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Tuesday 7 July 2009
Letters: Immigration and justice
Holding suspects on secret evidence disgraces justice
The treatment of Mahmoud Abu Rideh over the past eight years is an indictment of British justice ("Terror suspect wins battle to leave Britain", 4 July). Indeed it is questionable whether a system that allows individuals to be held indefinitely, not knowing of what they are accused, warrants the label "justice" at all.
The High Court has now agreed that Mr Abu Rideh can leave this country to rejoin his family, who have been hounded out by the state. What has happened to due process here? A combination of weak- willed politicians and conscienceless bureaucrats have used the immigration system to hold a number of individuals for years on end.
While Mr Abu Rideh and family have stepped off the conveyor belt of detention without trial on the basis of secret evidence there are others about to join. The 10 Pakistani students arrested in April, released and served with deportation orders as a risk to national security, now face the same process. They have been held in prison since April and must now go before the Special Immigration Appeal Commission to decide their fate.
The Government appears to be looking for new policy initiatives, so why not restore habeas corpus and remove the power of the state to detain people without trial on the basis of secret evidence? An Early Day Motion (1308) was put down by Labour MP Diane Abbott making just such a demand. So far 84 MPs have signed up from across the political system.
Feminists were never man-haters
It's a good thing Ellie Levenson's book is about feminism in the Noughties, as she clearly knows nothing about feminism in the Seventies ("Feminism was something for our mothers", 1 July). All those tiresome myths about feminists saying women should burn their bras and hate men were spread by the patriarchal media. Real feminists didn't say that.
Feminism is simply the theory that society is organised along a system which feminists called "patriarchy". It is not that men are the problem and women are the solution; it is that patriarchy is the problem: and the liberation of women will result in the liberation of men.
I'm sorry to tell you young women, but we are all still living under patriarchy. Feminists didn't want for women to be able to join the Army and kill people – they wanted for both men and women to refuse to go to war. And we still want that.
Ellie Levenson's version of "feminism for the Noughties" reminds me of New Labour, which is not Labour at all.
The notion that simply believing that men and women should be given equal opportunities and equal choices will ensure that "we can do whatever we want" is just what feminists of her mother's generation, growing up in the Sixties, with lots of equal opportunity and choice, found to be the great myth. Women at that time who believed in real equality – and by the way, many of us wore make-up, eschewed dungarees, loved men and had a lot of fun – realised that they needed to go past the easy mantra of equal choice to the hard fact of equal achievement.
That requires rather less humour and more determination. It's not so many years since women with Oxbridge degrees looking to enter some professions were advised to go to secretarial school and enter as a secretary. To some of us, the progress that has been made seems to be taken very lightly by Ellie's generation.
I don't mind if Ellie or anyone else from her generation stays at home polishing their legs and giving tea parties. But the humourless truth is that the vast bulk of power over the decisions that rule our world still rests with men, whether in politics, industry, science, business or finance. Women are better represented than they used to be, but that was not achieved by staying home and feeling happy that husbands or partners sometimes do the dishes.
Walton on Thames, Surrey
I agree with Ellie Levenson that modern feminism is – and should be – a complex mix of equality, opportunity and individual choice. But to suggest this interpretation of women's rights is an invention of young women in the Noughties is daft.
From Boudicca and Jane Austen to Emmeline Pankhurst and Germaine Greer, we are a product and beneficiary of centuries of toil, blood, sweat and tears. To characterise feminists from the 1970s as hirsute, ball-breaking man-haters is revisionist twaddle. As a woman born in the Sixties (and presumably part of Ms Levenson's po-faced generation of feminists) I have no problem acknowledging my femininity as part of my feminism, and have for years sported a push-up bra while lobbing bricks at the glass ceiling.
Give your sisters some credit Ms Levenson, you haven't invented a new brand of feminism, you just like wearing lipstick while standing up for your rights. And you're not the first to do so.
Brazen contempt for sensible rules
Julia Doherty (letter, 2 July) complains of a society sliding into small-minded interventions in support of directives which make no allowance for common sense, where people somehow think that chiding a fellow cinema-goer for bringing a non-plastic glass into the auditorium is principled or heroic.
In some cases she may well be right, but the reverse of the coin is a society sliding into disregard for others, where brazen contempt for sensible rules is commonplace, and any attempt to suggest that abiding by rules imposed for the general good is essential to a healthy society is met, at best, by "What's it got to do with you?", and at worst by threats of assault.
Not very long ago I asked a group of young men on a train to turn down the portable radio on which they were loudly playing music – to which the response was that if it bothered me I should move to another carriage, as no one else had complained. If no one says anything in such circumstances, from fear of seeming to be small-minded, or from fear of attack, those who simply do what pleases them at the expense of the rest of us will have won. It is not a society in which I should like to live.
