Society
I applaud Dilwar Hussain, Sara Khan, Manwar Ali and Adam Deen for having the guts to challenge their co-religionists who peddle the “non-violent extremism” that gives succour to the Islamists who threaten to tear us apart. As a teacher, I found Muslims just as willing to participate in every aspect of school life as their non-Muslim friends. But I was also aware of an increasingly separatist narrative in the local community, with ever-more women in niqabs – which broke my heart. For the sake of those beautiful children who so passionately want to embrace our society, we must hope that the forces of reason will prevail.
Fascinating though I found your 18 January article about the “top eight” who have portrayed Henry VIII, the omission of Keith Michell from the list seems positively egregious. Here was an actor who not only played the king so memorably in a widely acclaimed television series (for which he won the Best Actor Bafta in 1971), but successfully reprised the role in a 1972 film adaptation: am I alone in my admiration of both of his performances?
Ellen Jones draws attention to the news that nearly a million people have gone missing from the electoral register, (“Locking the ballot box”, 18 January). This is the result of a change from household to individual registration. This change was bound to be disastrous in practice. The new system was introduced to combat voter fraud but I have yet to hear of a potential fraud that was not covered by electoral law – if candidates and parties choose to use the provisions. The key one is the right to have polling agents at polling stations with the right to challenge anyone they felt was not entitled to vote. These days few candidates and parties have the personnel available to undertake this important task, which may be why they prefer the new system, even if it reduces the numbers on the register.
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Ellen Jones asks why David Starkey is still invited to be a current affairs commentator. It’s because he’s more intelligent, more knowledgeable, more interesting, more perceptive, and more honest than the great majority of so called pundits.
John May (Letters, 18 January) says we should consume grass-fed cows because grain-fed cows are bad for the planet. But, surely, we must first of all acknowledge that animals are sentient beings like us. Therefore, the moral case for going vegan will always override any environmental – or indeed health – concerns people may have about animal farming.
Brighton, East SussexReuse content