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Tuesday 14 September 2010
Muslims left to face hatred
In a tumultuous week when a fringe Christian pastor in Florida made international headlines by saying he would be burning the sacred scripture of over 1.7 billion Muslims, where were the loud denunciations from any prominent British religious figure? The deafening silence from the heads of other faiths in the UK sends a chilling message to Britain's Muslims: that they are fair game in an incendiary post 11 September world.
Traditionalist Muslims have often been their own worst enemy, but progressive groups like the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford have promoted universal religious solidarity. Among other initiatives, we had previously denounced the burning of Salman Rushdie's book; protested the destruction of the Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan; rejected medieval sharia law for Britain; denounced sexist discrimination, justified the right of believers to apostatise and defended persecuted non-Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
Since Pope Benedict has voiced his disapproval at Pastor Jones's publicity stunt, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, his chief representative in England and Wales, has said nothing tangible. Similarly, all that Islamic organisations heard from the Anglican Church last week were annual greetings from Rowan Williams marking the end of Ramadan, with just a single sentence about the projected desecration of the Qur'an. Otherwise, not a full media response strongly deploring the pastor's plans from him or his inter-religious secretary, nor from the Chief Rabbi or other leaders of religious Britain.
While it is right that UK Muslims must root out extremism in their midst, surely other faiths should do the same with their own fundamentalists and radicals?
Dr T Hargey
Imam and Chairman, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford
The threat of Koran-burning in America, the reaction in the Muslim world, persecution of other religions and apostates in Muslim states and religiously motivated honour-killings all underline the very poor record of respect for human rights demonstrated by religious authority of every hue.
The only states able to protect freedom of religion and multi-faith practices are those with a secular constitution. Secularism is too often more associated with atheism than with providing the only hope of maintaining religious freedom and tolerance.
Secular authority must always deny the false right claimed by religious groups or individuals to feel so insulted by the lawful actions or opinions of others so as to threaten or commit acts of violence. Without such secular authority there can be no religious freedom.
I almost choked on my morning scone when I read that Pastor Terry Jones claimed that Barack Obama "doesn't understand Christianity" because he asked the pastor to listen to the "better angels" when making up his mind about whether to have a public burning of the Koran. "Angels don't communicate with us – God does," said the pastor confidently.
He was implying that Obama is a Muslim, for Muslims have a strong belief in angels. Perhaps Terry Jones hasn't heard of a certain Angel Gabriel who spoke to both Daniel and Mary in the Old and New Testaments? Or the fallen angel Lucifer known as Satan who spoke to Jesus in the desert? Perhaps he doesn't know of the Christian belief that a third of the angels came down from heaven with Lucifer and became "bad angels". Those left behind were the "good angels". Back to the seminary, Pastor.
I enjoyed Adrian Hamilton's International Studies (9 September) but was startled by one of his statements. How could he, even in the broadest reconciliatory terms, justify his statement that "in Christ's teaching there is nothing to suggest that deliberately upsetting others has anything to do with Christianity".
If this were so, could he, then, explain the words of Jesus, clearly laid out in John 8:37-45, that bluntly exposed prominent Jewish leaders, to their faces, not as sons of Abraham, as they themselves perceived themselves, but as sons of the Devil? We can have our views of Jesus, but denying his confrontational elements is simply misplaced. And don't get on to Paul!
Banks have learnt nothing
I find the appointment of Bob Diamond as Chief Executive of Barclays utterly perplexing, yet at the same time utterly unsurprising.
On the one hand, it is perplexing that following the public outcry that all banks endured through the recession, they would dare to appoint such a risk-taker to a senior role. Yet on the other hand, it's unsurprising, as the Government has done nothing to change the laws of banking and the banks themselves have done little to change their attitude towards the public's money.
Bob Diamond is one of those bankers the Government was so quick to condemn just two years ago. Yet two years later, having learnt nothing, Barclays appoint him as chief executive, and the Government stands by, claiming that it can have no say in who is appointed.
When will banks and the Government act in the interests of the public, and not just themselves and the shareholders? Or must our country continually succumb to greed while the hard-working public suffer?