Mutual respect on the Centre Court
After I had watched the compelling Wimbledon men's final on Sunday, it dawned on me that there was something different about the on-court action in this match. The only sound coming from the court was that of racquet on ball.
Apart from the regular applause, there was the usual inane shouting from the crowd of "Come on Andy!" and "I love you Roger!", but from the players themselves not a single grunt. Nor was there any outburst or display of histrionics such as one has come to associate with players of all sports. The game was played in a spirit of mutual respect which made it no less exciting nor engaging for spectators.
Federer and Roddick were two excellent ambassadors for their sport, not to mention ideal role models for the younger spectators.
Seaford, East Sussex
The human spirit fighting cancer
I found myself thinking "Hear, hear!" to Barrie Spooner's letter (4 July), which criticises the media cliché of patients "fighting" or "battling" with cancer. But after a little further thought I felt that "suffering" is not all that patients do while in the grip of cancer. It is too passive a term. The human spirit does not easily give in and just suffer.
I watched my late husband coming to terms with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, struggling with the implications – and battling too, to make the most of the time left to him. Most cancer patients will undergo all the treatment they can to prolong their lives, while maintaining quality of life. The struggle is to combat side effects of therapies; to adapt life to the limitations caused by the disease and its treatments; and to prevent the disease from taking over what time, courage and concern for others you have left.
Bankers still out of control
I find it astonishing that, now that the Government owns large slices of the banking industry, they are unable or unwilling to control directors' earnings (" 'Get real' – Darling warns the bankers", 3 July). The argument about attracting international talent cuts no ice, since these are the very people who were unfit to be in charge in the first place.
These large salaries, bonuses and share options show contempt for the public who bailed them out at great cost to their own future prosperity. Without our support they would be hunting new jobs along with the millions they have let down.
If there is one lesson to be learnt from the financial crisis and the scandal of parliamentary expanses, it is that self-regulation is no regulation. If an activity needs regulating, the regulator should have very sharp teeth and its members have no connection with that activity.
Burqa deletes women's identity
It is ironic that Perdita Patterson (Letters, 6 July) sees social exclusion, domestic abuse and low self-esteem as justifications for covering women's faces in public. But it is political childishness to liken to the BNP anyone who criticises this deletion of women's identity. She swells the ranks of BNP fellow-travellers to include, among others, the vast majority of British Muslims.
I am so glad your correspondent Perdita Patterson has so many burqa-wearing "dear women" who have become her friends, but I don't know them and she entirely misses the point. In the same way as we would not tolerate people walking around hospitals, schools, airports and other public places wearing masks and balaclavas, neither should we tolerate any other concealment. I need to see people's faces in the same way as they have the privilege of seeing mine.
When I lived in Alexandria, I used to travel on the tram, usually in the ladies only or family carriages. On many occasions I would witness two fully cloaked and veiled women greeting each other as one of them ascended the carriage, embracing fondly with cries of "Amina, habibi!" and the like. How did they recognise each other, I wondered.
Susan I Harr
Change of mind
Faced with new information and the views of family, friends and supporters, is it weakness or wisdom to change your mind? Instead of negative words like, "climbdown" and "U-turn", recently applied to ministers, could someone suggest positive words to indicate thoughtful, sensible revision of misguided views?
Tickhill, South Yorkshire
The real East End
I lived in East Ham as a child. I was brought up to believe that the East End was that part of London nearest to the City, such as Whitechapel and Aldgate (letter, 3 July), and that East and West Ham (now Newham) were in "East London". A fine distinction, but moving from the Whitechapel Road area was then considered a big step up in status, with moves to Ilford and Chigwell the goal of those escaping the poorer East End.
Bedevilled by errors
Liz Finlay (letter, 26 June) has every right to object to "medal" as a verb, since English already has a verb for it: to "bemedal", as in the "bemedalled chests of the soldiery". Writers in English almost everywhere except in The New Yorker seem to forget that the prefix "be-" turns the verb from having no object to having one. German does the same. Such forgetfulness gives us such howlers as "he begrudgingly admitted" and the gradual loss of such correct forms as "I don't begrudge him his fortune".
David J Boggis
Today I got the annual statement outlining the performance of my stakeholder pension. With the poor performance of the markets over recent years I have had a few years' "holiday" from making what had originally been my plan to invest the maximum allowed each year. At 5 April 2008 the fund was worth £14,223.86; at 5 April 2009 it stood at £11,723.55. As I only took out a stakeholder pension because I, like many others , was "sold" it by the Government. Do I have a case against them for mis-selling?
Just had to paw through last week's issues to find the headline which I was sure that Guy Keleny would flag in his Errors & Omissions column: "Dancing in the streets after gay sex is declared legal in India" (3 July). Had dancing in the streets after gay sex previously been illegal?
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