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Saturday 20 August 2011
Letters: Islam has lessons on rights and duties, and our responsibilities
The recent riots indicate that we have not got the correct balance between citizens' rights and their duties. Perhaps we have something to learn from Islam.
The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (1981) differs in some ways from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that are controversial. But one difference is highly significant in the present context.
Apart from a vague reference to acting in a "spirit of brotherhood" (Article 1) and to undefined "duties to the community" (Article 29) the UN Declaration has no reference to the responsibilities that must accompany rights.
By contrast, the Islamic Declaration mentions, among others, the duties to protest against injustice, to defend the rights of others, to protest against oppression, to search after truth and to respect the religious feelings of others. It also gives the poor entitlement to a share in the wealth of the rich and insists that all means of production should be utilised in the interests of the community.
For a harmonious society, citizens must recognise that rights cannot exist without responsibilities and that they, by enjoying the benefits of citizenship, carry responsibilities to the community.
Reciprocally, of course, the community has the responsibility to ensure that citizens have the opportunity to exercise their rights.
Professor Robert A Hinde
St John's College, Cambridge
The Prime Minister described the recent riots as a wake-up call. Precisely. But is he going to get out of bed and actually tackle the problems instead of resorting to sententious rhetoric? He talks of a sick society, but perhaps he and his peers are the cause of the sickness rather than the symptoms.
One of the most significant causes is the vast discrepancy between the super-rich and the rest of us. If it is true that 1 per cent of the population is permitted to own 84 per cent of the country's wealth, then those at the top of our society must be regarded as the primary villains. They are too privileged to be aware of what's going on below them because they live in a different world and do not seem to have been paying attention to matters of national importance.
Envy of the very rich, resentment and anger towards the super-privileged for being so favoured by the government are strong and justifiable emotions which will surely find forceful expression. The final straw was the announcement that the top rate of tax was to be reduced.
Other factors must be the irresponsibility of those elected to govern us setting a dire example by cheating us on their expense claims; the failure of top policemen to foresee the consequences of their actions; the greed of bankers compounded by the failure of government to prevent them from taking the winnings from gambling with our money and heaving off their losses on to us; the extraordinary intimacy of members of the government with press barons, and of course unemployment and the disaffected young.
To me, it's failure to pay attention, failure to understand cause and effect, and failure of intellect, intelligence and will to attempt to solve problems which have been building for decades.
The rioters caused tens of millions of pounds of damage. The British public bays for them to be flogged, put in stocks, jailed for years, have their benefits cut and be made homeless.
The privileged elite (of politicians, bankers, economists, hedge fund managers, media commentators and regulators) destroyed the entire UK economy, saddled us with a trillion pounds of debt and threw hundreds of thousands on the dole. How many are in jail? None. How many continue to live lives of absolute luxury? All of them.
When will the true wreckers and looters of the nation be put in the dock? When will Parliament be recalled to hold Parliament to account and mete out retribution to the privileged criminals?
The Government's bid to evict "riot tourists" from their council houses, while well-intentioned, is misguided.
First, any new powers introduced to change the law which states tenants can only be evicted if they damage property in their own "locality" cannot be applied retrospectively. So while it may appear that this review is about getting tough on last week's troublemakers it will not affect a single one of them.
Second, the Government is forgetting the issue of proportionality, which the courts must always examine before an eviction order is handed down.
Given recent Supreme Court case law, there now cannot be a mandatory ground for eviction, which councils can slap on wayward tenants, no matter how desirable that may be. For the Government to suggest otherwise is misleading and risks putting the courts on a collision course with public expectation for mass evictions.
Partner, Clarke Willmott LLP, Southampton
Given the paramount need to prevent a recurrence of the recent unrest, may I suggest that the Bullingdon Club be asked to extend associate membership to all convicted rioters? Any further problems could then be classified as simple "high jinks".
Just weeks ago, the Prime Minister was explaining how he is a give-'em-a-second-chance kind of guy. Does illegal phone hacking and corrupting the police harm society more or less than rioting and looting? Discuss.
Hastings, East Sussex
A killer shark is no monster
I am absolutely disgusted with newspapers for referring to the shark that killed a man in the Seychelles as a monster. Sharks are fish, not monsters, and some species are man-eaters. People who choose to swim in the sea, which is the shark's territory, not ours, take that chance. There were warnings issued about sharks on that beach.
