Letters: Gay footballers

Fan's message of hope for gay football players
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The Independent Online

Sensation! I'm a football supporter and I'm gay! Since professional players in the Premier League are reluctant to put their heads above the parapet in the campaign against homophobia in football ("Gay players: the truth football won't face", 12 February), perhaps this no-name, on a fraction of their salaries, can get the ball rolling instead.

Having attended games home and away for years, and accepted the homophobic chants as part of the territory, I was eventually outed on the footie coach – by my own (straight) mate who felt embarrassed on my behalf by the thoughtless language of some of our travelling companions. "Here, Gra's gay, yer know," he told them. The reaction was amazing. "Respect!" said some. "Sorry mate, we didn't know," said others. Having always shared the intense comradeship that only travelling fans really know, I felt an increase in the warmth of fellow fans towards me. It was no big deal.

The thing that really puzzled my fellow fans was that a gay man should be interested in football. This I put down to poor information about who gay people are. I am not a devotee of Graham Norton, or Shirley Bassey, nor am I camp. On the football terrace and on the coach I wear the colours, sing the songs and chants along with all the others, and I go to the pub with my footie fan friends. I'm normal.

Gareth Thomas's brave decision will help immensely in dispelling misunderstandings about gay people generally and particularly in sport. It would be a brave footballer who came out in the same way, but all Premiership players can help greatly not only by condemning homophobia but by voicing their own preparedness to accept gay team-mates. We've made huge strides in booting racism out of sport. Being gay should be no big deal either.

Graham Beard


Torture: myth of the 'ticking bomb'

Bruce Anderson's comment piece, seeking to justify torture, used the hypothetical "ticking time-bomb" scenario, in which a bomb is about to go off, with heavy loss of life, and the authorities have in their hands a terrorist who knows where it is ("We not only have a right to use torture. We have a duty", 15 February).

People who accept that argument very soon go much further, having abandoned an absolute standard of decency, which, once departed from, leaves a person without any real way of knowing where to draw the line.

People such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld resorted to the "ticking time-bomb" thought-experiment because they wanted to justify torture under other circumstances. Multiple ticking time-bombs were not actually the reason why torture occurred hundreds of times in Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib, or Bagram airbase. Or why "extraordinary rendition" was carried out. Or why many other countries practise torture.

I am not aware of the "ticking bomb" scenario ever having happened, or how it could really ever be likely to. People who employ it are not really trying to make sure that they have an answer to the problem immediately to hand should they ever find themselves in that situation. They are casting around, constructing the most elaborate fantasies, to imagine circumstances that would allow them to torture someone and claim it was justified.

Qasim Salimi

London SE16

Bruce Anderson repeats the tired example, always cited by apologists of torture, of "the man in custody who probably knows where the ticking bomb is". That was, disgracefully, the only real point he made in a rambling and (given the subject) trivial article.

That is a James Bond/comic strip example, unworthy of serious discussion. The real issue is whether, as a matter of policy, Britain should use torture in the so-called "war on terror".

The downside includes weakening the rule of law generally, undermining international law (see America's claim that the Geneva Convention does not apply in that war, coupled with weaselly attempts to redefine what "torture" means), and the danger of a police state.

A better example is to imagine that a small bomb has gone off, the police are under pressure to find a suspect, so pick a suggestible one at random. Once you give licence to destroy a human being through torture, people will use that for their own institutional or personal purposes.

Bruce Anderson can hardly be unaware that his article coincides (chillingly) with the Baha Mousa enquiry.

David Griffiths

London SW18

Instead of re-running the tired "ticking bomb" scenario to justify torture, Bruce Anderson should take a look at our bulging case files if he really wants to confront the reality of torture.

Torture is not used to save lives, it is used to destroy them. Those that survive torture – whether in the cells of Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Burma or China – can readily attest to the grievous physical and psychological scars inflicted by their tormentors.

This is the banality of torture: it is widespread, and is used to extract false confessions or to humiliate and terrorise. Every form of cruelty imaginable has been deployed, from "ordinary" beatings with fists, cables or rods; to burns with cigarettes, electric shocks and rape; to death threats, including to family members sometimes themselves being tortured in adjoining cells.

Torture is not and never will be a noble endeavour. Mr Anderson's fantastical scenario – of a detained terrorist refusing to reveal the location of a ticking bomb – is just that: a malign fantasy.

This threadbare attempt to lend spurious intellectual cover to human rights abuse is utterly contemptible. It is also a gross insult to those who have suffered the agonies of torture.

Kate Allen

Director, Amnesty International UK

Simon Carruth

Chief Executive Officer, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture

London EC2

Wide-ranging Synod debates

Your leader column "The ignored gospel message" (12 February) criticises the Church of England General Synod, and yet clearly the writer did not hear many of our wide-ranging discussions.

