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As a Muslim woman of mature years myself, I find a lot in Dorene McCormack’s letter of 19 June to commend. I can recognise and indeed honour her desire to see greater equality between men and women and her repudiation of vile or criminal practices like forced marriages and genital mutilations. As for practices such as segregated swimming, I am a bit surprised that she is unaware that there have been for many generations in this country, in places such as Highgate Ponds in north London, a time-honoured practice of segregating swimming facilities.
Dorene McCormack might also be interested to know that forced marriages are not exclusively practised by Muslims but also by Sikhs and Hindus and others. As to genital mutilations, it is a cultural practice in certain parts of Africa and has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, even if some Muslims choose to practise it.
For Dorene McCormack and others like her who feel offended that Muslim women are not equal to their men in this country I would like to reassure her that our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, while not kings like Shah Jahan, who can build monuments like the Taj Mahal to witness their love for their women, nevertheless in the main love and honour us. There is a small minority that is thuggish, criminal or downright cowardly who seek to oppress us, and perhaps in this country more of us need to know that we do not have to put up with that.
Equally there is a need for some non- Muslims to recognise that, when they lay blame at the door of Islam for whatever it is that to them makes their country unrecognisable, they might have to look at themselves a little more honestly for the answer.
Female genital mutilation is a barbarity performed, often without anaesthetic, upon pubescent girls. It causes traumatic physical and mental scarring which will stay with the unfortunate recipient throughout her life, rendering normal sexual relations painful and childbirth dangerous.
The whole world needs to concentrate upon eradicating this evil, performed at the command of pathetic men upon helpless girls. Parents who allow their daughters to suffer in this way need to be dragged through the streets and horse-whipped.
It was therefore sad to read Ian Quayle’s ill-considered letter (22 June) comparing male circumcision with FGM. Speaking as a circumcised male, can I assure Mr Quayle that, upon the invention of the Tardis, I would go back in time and heartily thank all concerned in the matter. Although I was not consulted at the time, I am quite happy with the consequences. To compare a quick nick and dab of salve on a baby with the horrors of FGM performed upon a fully sentient young woman is breathtaking: did Mr Quayle do any biology?
His letter performs two grave errors. First, it defocuses society’s attention from the specific evil of FGM. This needs to be eradicated and he should not confuse the issues. Second, it is quite unkind to insult my willy in a national newspaper.
Dr Ian Poole
Want a better NHS? You’ll have to pay for it
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (24 June) is too pessimistic about the NHS.
It is short of cash because so much has been wasted on needless prescriptions, wasteful prescriptions, hush money, incentives for doctors, etc etc.
Why do people expect everything to be free as a right? It is time they realised the cost of the NHS and paid a consultation fee, and hospital fee. Even £1 a visit would make a difference, or £5 as in Denmark.
How is it possible in a civilised country for patients to undergo second- or third-class treatment if they are unlucky enough to visit hospitals over a weekend?
Recent examples in different hospitals in different counties with family and friends confirm that interminable waits, inadequate attention, stressed nurses and very few doctors on duty is the norm on weekends for the NHS these days.
How can this happen? The NHS clearly needs more resources. Surely the Government is aware, but nothing happens.
Why is Syria our business?
Am I missing the point somewhere? I don’t understand our enthusiasm to get involved in the conflict in Syria. Isn’t Syria a Middle Eastern state occupied in a brutal civil war, outside any European jurisdiction, and if we are to get involved then shouldn’t we be doing all we can to support the UN and NGO aid agencies in trying to reduce the horrifying toll on human lives?
It is the neighbouring Middle Eastern Arab states who should be using all their influence to stop this war. If arms and even soldiers are to be committed then let them come from these neighbouring Arab states.
In any case, the civil war is perhaps impossible to sort out because Russia totally depends on Syria to give it warm-water access to the Mediterranean, and so will inevitably support the Assad regime to ensure that this Mediterranean access is guaranteed. There is no point in getting involved in the fighting; Russia will not allow the Assad regime to fall.
