Letters: Breeding grounds for terror

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The Independent Online

Persecution and oppression are the breeding grounds for terror

Sir: Every act of revenge ("Israel launches ferocious assault on Lebanon", 13 July) is a time-bomb thrown into the future, one which reverberates through history, unless dealt with through modern psychological and effective methods of reconciliation and peace building.

In l978, after the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, to "root out and destroy" Palestinian "terrorists", I saw, as Coordinator for International Aid in Lebanon, the Hizbollah take root in the rubble of the destroyed villages of South Lebanon and in the slums they fled to. The indiscriminate violence of the Israeli invasion of 1982 dug even deeper roots for freedom fighters and fundamentalists. The Palestinian "terrorist" movements had, of course, themselves taken root in the rubble of homes in Palestine and in the refugee camps of Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza.

The Zionist "terrorist" movements Irgun and Haganah took root in the pogroms and ghettos of Europe and years of oppression and persecution.

How is it, then, that in the name of lasting peace, Mr Olmert, Mr Bush, Mr Blair or anyone else can still believe in the effectiveness of crushing "terrorism" by terrorising whole populations.

Even if Hizbollah and Hamas are "crushed" and the Iranian and Syrian sponsors brought to heel, what new "terrorist" movement is presently taking root in the massacre of innocents, the destroyed homes, and the overcrowded, war-weary buildings to which thousands of refugees have fled in Gaza and Lebanon? History has always provided sponsors.

"Terrorism" is kept alive by fear, oppression and humiliation. A just and lasting peace is one in which all people can be heard and retain dignity.



Nuclear power is the lesser of two evils

Sir: Why is the term "environmental" so often used to mean "anti-nuclear"("Environmentalists express dismay at 'a huge mistake' ", 12 July)? Is not a concern with the atmosphere and its pollution with carbon dioxide leading to global warming an "environmental" concern? And is not the view that nuclear energy is the best way to stop the warming in time to prevent global catastrophe a "super-environmentalist" view?

Time, or lack of it, before natural irreversible release of carbon dioxide becomes unstoppable (some think it already has), is the factor being largely ignored in the current debate. Such positive feedback in carbon release would render all human efforts pointless. Wind power is the most productive of our renewable clean energy sources so far, yet we will be lucky if it provides 20 per cent of our national needs by 2020. Still more wind, never mind the infant tidal and wave sources, will never be enough till mid-century at the earliest to meet the other 80 per cent without continuing to burn dirty fossil fuels. New nuclear is the only clean, available and adequate alternative - as a stop-gap measure.

I don't think Tony Blair understands this desperate time issue, yet his nuclear solution is the correct one, provided it is regarded as interim and limited, and does not syphon research and development funding from those renewables; a tall order but an essential one. I do not particularly like nuclear, but as a scientist I am not irrationally afraid of it nor hysterically prejudiced like your so-called "environmentalists". And the genuine concerns about nuclear waste (though good storage solutions are emerging) pale almost to nothing beside the spectre of runaway global warming - perhaps 6 degrees by the end of the century. We have to learn to choose the lesser of two or more evils.



Sir: It is vital that we replace old centralised power stations with decentralised power stations. Even if these power stations still use coal and oil they are much more efficient. The old-fashioned centralised type that we have here in the UK wastes two-thirds of the energy put into them. This is because the waste heat cannot be reused under a centralised system. The heat generated is blown away in the cooling towers or disappears into our rivers and seas or along the transmission lines.

In a decentralised system, as has already been implemented in Woking, as well as the Netherlands and Sweden, you have more efficient energy sources near to where they're needed. This means that both the heat and power can be used. Woking has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by a whopping 77 per cent over the past 10 years by implementing an energy system which includes a decentralised power station.



Sir: As a trade union activist I was interested to read that the unions support Mr Blair's capitulation to the nuclear lobby (report, 12 July). Nobody from the TUC or my union, Unison, has ever asked me for my views on nuclear power, or asked me to canvass the views of the members I represent. If union leaders wish to speak with legitimate authority on such issues, they should start by making at least a little effort to discover the attitude of their sponsors. They are unlikely to encounter much reticence. We elect and pay them to represent us, not to tell us what we ought to think.



Power, patriarchy, veils and bikinis

Sir: Deborah Orr's article on veiling (8 July), and the subsequent correspondence, from both non-Muslims and Muslims alike, suggest that there is a large degree of mutual misunderstanding at work here. Frankly speaking, some comments have bordered on the offensive. Need there be a contradiction between wearing a hijab and accepting and espousing "British values"? How does a hijab in this respect differ from a skullcap, turban, or a tam?

Several of your correspondents seem to see wearing hijab as a challenge to the advances brought by the feminist movement over the past 50 years. This is a simplistic argument which, among other things, does a great disservice to a range of indigenous feminist positions adopted by Muslim women themselves.

I am an English Muslim married to a British Egyptian woman who does not wear the hijab. We both feel that the tenor of the debate on this matter, both in Britain and in the Islamic world, is increasingly becoming one of "us" and "them". While we share concerns about the increase in veiling among Muslim women, we feel equally strongly that people have a right to freedom of expression.

If a woman wishes to wear a hijab, or a bikini, that is her choice and hers alone to make. In both cases there are questions about how "free" such choices actually are, revolving around issues of power and patriarchy. It is intellectually and morally dishonest, however, to claim that one is inherently more acceptable than the other.



