Letters: British Muslims

As the dead come home, where are British Muslims?
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The Independent Online

The coverage about the repatriation of the eight British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the welcome accorded to them by the British public has filled me with pride for our brave armed forces and respect for the ordinary people who turned out to show their support.

At the same time, as a British Muslim it fills me with sadness that none of the leading Muslim organisations have bothered to publicly mourn the soldiers or show solidarity with the armed forces and their families, who are facing an immensely difficult battle with the Taliban in order to bring stability to the region, and secure the safety of our nation.

British Muslims and their respective organisations claim to be equal citizens of the country, yet when it comes to wars against barbaric regimes and forces such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, who happen to be Muslims, their shift in allegiance on the basis of their religion becomes clear and disturbing. British Muslims did not object to the military campaign against former Yugoslavia, in fact hailed it, when fellow Muslim Kosovars benefited. Yet when it comes to dealing with brutal regimes and their atrocities such as the ones in Darfur or Afghanistan, Muslim silence is deafening.

It is high time British Muslims recognise that they must fulfil their civic and moral responsibilities by showing solidarity with the rest of society.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Uxbridge, Middlesex

What are we doing in Afghanistan? The answer should be perhaps: destroy the power of the Taliban, allow the Afghans to run their own country in their own way and help them create an economy that works for them.

But it seems the only thing we are really doing is trying to force the Taliban out of this or that area, and with the Americans kill a lot of innocent Afghans in the process. Not only can you not defeat an idea using the military but we seem to have missed one economic boost that could help a lot of Afghans lead a better life.

Why did we not encourage them to grow poppies and harvest opium? I have just seen a picture of a field of opium poppies growing in Dorset – as there is a shortage of opium based drugs for medical use.

Peter Valentine

Oadby, Leicestershire

America sowed a wind in Afghanistan when they supplied arms to the Mujehadin to fight the Soviet Union with the complicity of a puppet military dictatorship in Pakistan. Now the Nato coalition is reaping the whirlwind in that country.

Julius Marstrand

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Abuse database angers writers

My six–year-old son's teacher told me at the last parents' meeting about how much my son loved it when storytellers and poets visited his class. My son has struggled with literacy since starting school, but thanks to these visits, he has such a thirst for literature and stories that he is often overcome with delight when he tells me and his father about what these visitors have done. My son has even expressed interest in becoming a writer.

Does the Government realise how hard it is to get very young boys to read? Thanks to this Government's obsession with monitoring every aspect of our lives, my son and other children will be deprived of some of this country's best known writers and illustrators ("Authors boycott schools over sex-offence register", 16 July).

What possible sense does it make that a person should have to have all of their details recorded and checked, just because they are spending an hour or so with a classroom or assembly full of children and teachers? Even the most cunning of child abusers couldn't harm a child in that situation.

This new proposal comes off the back of the tragic murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham. However, as in many paedophilia cases, both girls knew their attacker. How would vetting writers and occasional school visitors save a child from being murdered by someone like Ian Huntley?

As a parent, I am sick of this government thinking I can't protect my child better than they can. The Government is doing nothing but teaching children that adults are very bad people that will harm them.

Leslie O'Neil

London E11

Of course everyone of us knows that "respected children's authors and illustrators" could not possibly be paedophiles. Naturally, we share their outrage at any restriction society might place on them, especially when they are good enough to visit the classrooms of the children who, as the audiences of their work, made them rich and famous in the first place.

On the other hand, it's only fair that the same rules should apply to school governors, teachers, priests, child minders, the staff of day nurseries, scout masters, choir masters and any other respected members of the community who have open access to our children.

Sheila Pemberton


As a former Parliamentary candidate I know that MPs and their challengers are regularly welcomed into sixth-form classrooms to explain both the political system and their parties' policies. Will they have to cough up £64 to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority before they are allowed to do so in future? Can MPs charge this to their expenses?

Robert Woodthorpe Browne

London SW5

Too excited about 'shameful lusts'

Whatever Bible is the Rev Simon Falshaw using (letter, 9 July)? It certainly isn't the Bible that I read every day.

Homosexuality gets scarcely a mention in my Bible; adultery, lust, and (heterosexual) sex outside marriage get a really rough ride, but not homosexuality.

There are a couple of verses by St Paul (Romans1: 26, 27) where he calls it shameful and indecent. Interestingly he also says there that "God gave them over to shameful lusts", which doesn't exactly forbid it, but seems to use it as a punishment. There's also a verse somewhere in the old lawbook of Leviticus.

But that's it. Not really worth discussing, my Bible seems to say. I don't see why my fellow Christians get so excited about it. There are much more important things.

Rosemary Smith

Mistley, Essex

Save Europe from President Blair

Your report (16 July) that the Government will back Tony Blair's bid to be the first president of the European Union makes depressing reading.

