Letters: In Saudi Arabia, Isis killer would fit right in

These letters appear in the 3rd March issue of The Independent

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Saudi Arabia, the West’s ally in the fight against Isis, publicly beheaded 87 people in 2014 and has, so far, killed 10 more in the same fashion in 2015.

Now Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison, faces the prospect of execution by beheading.

The media are fixated on Mohammed Emwazi, the so-called “Jihadi John”. Had Emwazi gone to Saudi Arabia to carry out his gruesome work, he’d be an unknown civil servant working for a friend and partner of the West, rather than a notorious terrorist who has become a byword for unspeakable evil.

Sasha Simic

London N16


I am surprised that Brian Mitchell (letter, 26 February) reckons that the three Bethnal Green schoolgirls should be considered grooming victims like the Rotherham girls. There are significant differences.

The latter often came from children’s homes or difficult family backgrounds, giving them a sense of worthlessness and increasing their vulnerability. They are typically given instant rewards of alcohol, other drugs and meals that serve to condition their amenability. They end up becoming unwilling sex slaves to vile men who are not, though, involved in rampaging killing sprees.

By comparison the Jihadi brides are the willing sex slaves of known mass murderers. The trio who have decamped to Syria are educated, intellectually competent, and by all accounts come from stable homes. They may be youthfully naïve, hormonal and capricious, and they have been indoctrinated religiously too. However they are not unaware either of morality or of the many counter-arguments to all that may have seduced them online.

It is a bizarre fact that seriously bad boys have always attracted legions of female devotees. People with severe narcissistic personality disorders seek out and often attract codependent partners who will slavishly tend to their sexual and domestic needs while providing incessant hero-worshipping in whatever other ways they can. This provides fuel for narcissistic behaviour.

Likewise these Jihadi brides are enablers, helping their men to continue their demented barbarism, and must be held largely responsible for the actions taken of their own volition.

Given that the age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10, then these three girls should surely be deemed to have sufficient maturity to understand why the vast majority of people on this planet find their life-changing decisions to be as abhorrent as they are tragically sad.

Mark Burrows

Weymouth, Dorset


As an Independent reader, Brian Mitchell (letter, 26 February) will have come across your various news reports of Isis enslaving and raping Yazidis, beheading Christians, slaughtering Shia Muslims, stoning women, burying children alive, crucifying “apostates”, and throwing gays off high buildings.

Yet the Independent article that “disgusted” Mr Mitchell more than any he has ever read is a piece that showed no sympathy with Isis’s latest British recruits (Grace Dent, 24 February). One is sometimes left to wonder where the humanity really is in liberalism.

Peter McKenna



A survey has found that two thirds of British Muslims think that acts of violence against those who publish pictures of Mohamed can never be justified. In other words the remaining one third think that such acts of violence can be justified, or do not know.

Since almost 3 million Brits are Muslim then MI5 only needs to worry about the mere 1 million of them who are potentially very dangerous. No wonder they’ve been recruiting.

Paul Dunwell


Nothing wrong with ‘easy’ books

The idea that “secondary pupils should be ‘steered away from easy, blockbusters books’ ” (26 February) is pure snobbery. What does it matter if teenagers enjoy novels that have been made into films?

There’s nothing wrong with a popular movie franchise that motivates and interests an audience to return to the world of literature. For a struggling young reader, a book-based film can even allow them to comprehend what they normally would not be able to understand and will enhance their reading experience.

Adapting literary works to the big screen is nothing new and certainly doesn’t make the original piece nothing more than an easy blockbuster book afterwards. There are so many examples: Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, The Godfather, To Kill  a Mocking Bird, the list  goes on.

Sometimes it’s as if the experts view reading as if its purpose were the act of reading. Adults may choose what books are studied at school, but it’s not for them to tell teenagers what is “appropriate” to read in their spare time. Youngsters should read whatever they enjoy. They can then see reading as a source of lifelong pleasure.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire


Your report on the reading habits of secondary school pupils confuses two notions of “challenging”. The educators appear to be unduly concerned about the level of linguistic difficulty the students should tackle, rather than the seriousness and difficulty of the ideas conveyed by the books.

That young people seek out books such as The Hunger Games, and did so before the film adaptations, is a cause for celebration rather than lament. It indicates a generation willing to think seriously about the society around them. Suzanne Collins’ trilogy deals intelligently and unflinchingly with themes of inequality, individual responsibility, and the hopes and dangers of revolutionary change. These stories are not at all escapist.

Furthermore, Collins’ brisk, vivid prose seems to me a model of good writing, which would not be enhanced by some additional difficult words.

Readers of these books will find it an easy step to the similarly challenging themes of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World. They will then have the whole of adult literature before them.

Peter Benson

London NW2


London lacks a really good concert hall

Like Rosie Millard and Peter R Owen (letter, 27 February), I have enjoyed many concerts by many orchestras at London’s Barbican Concert Hall. But the reality is that it does not have the acoustic properties which allow the best orchestras in the world to show their true quality.

Sir Simon Rattle only speaks the truth when he describe the hall as “serviceable”.

To hear the best quality of sound in this country, you have to go outside London: Bridgwater Hall in Manchester, the Sage in Gateshead or, even better, Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

Listening to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall allows you to hear music as you can never hear it in London.

The CBSO had played in Birmingham’s old Town Hall since its formation in the 1920s. In the 1980s Birmingham’s city fathers gave the go-ahead to the building of a new concert venue at Symphony Hall, which opened in 1991. But the orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic adviser from 1981, who was instrumental in bringing this massive project to fruition, was none other than Simon Rattle.

Sir Simon left Birmingham for Berlin in 1999, but his far-sighted vision has allowed countless music lovers and musicians to hear and play music at a new level of excellence. Instead of knocking Sir Simon, Londoners should be urging their civic leaders to follow Birmingham’s example.

Anthony Bramley-Harker

Watford, Hertfordshire


A groper but a great reporter

There is nothing new about Malcolm Muggeridge’s activities as a groper, as Terence Blacker seems to think (2 March). It was all in my biography published in 1995, besides being common knowledge at  the time.

As for being, in Blacker’s dismissive words, “an entertaining if slightly bogus journalist”, he needs only to recall Malcolm’s exclusive reports of Stalin’s organised famine in the Ukraine in 1933 to realise how wide of the mark that description is.

Richard Ingrams

Aldworth, Berkshire


Paying the bill  for ‘my’ BBC

The Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, wants to bring in the age of “My BBC” (report, 2 March). Yet if I don’t want My BBC, or even worse, “claim” not to have a TV at all, I will still have to pay for it through a broadcasting levy. Whose BBC is it?

Gary Wiltshire

Bunwell, Norfolk


How will we cope without a driver?

With driverless cars in prospect, I wonder if there were similar arguments when lifts were automated and no longer needed attendants. Did people fret about who would be to blame if the lift failed to stop at the right floor?

Julian Gall

Godalming, Surrey