Letters: Muslims are demonised by the media

These letters appear in the Saturday 17th edition of The Independent

 

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Why has it become so normal for the media to identify individual criminals, offenders or negative incidents by their religion when he or she happens to be a Muslim – for example the sex-abuser described in The Big Read (12 May)? This merely encourages Islamaphobia. It is very rare that the media refer to the Tamil Tigers as being a militant Hindu group or the IRA being Catholic terrorists, but Boko Haram is referred to as an Islamist militant group rather than a Nigerian militant group.

I have yet to see a newspaper refer to Max Clifford’s religious beliefs.

No wonder Muslims feel they are being systematically targeted by the media.

Yasmin Qureshi, Stanmore, Middlesex

Thank you for publishing this amazing true story. I makes me proud to see Muslim women fighting for their rights and speaking out; it sheds a positive light on Muslims, and on women too. The piece was powerfully written and potent; heart-wrenchingly sad, but also a joyous and triumphant read.

Hats off to the writer for her bravery and courage, and most importantly for sharing this story. Well done for publishing this amazing article and showing us Muslim women in a positive, strong light.

Shanara Ali-Gazi, London E11

A triumph for democracy in India

The world’s largest democracy has just concluded a massive election. A population of 1.2bn with a massive diversity of faiths, languages, ideologies and cultures in a country the size of a sub-continent successfully concluded this amazing feat. There was hardly any violence or vote-rigging and some places recorded a turnout of over 80 per cent. The Indian intellectuals in this country who expressed their reservations in the letters column (23 April) about the opposition party winning the election will surely acknowledge the voice of the people?

Nitin Mehta, Croydon

Dorothy Hodgkin remembered

It’s nice to see the celebrations of my mother Dorothy Hodgkin on what would have been her 104th birthday. But your report (12 May) claims that she was a member of the Communist Party until 1956.

In fact, she was never to my knowledge a member of the Party, although often sympathetic to its position. She was refused a US visa not as a Party member, but as a member of Science for Peace, which was deemed to be a fellow-travelling organisation; and visited the USSR instead. My father Thomas was a Party member, but left before 1956.

Dorothy was, of course, a committed socialist, worked tirelessly in the cause of peace, and was appalled at the class policies of her ex-student Margaret Thatcher. But that’s another story.

Luke Hodgkin, London N19

Pity the poor football manager

With reference to the sacking of Tim Sherwood by Spurs and given the number of managers hired and sacked by Daniel Levy is it not time for Levy himself to go? Why is it that it is always the managers who get the chop and not the directors who appoint them?

Stephen Lawson, Exeter

Ukip may have to change its name 

What will Ukip call itself when the UK is no more? Ewip maybe?

Marilyn Mason, Kingston upon Thames,

Birthplace of the royal family

Are the royal family German (Letters, 13 May)? Being born in Britain is surely irrelevant. As Daniel O’Connell said of the Duke of Wellington (who was born in Ireland but was certainly not Irish); being born in a stable does not make a man a horse.

Eamon Hamilton, Sutton Coldfield

Look here, what’s wrong with so?

The irritating habit of starting a sentence with “So” (report, 15 May) is only matched by the condescending way in which politicians begin theirs with “Look” – especially when trying to justify a hopeless argument.

Mike Smith, Worcester

So, linguistics experts are concerned that “so” is increasingly being used to preface sentences. So what?

Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury

Tax avoidance

Chris Blackhurst (14 May), writing about tax avoidance, is of course right in his criticisms of the incompetence of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but the real cause is the horrendous complexity and unfairness of our corrosive system. Tolley’s Guides to the tax system are now 16,220 pages long and increasing year on year. Tax avoidance, “aggressive” or otherwise, is an inevitable consequence of such complexity.

We used in Britain to pride ourselves on the rule of law. In matters of taxation it is more the rule of lawyers than the rule of law. This has created a paradise for billionaires and something akin to a tax prison for the poor. Often the super-rich can outspend HMRC in legal costs forcing HMRC into over-lenient and over-generous settlements, in contrast to the punishment meted out for small infringements. There is one tax law for the super-rich and another tax law for the rest of us.

We do need a much more aggressive pursuit of tax avoidance but I am afraid that will only have a marginal benefit. We will not make substantial progress until the tax system is drastically simplified and reformed.

Peter Moyes, Brightlingsea, Essex

I am sorry that you think that “Not very much has been heard recently from the current Office of Tax Simplification” (Editorial, 10 May). Those involved with employee benefits and expenses, partnerships, share schemes and various other areas might argue otherwise.

Nobody would dispute that the UK’s tax system is complex. Partly that is inevitable: we live in a complex world. But we do need to try to simplify our tax system and that is why the OTS was set up. We are a small unit, mixing public and private sector people but with a complement of less than six full-time equivalent staff.

Our brief is to study areas of the tax system and report with recommendations for simplification. It is up to ministers and Parliament to take things forward. And that is what is happening – to give one example, in the recent Budget the Chancellor credited our work with his moves to streamline National Insurance for the self-employed.

The current Finance Bill contains a range of measure to simplify share schemes and the 10 per cent savings rate of income tax; and there is a raft of changes to employee benefits taxation about to be consulted on. All of these stem from our reports.

Our current project is to look at how to improve the competitiveness of the UK tax administration, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses. Anyone wanting to comment should write to competitiveness@ots.gsi.gov.uk

John Whiting , Tax Director,  Office of Tax Simplification, London SW1

Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen are just the latest examples of the super-rich doing everything they can to ever increase the millions of pounds in their bank accounts. Why do multi-millionaires and billionaires feel the need to hoard these vast fortunes which are of no benefit to them, and which could relieve so much misery around the world? If I was sitting on millions or billions, knowing how much suffering I personally could stop without even noticing the effect on my finances – and did nothing – I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. How can they?

Stanley Knill, London N15

I am in complete agreement with your editorial “Keep your hands out of our bank accounts” (9 May). My wife and I are and have been since 1989 the sole owners and occupiers of a self-contained office building, from which we run a professional practice. About eight years ago we started to receive from HMRC’s office at Cumbernauld letters all specifying our address (albeit mis-spelt) to a great multiplicity of individuals and firms none of which has or had any connection whatsoever with us. We dutifully annotated these letters “Not known at this address – return to sender” and posted them back. But they kept on coming, often in batches of up to a dozen at a time.

After a complaint to a government minister we received a solemn apology from HMRC assuring us that “steps had been taken to prevent such errors in the future” and indeed the letters ceased, but only for a few months. They still arrive. Over the past three years several hundred mis-directed letters to at least 30 different entities have been received.

For all we know these letters may well have been ever more menacing tax demands to which, plainly, HMRC can have received no reply from the intended recipients. On this evidence, should HMRC have the power to confiscate funds from any bank account?

Andrew Horton, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

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