Having read Richard Ruzyllo's letter (10 September), I believe, on balance, that he intends to be serious. I spent my life in the trade of old-fashioned banking, like the rest an "uneducated functionary", leaving school at 15. I now realise that MBAs, which I have usually found to be superfluous for banking purposes, are the reason, together with the influx of greedy people from New York and the relaxation of our banking rules, for our great "success" in recent years.
That success, of which Mr Diamond is a shining example, has put this country where it now is: that is, in debt to a degree never experienced before in peacetime, with the worst financial catastrophe in 300 years, which will be repaid by our children and grandchildren.
People like Bob Diamond and his followers such as Mr Ruzyllo think that his distorted type of "banking" can just carry on as before; it cannot, because with gamblers in charge another disaster would happen eventually, and with the Government unable to help us this time, we would end up as a third-world country.
If "banking" requires the best, how is it that one of the most notorious of these "investment bankers" offered a lucrative job to my 23-year-old grandson, whose qualification is a decent degree in maths from one of our top universities, but whose experience in anything practical is nil. Fortunately he took his grandfather's advice and decided not to corrupt his soul.
Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers London SW16
If the undoubtedly talented Bob Diamond were to use his skills in manufacturing, engineering, medicine, education or some other useful field then I could agree with Richard Ruzyllo's eulogy.
Manipulating the money of some to the detriment of others should not be seen as either worthwhile or honourable.
Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire
With admirers like Richard Ruzyllo, who needs enemies? The tone of his letter starkly highlights the doubts many feel about Mr Diamond's appointment to head Barclays Bank: critics of his appointment are, says Mr Ruzyllo, "terminally ignorant"; politicians who express doubts are "bitter and twisted" and traditional bankers are "uneducated functionaries".
He goes on to reveal that people like Mr Diamond "do not take prisoners and shoot the wounded". The right man for the job, then.
Don't feed dead animals to cattle
I am extremely concerned by the EU's plan to relax the rules about animal feed (report, 7 September).
The logic goes that not feeding herbivores bits of diseased sheep and other animals has reduced or almost eliminated cases of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and that therefore they can now start feeding meat to them without consequence.
Similarly, because eliminating all food-borne disease is impossible, it means they can do anything they like. By this logic, why not feed the cattle nuclear waste, dead rats, broken glass and other substances that wouldn't feature in their normal food?
If this flawed logic were extended to other aspects of our lives, such as driving, then because the strict driving test in the UK has reduced the accident rate, but the risk of crashes cannot be totally eliminated, the driving test should now be scrapped.
The proposal to allow meat and bonemeal back into animal feed is surely proof in itself that new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is alive and thriving in the brains of those who have put forward this idea. As a farmer of rare-breed cattle for beef, I am appalled.
If Coulson didn't know
While Tory spin doctor and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is innocent until proven guilty in the phone-hacking affair, I do wish his supporters would stop claiming that he did not know what was going on.
I have broken major stories both as a freelance reporter and an editor. In each and every case my editor and publisher was aware of what I was working on. It is a standard term and condition in most editors' contracts of employment that they must take all reasonable steps not to land their titles in court or to drop them in trouble.
If Mr Coulson genuinely did not know what was going on, then he didn't deserve to be editor of even a rural weekly – and it is appropriate that he no longer works on the news-gathering side of the profession.
Plight of abused husbands
I take exception to Julie Burchill's dismissive attitude towards abused husbands (8 September).
In the 1950s I suffered abuse as a child because society did not accept that it happened. In the first decade of this century I suffered abuse from a partner because, again, nobody accepted it happened. Had a refuge been available, I would have been first in the queue. I suspect it would have soon been bursting at the seams.
Only after I had eventually left, in the autumn of my life, with nothing but a mattress and a sleeping-bag, did my partner take her anger out on other family members. Had this not happened nobody would have suspected anything untoward was occurring.
Ms Burchill's words only make others in my former situation find recognition of their plight even harder to achieve.