Sharks are magnificent creatures that are abused by man. Nobody says much about the daily killing of sharks for shark-fin soup. They have their fins cut off, then drown because they can't swim.
But the moment a human is killed for the shark's food, off man goes again hunting it for doing what comes naturally in its own territory. It is a tragedy that a man has been killed on his honeymoon, but the shark is not a monster or beast and the sea is its home, not ours, and they should be left alone.
Our rail fares are unfair
I find your assumption that those who use railways are "better off" offensive ("Is it only right that rail fares should increase?", Comment, 17 August). I may have left London for the suburbs but can assure you it is no cheaper than living in London.
I am a tax-paying working mother, who doesn't rely on the state for anything and I have been in employment my whole working life. I travel on First Capital Connect (generally standing) and at Harpenden station they have just installed barriers alongside a notice that informs passengers that this is saving them £400m because this stops fare evasion. I'm all for stopping fare evasion, but increased train fares on top of £400m seems hard to justify.
Salaries are not increasing, and after I have taken out my childcare costs for two children and new travel costs, I may soon have to stop working. I am sure I am not alone.
You report that "Britain's railways cost 40 per cent more to run the France's SNCF". Britain's privatised energy companies do not seem to have much of a record either. In both these fields, railways and energy, American private companies moved in after privatisation, believing that they could make huge efficiency savings. They found reality differed from myth, and left.
Is it not time that the concept that private enterprise is innately more efficient than public enterprise be re-examined?
Maths skills add up to success
It's hugely encouraging to see such a resurgence of interest in mathematics, both at A-level and by those students lucky enough to secure a place at university.
But while for many the next challenge will come when seeking employment, I believe they've made a good choice, because of the growth of careers in which maths can play a key role.
In the marketing industry particularly, where historically the "creative" has been king, analytical skills are now playing a more significant role in creating and supporting good ideas. That means that organisations and brands will be more more successful because they will understand more what the customer needs or wants.
Creativity still ultimately engages the consumer with the brand (and some of the most effective ideas are powered by the clever use of technology) but in the context of a forensic analytical and insight-driven mindset.
MD, Indicia, Bristol
Paul Rowlandson (letters, 17 August) is rightly concerned about pupil-teacher ratios and the teaching of reading in our schools. As a member of the "post-war baby boom", I started infant school at the age of five in 1953 in a reception class of 44 children.
By we all entered the junior school able to read, write and do simple maths. The pupil-teacher ratio was not a problem because we paid attention.
We were also eager to learn, so maybe that is the difference.
Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria
No young fogey
A report in your paper (Sport, 17 August) referred to Matt Giteau, the Australian rugby player, as a "veteran". He is 28. If he is a veteran, what do you call Simon Shaw, the England player, who is 38?
St Ives, Cornwall
Perspectives on potato harvesting
Tattie howking? Where I lived, it was spud-yacking
As a child, I also recall working in the potato fields (letters, 19 August), although in my case it was in North Lincolnshire (not Scotland) and we knew it as "spud yacking". I've just Googled the term to be sure that my memory wasn't playing tricks on me and I was immediately linked to a fascinating piece on wartime Britain written by a former pupil of my old school.
He recounts how part of the school playing-field was given over to potato-growing in the much-vaunted Dig for Victory campaign and that the school holidays were worked to fit around the potato harvest and for the pupils to do the spud yacking. My own "yacking" days were in the Sixties.
Lifting crops for pence not for this child
In the late Forties, volunteers were called forth from my council school in Barnet, north London, to help farmers lift the potatoes. Fellow pupils went off by lorry each morning singing jolly songs.
I stayed at school. The farmer paid them pence for back-breaking work and made a profit from their labour. My childish mind considered that a wrong. Happy days.
Hammerwood, East Sussex
School's out, because it's time to take the harvest in
I was head of a Hertfordshire village primary school in the 1970s. In the log books, charting school events for more than 100 years, were details of the dates of the summer holiday.
The headmistress (always a woman until the 1960s) each year wrote, "School broke up today for the Harvest Holiday".
The date varied by up to a month, depending on the corn harvest, and the school was closed for six weeks. In the autumn term, there was always a further week's holiday for "potato-picking", again the dates varying to suit the crop.
Plas Nantglyn, Nantglyn, North Wales
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