In any case why should the UK see itself as the policeman of every failing state? We can’t afford it, it is not our responsibility and the result is that inevitably the lives of our servicemen and women are given for no purpose.
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
When will our Prime Minister get the message that he is a just a small pawn at the head of a small country, among world giants? It is time he got down to the business of sorting out the woes of the UK, instead of interfering in worldwide affairs and foreign wars.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
If we had kept out in 1914
Dr Bendor Grosvenor (letter, 18 June) makes an interesting point. However, whether or not Britain was under any obligation to honour its alliance with France or its guarantee to Belgium in 1914, the fact is that, since the time of Henry VIII, British policy in Europe had been to prevent any one power becoming predominant.
We had been “singeing the King of Spain’s beard” long before the Armada; we had been a principal player in the War of the Spanish Succession against Louis XIV, even though there was never any direct threat to this country; and we were at war with the French revolutionaries and then Napoleon before the Grand Army arrived at Calais.
If Dr Grosvenor is saying that he would have been quite happy for us to have lived alongside a European mainland under German control for the last 100 years, I do not think many would agree with him, and Francophiles like myself would have found it difficult.
If the present turmoil ends, as it may, with Europe united under German leadership, with the UK excluded, two world wars really will have been in vain!
Powers to clear the middle lane
Mary Dejevsky (Notebook, 19 June) is quite right: we don’t need new offences to deal with middle lane hogs, tailgating, or any of the bad practices we see on the roads. Section 3, Road Traffic Act 1988 covers driving “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road”. That gives the police all the power they need to deal with the careful but thoughtless drivers who seem to make up much of The Independent’s readership.
Recent correspondence about drivers hogging the middle lane reminds me of the brilliant idea suggested years ago for saving money on the construction of new motorways: omit the nearside lane as no one ever uses it.
Further to John Williams’ motorway bugbear (letter, 20 June), when I lived in Germany in the 1970s Mercedes and BMW cars were said to have eingebaute Vorfahrt, or built-in right of way.
Co-ops lead way to success
Hamish McRae’s inflation of the Co-operative Bank’s problems into a general trashing of the mutual sector is lamentable (“The worst form of ownership – apart from the others”, 19 June).
The co-operative economy in the UK is thriving. Almost 6,000 co-operative businesses contribute £36bn annually to the UK economy. For the past five years the co-operative economy, growing by 20 per cent, has massively outperformed the “mainstream”, which is still smaller than when the credit crunch hit. And building societies have proved more durable than their privatised brethren.
Across the world, according to Co-operatives UK, members of co-ops outnumber shareholders three times over. Mondragon, the Basque mutual conglomerate, is weathering the economic crisis much better than the remainder of Spain.
McRae also seems not to be aware that community share schemes are rescuing at-risk shops and pubs across the country. Nor that support for mutual approaches, including co-operative councils, community land trusts and mutual housing organisations, now stretches across the political spectrum.
Mutualism is not a relic of the 19th century but a revitalised model rediscovered by the “mainstream” economy and society. It has a crucial role in rebuilding both in the wake of financial greed and shareholder inability to hold boards to account.
Director, Human City Institute, Birmingham
Driving home from work (not in the middle lane) I heard the news report “phone-in” clip of Nick Clegg being asked his opinion of the Saatchi/Lawson “incident”, and had some sympathy for him struggling to give an honest reply. Then the torrent of denunciation of Clegg and his response by all who followed made me question my naivety for not joining his condemnation. What a relief to read Frank Furedi’s excellent analysis of the “oral lynch mob” in Saturday’s edition.
If the United Kingdom’s GCHQ (5,300 staff) and the United States National Security Agency (40,000 staff) are doing their job of clandestine intelligence gathering, why are their governments so often clueless?
Dr John Doherty
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