Letters: New leaderships for Muslims

Muslims need a new, pragmatic leadership
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The Independent Online

Laurels to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (8 March) for illuminating the difference between those who embark on violent extremism and others raising their voices in protest at the cruelties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine; at dictatorships and all kinds of injustices meted out on Muslims.

Muslims have been burdened with the repercussions of Nazis' oppression of European Jewry, and the self-appointed rulers who never ceased to seize upon any opportunity to blame Israel and the West for all the ills of their own making.

It is true that Israel's apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories must end, not only because oppression is morally wrong, but because it dehumanises Jews as much as Arabs and Muslims and gives them the tools to delegitimise Israel, the gem that was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

Similarly, there must be an end to the regimes in Muslim countries; for they also try to entrench their corruption, nepotism and misrule, by blaming all the ills on the existence of Israel and on western hypocrisy and double standards over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

We need pragmatic leaders who can take a path towards social justice, peace and equality for us all.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

It has been a constant sorrow to me that the many thousands of innocents who have lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are so rarely mentioned by politicians or public figures.

They constantly say how sorry they are for the loss of our brave British boys; quite right too, but our soldiers are a volunteer force, and well paid and well protected compared with the invaded.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is to be commended for drawing our attention to the imbalance. It does make it seem that Muslims are regarded as not quite our equals.

Eddie Johnson

long melford, Suffolk

Brown's insult to the armed forces

It doesn't surprise me that Sir Richard Dannatt, Lord Guthrie and others are angry at Gordon Brown's "dissembling"' at the Iraq inquiry, when he stated that the armed forces got everything they asked for. Judging by army blogs, the troops on the ground are furious. They and their families knew the state of their supplies. It was an open secret from before the invasion of Iraq.

Even though I believe that we should stop fighting wars, our armed forces should be professionally equipped, not with expensive hi-tech weaponry that can cause huge civilian and environmental damage, but with the basic means to protect the troops from death and crippling injuries. That kind of equipment is equally necessary whether they are engaged in war or (my, and I think the forces', preferred option) engaged in much-needed, and legal, peace-keeping.

Having told the inquiry that our forces got everything requested, Mr Brown rushes off to Afghanistan to make an announcement of an announcement to be made by the Defence Secretary – they are going to get 200 new vehicles to replace the infamous Snatch , but not until the latter half of 2011. In the meantime, how many more will go on dying while he is on the election trail?

Does the Prime Minister even begin to understand how insulting this is to the intelligence of the electorate, and how disrespectful it is of our forces? And how do the troops in Afghanistan feel, having had it made quite clear to them, from evidence coming out at the inquiry, that they were sent into an illegal invasion of one country, and are now dying in another because their lives are worth less than a politician's reputation?

Lesley Docksey

Editor 'Abolish War'

Buckland Newton, Dorset

So Tony Blair is to earn a £4.6m advance for his book The Journey. Only a fool would expect the book to contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Far better to save your £25 and donate it to the Help for Heroes charity.

Mike Stroud


Perils of a hung parliament

We appear to be on course for a hung parliament. And if that is the case, we could see Labour and the Lib Dems forming a coalition government. In theory, Nick Clegg could force Gordon Brown to veer towards his own policies. The sun would shine and the two leaders would be as popular as Morecambe and Wise.

However, in reality, the Lib Dems would be perceived by much of the public as the party that propped up a dying and discredited government for a taste of power. They would be viewed as Labour's useful idiots. And does anyone in their right mind believe that Clegg could have a good working relationship with Brown? The best he could hope for would be a few scraps from the main table.

Labour is imploding and the Conservatives are haemorrhaging core voters as David "heir to Blair" Cameron flip-flops on policies. It's highly unlikely that the Lib Dems will get their breakthrough this year. But with the other two parties being almost unrecognisable to their lifelong supporters, Clegg must acknowledge the public's growing distaste for spin, be true to his party's principles and wait for disillusioned voters to recognise the genuine article. Time will tell.