These included how the Church can use its buildings better for community benefit, its work among children and young people, military chaplaincy in Afghanistan, and tackling the perceived but false conflict between science and religion, to name a few. The day before the leader appeared, you devoted a whole page to discussing the topic of religious broadcasting, prompted by the Synod's debate.

The way in which the debates were conducted on the Church splits in North America or on pension provision for clergy in civil partnerships showed our true commitment to listening in love that the Church upholds as the way forward.

We never claim that the Synod is our shop window. That shop window is the front-line work of the Church found in our thousands of parish churches, chaplaincies and other ministries, which provide a Christian presence in every community. It is there that the "message of good news which the Church's founder set out to bring to humanity" is most vividly expressed.

Revd Prebendary Kay Garlick

Chair, Business Committee

General Synod

London SW1

No votes for prisoners

Robert Chesshyre, in his article "Give prisoners the right to vote and everybody benefits" (12 February), fails to give one principled reason for enfranchising convicted prisoners.

His only argument seems to be that because other European countries do it, we should. I don't agree. I think when people are imprisoned for breaking the law they should not only lose their liberty but also their right to choose Members of Parliament, whose job it is to change the law.

HMP Manchester (Strangeways) is within the constituency I represent and I think it would be perverse to give the convicted prisoners in Strangeways the potential to affect the outcome of an election. I have always been happy to represent imprisoned constituents who are not receiving proper treatment, but I do not think it right that I become accountable to them collectively.

Graham Stringer MP (Manchester Blackley, Lab)

House of Commons

Mossad assassins strike again

We may never know for certain if Mossad was behind the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai (reports, 17 February). However, all of the signs point that way, including Israeli politicians alluding to an active assassination squad.

As Robert Fisk reminds us, this sort of killing is "part of an old, dirty war between the Israelis and the Palestinians in which they have been murdering their secret police antagonists for decades". We need to look at the implications for Britain.

Benjamin Netanyahu was the Israeli prime minister in 1997 when his agents tried to assassinate Khalid Meshaal in Amman, using Canadian passports to enter Jordan. Now it looks as if Mossad has succeeded in murdering a Hamas official using fake British passports, again on Netanyahu's watch.

This is the calibre of human being that David Miliband wants to welcome to Britain, while pushing to change British laws to make sure his entry to the UK would be arrest-free. Surely it is time for Britain to review its relationship with our "strategic ally" Israel?

Ibrahim Hewitt

Senior Editor, Middle East Monitor, London NW10

Surely it is less bad that Israel shoots Hamas military leaders individually, by well-aimed bullet, rather than bombard Gaza, with inevitable civilian casualties? If only we had been able to do the same in Iraq and Afghanistan, how many innocent lives would have been spared.

Andrew M Rosemarine

Salford, Greater Manchester

I am not in the least bit surprised at the assassination of a Hamas leader by the Israeli secret service and the illegal methods used. Mossad has been flouting international law for years – and probably their own Israeli laws.

The sad thing is that the British public will, in the main, not care one jot for the life of an Arab. The Israelis know that the incident will soon be forgotten.

Jeff Smith


Could your correspondents criticising Israel for being founded on terrorism or "ethnic cleansing" name a state, past or present (with the possible exception of Iceland), that wasn't?

What matters is how a state's leaders behave now and in the future. Labelling others as Nazis, terrorists or anti-Semites is only a way of categorising them as beyond rational argument. The problem is that those who accept each other's humanity and therefore equality of rights, and are prepared to talk, do not appear to be in power.

Peter Slessenger



War without end

So the Royal Laos Army, hired by the Americans during the Vietnam war, are still fighting, 35 years after the Americans left ("The secret army still fighting Vietnam war", 17 February). I wonder what the people of Afghanistan make of this news.

Ivor Morgan


Spoof news

How curious to accuse BBC News of a "sense of humour failure" for refusing to provide material for a new comedy quiz programme (report, 17 February), the accusation being justified by the idea that "Nick Robinson enjoyed taking part" in a pilot show. What happened to preserving news values in our primary public service news provider? Satire is healthy for a democracy but God help us if servicing comedy really is a priority for journalists.

John Forrest

Sale, greater Manchester

Olympic dividend?

Given the almost infinite long-term economic benefits we were promised in return for the billions of pounds invested in the London Olympics, isn't it amazing that the Greek economy is in so parlous a state so soon after the Athens Olympics?

Keith Noble

Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Winning picture

The way the Brit awards are covered in the media says a lot about Britain today. Often, when a black artist wins, the photos on the front pages show instead the white "losers". So I would like to thank The Independent for publishing pictures of JLS. At a time when most stories concerning four young black men from south London would not have such a happy ending, thank you for giving these four lads the positive coverage they deserve.

Sharon Jordan

London SW9

Let time stand still

I don't really care if it's Summer Time or GMT all year round (letter, 16 February). Can't we just stay with one or the other? What I do dislike is feeling jet-lagged for a week or more twice a year.

Howard Fuller

Abingdon, Oxfordshire