Letters: Muslim refugees must sign up to British values

The following letters appear in the 8 September edition of The Independent

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The Prime Minister’s knee-jerk decision to give asylum to Syrian refugees is a belated acknowledgement of Britain’s calamitous interference in the lands of Islam.

From Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq, that precipitated the emergence of “Islamic State”, to Cameron’s injudicious regime change in Libya, the UK cannot be absolved from its lamentable role in fomenting Islamic extremism and the civil war in Syria.

Britain’s noble past in affording sanctuary to the French Huguenots, European Jewry, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people, among others, should now be extended to those fleeing the ravages of both the Syrian dictator and Islamic fanaticism. However, to preserve Britain’s cherished traditions (rule of law, human rights, gender parity), mollify anti-immigration sentiments and accelerate community cohesion, these Syrian refugees (and other newcomers) must sign a binding agreement before landing that they commit to become productive UK citizens.

By this pledge, the refugees would undertake: to become fluent in English within a set time; to integrate fully, and respect the institutions and customs of this country; and accept that in return for their religious freedom, they cannot replicate antiquated tribal habits or promote archaic ideologies that are incompatible with modern British values.

While this entry regimen might be contentious, it is in the best long-term interests of the UK as well as the new immigrants. Multiculturalism as government policy has failed miserably and left a hideous stain on the British social mosaic. This is particularly evident with the rise of Muslim self-segregation and religious militancy.

To combat this toxic theology within segments of British Islam, the Syrian arrivals must guarantee that they will not join such apartheid-like enclaves, by genuinely integrating  and not isolating themselves from the UK mainstream.

Dr T Hargey
Director, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford


There are nearly 25,000 state-funded schools in the UK. If each school undertook to look after one refugee family for three months until they were settled, this country could take in around 100,000 desperate people.

By “look after” I mean befriend them and help with clothes, toys, food and transport until they find jobs and become independent. These families are highly committed to making new lives for themselves, to working hard and paying taxes. They will be an asset to the community once they are settled.

Schools, particularly primary schools, are caring, tight-knit communities well able to provide short-term support for families in need. Indeed, charitable activity is part of the curriculum of every school, so the better the school, the better the response will be to the current crisis. 

Living in the UK is a privilege some of us were born to. We are the lucky ones. Let’s show we deserve it.

Gill Marshall-Andrews
Richmond, Surrey


Can we please ditch this false “head versus heart” dichotomy expounded by your latest correspondents? Of course we need a long-term plan to manage the refugee crisis, but, as Keynes so memorably said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”  People need help now, certainly near their home countries wherever possible, but also here.

Beverley Thompson
Milton Keynes


What bishops think about assisted dying

Your sneering editorial (7 September) on the faith leaders’ letter on the subject of assisted dying was entirely predictable, and seemed to take as its main point that as weekly churchgoing figures in Britain are so low at 12 per cent of the population, their opinions can conveniently be ignored.

Funny, that. I suspect you would be very happy if The Independent had a circulation of 12 per cent of the population. So would league football, the theatre, opera, ballet, art galleries and the rest of the arts if their weekly footfall reached anything approaching that percentage. Yet all of these have your fawning attention to their activities, and the opinions of their promoters, day by day.

The faith leaders’ letter was, in my opinion, a reasoned and valid argument about the need for extreme caution. Agree or disagree with it as you will: but please spare us your patronising comments.

John Williams
West Wittering, West Sussex


Archbishop Welby’s argument against assisted dying, according to your report (7 September), is that if the law were to be changed “it would be impossible to ensure that the estimated 500,000 elderly people subject to abuse each year could be protected. The UK would cross a ‘legal and ethical Rubicon’ ”.

This is not an argument which depends upon any religious viewpoint; it is one that is worthy of logical assessment in its own right.  

I cannot understand what the proportion of church-goers in this country, which your editorial mentions, has to do with the truth or otherwise of the Archbishop’s argument.

Canon Andrew Warner


Your editorial on the intervention of religious leaders in the assisted dying debate was humane, accurate and perceptive. However, it can’t be correct to refer to our times as “secular”, when we have an English state religion, of which Britain’s monarch is the head, we have religious leaders in an arm of our Parliament, as of right, and the heir to the throne wants to be the defender of all faiths. 

Given the public attitudes to religion, as set out in your editorial, the reaction by people in this country to the Syrian refugee crisis and the Populus survey that showed about 82 per cent of the population support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, would it not now be more accurate to describe our society as “humanist”?

Ian Quayle
Fownhope, Herefordshire


School goes back to ancient Greece

A new free school’s plan to adopt the teaching methods of ancient Greece to unlock the potential of students is an interesting idea, but your report (2 September) concentrated only on the cognitive aspects of teaching in ancient Greece. 

Underpinning the classical “trivium” approach were two fundamental pillars for education: gymnastics, to develop mastery of the body and the self; and music for the soul.

These two main elements of education helped to develop whole-mindedness or temperance, control of passion and command of reason. Music provided the gateway to poetry, drama, history, oratory, and science.

Herodotus and Thucydides laid the foundations of science, but it began as an art form, the writing of history. Even today an academic debate continues about whether history as a discipline is an art or a science.

Projects in primary schools indicate a relationship between maturity in physical skills and educational performance. If the introduction of ancient Greek methods is to be successful, all elements should be embraced.

Sally Goddard Blythe
Director, The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, Chester


England players, Welsh football

Tom Peck’s suggestion of an amalgamated England and Wales football side is an interesting one (sport/opinion, 5 September). A precedent has already been set by the  “England and Wales Cricket Board” with this side commonly known as “England”.

In football however, as Mr Peck acknowledges, Wales are the “senior partner in all this”. So, any amalgamated side (presumably the “England and Wales Football Association”) should be referred to in common parlance as “Wales”.

I therefore look forward to the prospect of Rooney, Walcott and Vardy playing for Wales and giving themselves a “proper crack at a World Cup”. Assuming , that is, they make selection.

David Shewring


Solidarity, brothers! (if that’s allowed)

A few years ago I used my car horn as I drove past in support of local firemen on strike. Under proposed trades union legislation, will I have to pre-register my toot and slip on an armband for the few seconds I would be near the picket line?

Ian McKenzie


When did pickets become “picketers” (headline, 7 September)? We should be grateful, though, that you did not call them picketees.

Gyles Cooper
London N10


Drink your sugar responsibly

“My body is a temple and I don’t want to pollute it,” says the precious Janet Street-Porter (5 September) and “drinking sugar should be seen as something disgusting”. What happened to the virtues of moderation? Having a fizzy drink or piece of chocolate cake once in a while isn’t going to hurt anyone.

Howard Simmons
Grays, Essex