Sir: The appearance fixation of many women - a phenomenon not limited to the west - is a legitimate cause for debate and concern. Indeed, in the privacy of their own homes and when the hijab/niqab/burkha is removed, Muslim women show every sign - and I have lived sufficiently close to know - of being equally appearance-fixated. Assaults on female self-esteem are legion and should be the source of significant debate, but orthodox Muslim dress does not set out to address the matter.

In large part, Muslim "modest" dress appears to be the equivalent of routinely suspecting one's children of being thieves and deciding, as a result, to make sure that everything of value is hidden from them to prevent them from stealing. It is not teaching them not to steal, it involves no virtue or morality or discourse. It merely tells them, repeatedly, that you believe they are thieves.

The oranges on Mr Mohammed's fruit stall are not covered over; Anwar's convenience store has small, impulse-buy items on open and thievable display. The cover-up extends only to women and girls, denying males the responsibility of addressing issues of desire, denying females the responsibility of addressing the issue of being desired. Muslim male youths can wear tight jeans and go shirtless in the sunshine because, of course, women don't feel desire as men do, do they? Another lie.

The appearance-centred phenomenon these correspondents refer to as "western", however, is the practice of individuals being free to make their own choices, however ill-advised. Within some Muslim communities women are effectively denied that freedom and that, quite simply, is wrong.



Sir: Muslim men flatter themselves if they really think that women wear western dress so that they can "prostitute their body image for the pleasure of men" (letter, 12 July). And if the hijab is "liberation", why don't men wear it?



How we fail children with special needs

Sir: Your leading article of 6 July rightly draws attention to the reprehensible state of provision for children with special educational needs. The fundamental problem is that the assessment of special educational needs is usually carried out by the Local Education Authority, the Statement of Needs is written by them, the provision is normally provided by them and paid for by them.

How can such a system be relied upon to put the needs of the child above those of the LEA? It self evidently cannot. The policy of "inclusion" was a godsend to LEAs, enabling them to close special schools and save money. Undoubtedly many pupils benefited from "inclusion" but every child's needs are different and many are much better served in special schools.

It will be pointed out that parents can appeal to the Special Needs Tribunal. This requires expertise, time, often money for expert witnesses, great patience and fortitude in the face of a battery of LEA experts with a full department behind them. LEAs can quite legitimately prolong the proceedings by three years or more; by refusing to assess, by refusing to issue a statement, and then by writing a statement that is illegal or inadequate. Many parents simply give up. Any resulting provision is often too little and too late, with the result that the child may well fall by the wayside, into bad company, into prison, even to self harm.

Governments know this. They perpetuate the arrangement because they know that independent assessment could result in adequate provision being widely enforced and that would be hugely expensive. They know that they can rely on LEAs to frustrate the justified concerns of parents to the benefit of the exchequer.



The snobbery of the anti-cyclists

Sir: Road accidents involving motor cars and cyclists may result from the fact that many middle-aged motorists have never ridden a bicycle (letters, 10 July).

Until the arrival of the fashionable and classless mountain bike, the bicycle was seen as a low-class means of transport ridden by early-morning men in woollen hats and carrying lunch bags, travelling to dirty, low-paid jobs. To be seen arriving at the golf club on a bicycle would not enhance a chap's image.

Newspaper letters' pages are littered with references to the misdemeanours of cyclists. Let's face it: we just don't like these cyclist chappies. It is a manifestation of British class snobbery that does not exist in other European countries.



British sign language

Sir: In response to your preview of Soundproof (12 July), RNID, the national charity representing deaf and hard of hearing people, welcomes the programme as it was an excellent way of raising awareness of the communication difficulties faced by deaf British Sign Language users every day. Although RNID doesn't necessarily agree with the portrayal of the BSL interpreter's professional integrity, it is still good to see a BSL storyline on our screens. There is a severe shortage of sign-language interpreters in the UK, but RNID is campaigning to resolve this problem.



Return of Elgin Marbles

Sir: When I saw the headline "Greek antiquities to be returned" (11 July) I thought that the British Museum had at last decided to do the decent thing and return the so-called Elgin Marbles to their rightful owners. The British Museum ought to follow the example set by the J Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles.



All praise the Lords

Sir: The House of Lords voted by 218 votes to 116 against the one-way extradition treaty arranged by our government with the USA. Since the House of Lords is now the only remotely reliable protector of our civil liberties, could I suggest to all the right-on people who want to abolish it that they should instead call for its powers to be increased.



Olympian challenge

Sir: Philip Hensher asks "Why bother with a foreign language?" (12 July). Some years ago Lucas Engineering offered bonuses to employees who would learn a language, with emphasis on the spoken word, with progressive incentives up to a holiday for two in the country concerned for those reaching degree standard. We could do with a similar scheme so that we can be more welcoming to all our visitors, especially for the Olympics. Will Ken Livingstone sponsor it?



Dyson's designs

Sir: Good to see James Dyson trotting out those old pearls of economic wisdom about the role of strikes and trade unions in destroying our manufacturing base (Business news, 11 July). I'd love to know if these were the reasons he relocated his plant to Malaysia. He asks what could be more creative than designing an F1 racing car. How about something useful? There may be other reasons after all for our declining manufacturing capacity.



Lord Levy's arrest

Sir: "Unnecessary use" of police powers, Lord Levy? Welcome to Blair's Britain.