Name and address supplied
Not content with St Petersburg
Mary Dejevsky writes (6 September) that "for the first time in more than 30 years, people on the streets of St Petersburg seem confident and content with themselves".
No wonder the article has caused a storm in Russian political blogs and independent media. Like Ms Dejevsky, we have every reason to be pleased with Governor Matviyenko – for hewing out some 800 parks and squares, for the collapse of the transport network, and for her programme of reducing the number of schools.
Good for her to have demolished the Hasansky Market, with all its cheap goods and excellent repair shops, and left thousands of people jobless – in order to build a shopping mall.
Matviyenko bans our rallies in defence of freedom of assembly and the riot police enthusiastically follow her courageous stand and beat us with truncheons.
This beautiful woman deserves special gratitude for preservation of St Petersburg's historic heritage. Citizens and visitors admire the collapsed embankment of the Groboyedov Canal, while Tsar Peter's New Holland lies in picturesque ruins. Matviyenko has demolished over a hundred historic buildings in central St Petersburg.
St Petersburg, Russia,
Your article about Governor Matviyenko states that Norman Foster designed a tower that Russian giant Gazprom wants to build in St Petersburg. That is incorrect. In fact, Norman Foster, with others, went on record as opposing this project.
Foster + Partners, London SW11
As much as I
David Gould (letter, 9 September) asserts that "lived in the same town as I do" is grammatically different from "lived in the same town as I". Fowler's Modern English Usage points out that when "as" is followed by a pronoun it is often necessary to supply the verb to avoid ambiguity. Thus "he hates her as much as I" means "as much as I do" whereas "he hates her as much as me" could mean that he hates me as well. "As me" may be colloquial but surely "as I" is correct.
Perspectives ondefence spending
Heading for a military defeat
The past week has seen yet more headlines outlining deep cuts to our already severely depleted armed forces. The past few weeks have seen a loosening of our commitment to an independent nuclear deterrent, the proposed reduction of the RAF to its smallest size ever and yet more reductions in the size and capability of the navy and the army. Since the Second World War each conflict our armed forces have been asked to fight in has been radically different from the previous one, each needing the very military capability our political leaders have told us is no longer required.
The primary duty of government is defence of the nation, yet successive governments have taken the professionalism of our armed forces for granted – and run them into the ground. It cannot be long before inadequate British forces suffer a military defeat; the negative effect on our national psyche and standing in the world would be incalculable.
Whilst we support the Coalition Government's commitment to reduce the size of the state, the place to start is not with our frontline defences but with the other areas of today's bloated public sector. We urge David Cameron to stand by his 2005 commitment to Conservative Way Forward's nine principle,s which include, "security: the first duty of the state is to provide external and internal defence of the citizenry", and to reconsider the terms of the Strategic Defence Review. The electorate will not treat kindly any government which plays fast and loose with our national security.
Conservative Way Forward
Naval might for a global warmonger
At long last, the secretive story of Britain's plans to construct two supercarriers is out. Only two countries in the world are committed to plans of this sort, the USA and the UK. Only five countries anywhere in the world are building aircraft-carriers of any sort whatsoever.
All parties are complicit, again, in this policy. Even though the plan was announced in 1998, it must have been in preparation long before that. These carriers are not simply replacements of previous ones. They far exceed in size and capacity anything this country has had before.
Now it is being argued that we have spent too much on it to abandon it, and jobs will be lost in thousands. But investment in armaments produces fewer jobs than in many other key sectors of the economy, such as education, health and construction.
The argument about job-creation weakens further when we remember that the most expensive part of this project, the aircraft that the carriers will be equipped with, are going to come from the USA, F-35s, currently estimated at around £100m per plane, with more than 100 on order.
What kind of defence strategy would such equipment fit into? Obviously one in which Britain can still be seen to wish to rule the waves. Add this to Trident and the UK's willingness to play a leading role in wars of aggression in far-flung places, and you begin to see that we must have an image of warmonger rather than peacemaker in the eyes of much of the globe.
Is this really what we want to bequeath to our grandchildren?
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