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Thursday 9 April 2009
Letters: Islamic extremism in schools
When a school faces Islamic extremism
The appalling story of what happened to headteacher Erica Connor (Life, 6 April) when a small, unrepresentative group of Muslim activists tried to Islamicise her state primary school, will surely strike a chord with many teachers, parents and governors of schools with a high percentage of Muslim pupils. It accords with my experience when I was a school governor.
Issues raised by extremists may include girls' dress, mixed swimming lessons, segregation of the sexes at parents' evenings, celebration of non-Islamic religions, particularly Hinduism, and special provisions for prayer and for children to rest during Ramadan. Astonishingly, as the case of Ms Connor highlights, local education authority policies tend to support the Islamicisation process, rather than resisting it on the grounds of common sense, humanity and reason.
This is certainly the case with Ramadan, where the local authority – which is the child protection agency – may actually collude with dawn-to-dusk starvation of sometimes very young children. It is very difficult for teachers, governors or anyone else to challenge the less acceptable face of Islam without inviting accusations of "Islamophobia", a "you are a bad person" term that is being deployed to silence the slightest criticism of Islamic practices.
There are things the west can usefully learn from Islam – desisting from alcohol, giving to charity and respecting elders are three examples that spring to mind. But some practices – not necessarily supported by the majority of Muslims – raise great concern, and this includes much of what is done to women and children in Islam's name.
Keithley, West Yorkshire
Fate of a passer-by at hands of police
The video evidence clearly shows that Ian Tomlinson was assaulted by a police officer. It also shows that other officers witnessed the assault. Why did those officers not arrest their colleague, as they would undoubtedly have done if they had witnessed a similar assault being committed by anyone other than a police officer?
Clearly the officers do not believe that the law against assault applies to the police themselves. No wonder the police want to make it illegal to take photographs of them.
I am a previously law-abiding citizen. One day, I am irritated by the police officer walking slowly in front of me. I shove him in the back with as much force as I can muster. He falls heavily to the ground, but gets up and walks away, only to suffer a fatal heart attack a few minutes later. Will the Crown Prosecution Service charge me with (a) murder (b) manslaughter (c) assault or (d) nothing. I hope to discover the answer soon.
Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act, which became law in February, allows for the arrest, and possible imprisonment, of anyone who takes pictures of police officers "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". Now that important film has emerged of a police officer assaulting a man prior to his tragic death at last week's G20 protest, will this sinister law be reviewed?
There have been well documented instances of police officers confiscating phone cameras from passers-by who have videoed incidents in the street, and deleting the footage.
In view of the new light members of the public with video and photographic evidence have put on the events that may have led up to the unfortunate death of Ian Tomlinson, it is imperative that this insidious police practice be made a serious criminal offence. How many people that day were subject to harassment for photographing police misbehaviour and aggression?
It is Vaughan Thomas (letter, 8 April), not Kristin Scott (6 April), who is naive about how the police saw their job at the G20 demonstration. Far from containing any potential violence, the inflammatory comments from senior policemen before the event made it crystal clear that they were out to talk up and foment violence.
When violence came, possibly resulting in the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson, it was at the hands of a policeman pushing to the ground someone who was not even a protester but just wanted to go home.
Protest letters alone will not be sufficient to ensure a democratically controlled and accountable police force which neither makes unprovoked attacks on members of the public, nor seeks to disguise its unprofessional conduct through blatant mendacity.
I watched the video of Mr Tomlinson with resignation. It shows clearly why the police need to be filmed constantly for their own good.
No doubt a rush of blood to the head will eventually cost a young officer his job, while his superiors rush for cover or point fingers. Yet it was clear from their own briefings last week, that senior police officers were intending heavy-handedness at these demonstrations and their hapless junior colleague duly delivered.
The perpetrator of the push deserves to be disciplined, but not to lose his job. His superiors deserve converse treatment.
I expect the IPCC inquiry into the death of the unfortunate newspaper seller will founder on the rock of an "inability" to identify the police officer concerned, as have other inquiries in the past.
Since police uniforms no longer include the old-fashioned tunic, perhaps the problem of identifying officers could be solved by emblazoning large football shirt style numbers on their outer clothing, rather than the minuscule digits on their shoulders.
Then CCTV (or passers-by with a mobile phone) could easily capture the information, and "those who are innocent" really might "have nothing to fear".