Tony Blair was one of the worst prime ministers this country ever had – a preening vainglorious God-botherer. He led this country to its present predicament of financial near-bankruptcy and by his sycophancy to the last American administration he was responsible for British involvement in two unwinnable wars. He appears to feel no shame or contrition for, or even awareness of, the appalling damage he has done.

During his ten years as Prime Minister he did not do one thing to promote the European ideal when he had the authority to take a lead against the insular, little-Englander xenophobes who infest British politics. We had no progress at all – no scrapping of the Maastrict opt-out, no Schengen, no Eurozone. Our dwindling group of friends in Europe still see the UK as half-hearted Europeans in thrall to the Americans. He had command of the agenda, which by his neglect, will shortly pass to the outright Europhobes of the Tory Party, UKIP, and the BNP.

My only hope is that wiser heads in Paris and Berlin already know the fraud for what he is and will find a serious candidate for the job.

Chris Payne


Whitehall goes into battle for bees

Your article on the Public Accounts Committee report into funding for bee health ("Warning over honeybee decline", 14 July) doesn't mention the Government's new funding for bees, or our 10-year Healthy Bees plan.

Defra contributed a quarter of the £10m research programme into pollinator decline, with contributions also coming from other government bodies and the Wellcome Trust. Defra also funds the National Bee Unit (NBU), and is providing an additional £2.3m to the NBU over the next two years to implement the Healthy Bees plan.

The NBU has already recruited 1,500 more beekeepers to BeeBase, the database of beekeepers, since the plan was launched earlier this year. Through BeeBase, the Government is able to support and advise beekeepers on the best way to keep their bees healthy and productive.

Lord Bryan Davies

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, London SW1

Graphic menace of swine flu

Amid all the uncertainty over swine flu, one thing stands out like a sore throat. In the TV news graphics department, the BBC's imaginative representation of the deadly virus beats the ITN version hands down.

The latter's harmless wishy-washy early Turner watercolour is no match for the BBC's much more sinister, multi-tentacled, revolving, pulsating jellyfish. My bet is that the virus looks nothing like either, but I will be quite happy if I never find out.

Roy Askew

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

We now have "healthy" people dying from swine flu. So, the victims had not been subject to the effects of vaccination, antibiotics, anti-depressants. anti-everything, aspartame, mobile phones, microwave ovens, chemtrails, pesticide/ herbicide/vaccine/antibiotic residues in food, or any of the many other health-wreckers, fully approved by the Department of Health. Now, that is unusual.

Pat Rattigan


Yakov Litzman, Israel's deputy Health Minister, has announced that "swine flu" is a name offensive to Jews and Muslims so the term "Mexican flu" should be substituted. What have the Mexicans done that they are interchangeable with pigs in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox?

Sidney Alford

Corsham, Wiltshire


Murderous coup

Following your recent article in which you gave your complete support to the outrageous coup in Honduras, I have continued to follow events there. Manuel Zelaya was interviewed on 8 July and stated that he had no intention of introducing re-elections. The popular consultation was simply a survey with no power to impose changes. Now the illegal government you were so eager to lecture your readers about are murdering supporters of the democratically elected president. Your silence in this matter speaks volumes.

Alex Semple

Reading, Berkshire

Outside broadcast

Your source gives the impression that Deputy Director General Mark Byford would countenance a cost of £280 per day for a car to take him to and from the station, ("Revenge of the Man from Auntie", 14 July). This allegation is malicious. The Deputy DG has use of a car and driver to allow him to work while travelling to and from business meetings and the office throughout the day and evening. It is also available for the business use of other senior managers.

Donald Steel

BBC Head of Press, London W12

Benefits of education

James Turner (Comment, 14 July) says independent school pupils will "earn 30 per cent more than state school leavers". Is that it? Doesn't seem like a very good return on the investment to me. I'm quite used to my friends earning two or three times what I get, so I daresay my state-educated children will not be overly concerned, and the money I save by not forking out for a posh school can be spent now on nice holidays for them, a bigger house and the occasional tutor, to file off the rough edges.

Simon Pain

Kingston on Thames, Surrey

Hospital charge

Why do we have to put up with the extortion of money from the sick? I went to Wythenshaw hospital in Manchester this week and it cost me £2 for a 20-minute stay in a car park. People don't go to hospital for the fun of it; they go there because they have to, whether it's for a clinic, an operation or to visit a loved one; so why do we have to pay this disgraceful charge? The next step will be to charge for the air we breathe within the hospital boundary.

J H Moffatt

Bredbury, Greater Manchester


With regard to the recent letters about the use of the word "medallist", I have just come across a presentation case, rather like the ones that might contain an engagement ring . In the lid there is printed, in gold on a blue silk background, "Denton and Down, Medallists, 18 Bartletts Buildings, Holborn Circus London EC." The box probably dates from just before or during the Second World War.

Colin Appleby