I read in regard to another demostration recently that when protesters were advised to note the numbers of police officers who might be aggressive, the police present immediately covered their numbers, which indicates a certain view of the policing of demonstrations
D J Walker
It is inevitable and desirable that changes are made following the death of Ian Tomlinson. No, don't tell me, let me guess. The police will investigate the matter themselves and decide there is no case to answer. The officer involved will be retired on full pay to allow him to recover from the trauma of hitting a member of the public. And civilians with cameras will be banned from demonstrations because they are a threat to national security.
Bad time to boost private pensions
This is probably the worst time in history for Jeremy Warner (8 April) to be giving lectures about the need to consign public sector pensioners to the vagaries of the market. Millions of prospective private-sector pensioners have found their anticipated pensions wiped out by the fall in the stock market. Poor pensioners mean more liability for the taxpayer to shore up pensioners' living standards. Warner is proposing the transfer of public pension liabilities to public income support of pensioners.
Public-sector workers have always regarded the employer contribution to pensions as deferred pay. Most are low paid. Their pensions therefore reward them for their often selfless dedication in serving the public. To hold up private sector pension providers, many of whom took extended pension holidays in good times only to abandon their commitments in bad times, as exemplars for those employers who continue to provide their employees with living pensions is grotesque.
Visa policy hits goodwill visits
Mary Dejevsky's article "First impressions matter – that goes for visa offices too" and your correspondent Jan Hepburn (letter, 7 April) draw attention to the increasing difficulty people are facing in getting visas to enter the UK, and the attitude of staff in the visa offices.
My organisation encourages partnerships for mutual learning, understanding and benefit between towns, schools, hospitals, local authorities and other community-based organisations here in UK with counterparts in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in particular.
Our work is increasingly in jeopardy because of the difficulties our partners are facing getting into United Kingdom to share their lives, their faiths, their skills and their cultures with young people in our schools and with us in our homes and communities.
A major issue is the cost for many people in rural Africa having to travel at considerable expense to present themselves in person at the British High Commission in the capital city many miles away, only to be told later that their application has been rejected with no reason given.
We need an urgent, open debate with government to address the problem and, as Mary Dejevsky says, the appalling first impression that many people gain from their experiences at UK visa offices around the world.
Dr Nick Maurice
Building Understanding through International Links for Development
The power of negative thinking
I read the entire article "Think yourself better" (7 April) and was disappointed to find that absolutely no practical advice regarding actual ways to think positive were offered.
The article forged ahead with blithe declarations that thinking positively would improve almost every aspect of my life and so I hoped for a few pointers. This was not to be. As a fully paid up member of Curmugeons Anonymous I wondered how I might cheer myself up a bit and achieve an irritatingly chirpy persona that would enable me to live to a healthy, ripe old age.
After a quick flick through The Independent's articles concerning world finances, corruption, doom and gloom, I wondered if my first step might be to cancel my order for your newspaper and switch to The Beano!
Not our beach
The picture with your story about litter-strewn beaches (8 April) was not taken "between Brighton and Hove" as captioned. Our guess is that it was taken some miles west, near an industrial estate at Shoreham docks. And the photographer tells us it was taken in 2005. Brighton has a first-class blue-flag bathing beach that would not get the award if routinely strewn with litter.
Cllr David Smith
Cabinet member for tourism
Brighton & Hove City Council
Jade was no Diana
Janet Street-Porter (8 April) quotes with approval pompous Parky's comment on Jade Goody's death: "It's not the passing of a martyr or a saint, or, God help us, Princess Di." That's true enough. If Jade Goody had left her kids in England while living it up around Europe with her boyfriend, and had died in a car driven by a drunk, having not bothered to fasten her seat belt, I suspect that there would be little public sympathy for her.
Terence Blacker has a point (Comment, 7 April), and we English are far too modest (which is to say smug) to have an England day. But we do not have to treat St George himself as an embarrassment. He is an international saint, whom we share with Catalonia, Ethiopia, and much of Eastern Europe. He is much venerated by both Christians and Muslims in Palestine. His intercessions are sought by both religious groups. His patronage remains one of the few international connections we have not based on the former Empire.
Fr Patrick Morrow
Your correspondents comment on supermarkets charging for wrapping paper. Back in the Netherlands, I was always asked in department stores if the item I bought "was a present", in which case it would be wrapped in some fancy coloured paper. A cheerful ribbon was then added automatically. Many shops would have a separate wrapping-table where, after the purchase, you could wrap things yourself in freely available paper.
Maria de Haas
Name of a fish
Having read your article (6 April) covering Sainsbury's plan to rename the pollock because of the embarrassment to customers, I am now considering changing my name to save me future embarrassment. Perhaps the Sainsbury's "let's have a silly idea" department could come up with some suggestions.
Colin (not pollock) Attwood
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