Alan Aitchison

Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Poverty attacks mental health

On 9 March, the House of Lords debates an amendment to the Child Poverty Bill tabled by Lord Kirkwood, to which the Bishop of Bradford and Professor Baroness Finlay have added their names, proposing government take note of research into the minimum level of household income necessary to sustain a healthy diet, other necessities, safety and wellbeing for children, known as minimum income standards.

The potent mixture of politics, faith and science intends to start to rectify decades of parliamentary neglect of the toxic effect on children of poverty-level adult benefits, leading to poor maternal nutrition and low birth weights, of which Britain has the highest rate in western Europe. Low birth weight is associated with poor cognitive abilities and brain disorders such as cerebral palsy in babies.

The unemployment benefit of a woman under 25 is £50.95 a week and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation minimum income food standard is £43 a week; the conclusion is obvious to everyone but government. The unemployment benefit has not been increased in real terms since 1980. The UK is on the edge of an epidemic of mental illness cases, which have stacked up annually while governments have ignored scientific evidence first made available to them in the 1970s by the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, and accepted internationally.

The much needed minimum income standards have been supported by the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Methodist Conference, by unanimous votes in their national assemblies since 2001, and by the Catholic Bishops in England and Wales. All four churches have sent letters to the Government supporting the amendment.

The Rev Paul Nicolson

Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

London SW1

Why Sutcliffe may one day be freed

Paul McKeever's letter opposing any possible release of Peter Sutcliffe(3 March) is heartfelt and calmly expressed, in contrast to some of the other statements taking the same position, but unfortunately his argument does not hold up against serious thought.

For one thing, the judge's comment at the recent hearing that the case might be referred for consideration as a miscarriage of justice raises the question whether Sutcliffe was ever a "cold-hearted, calculated killer", in light of his possible mental illness. No one can answer that question at this point, but the answer should not be prejudged.

But even if he were fully responsible for the brutal horrors he committed, the "message" we would be sending to the wider society by releasing him is a desirable one: if someone who has committed acts of great evil can demonstrate after a very long period of imprisonment (nearly 30 years in this case) that he has changed so that he is no longer a threat to the public, the system of imprisonment has served the public well and there is no genuine reason to deny him his freedom.

And in that case (not to mention the physical disabilities Sutcliffe reportedly suffers) the "safety of the public" is not being protected by his continued imprisonment; the real reason would only be revenge for the horrors he committed. Upholding vengeance is a particularly nasty and unacceptable "message".

Laurence Lustgarten


Foot led Labour into the void

Everyone has agreed to praise Michael Foot: scholar, statesman, brilliant speaker, repository of conviction. After three times electing a sleeked-over void to Downing Street, people would feel like that.

Be realistic. In the 1970s, Foot tried to put the thriving docks of Felixstowe under the union command which had destroyed those of London and Liverpool. He fought for the closed shop. His leadership candidacy was a vanity which passed the parliamentary electorate from fear of de-selection by fanatical constituency cliques. Creditable people such as Kinnock and Hattersley inherited a public prejudice against Labour largely created by Foot. Their successors' retreat into public relations and careerism followed.

Foot the great speaker could be good on the humourous side. But I heard him on the stump in 1983. It was pure rant, iterative, unargued, strictly for the faithful, a parody of public speaking. Remember him with affection by all means, but Michael Foot had a closed mind, peopled by unamended certainties.

Edward Pearce

Thormanby, North Yorkshire

No dilemma on climate change

Does Virginia Ironside (Dilemmas 8 March) not read The Independent? On 5 March you carried a report of the most recent international study on climate change, which confirms, yet again, that the world is growing warmer and that the only adequate explanation is increasing man-made emissions of "greenhouse" gases.

Global warming is not "like God". Maybe 57 per cent of Americans don't "believe in it", but so what? It is not a question of belief. The leader of the study, was quoted as saying he hoped people would make up their minds on "the scientific evidence". Isn't that what one expects intelligent people, such as Ms Ironside, to do?

Vicky Stevens

Broadhempston, Devon

The secret of faith schools

I found Philip Crowley's letter headed "An atheist's praise for faith schools" (6 March) naive. The atmosphere of "learning" and "respect" is nothing to do with "freedom to impose much-needed order". It is to do with quality of pupil intake.

If parents have to attend church, help in the religious "community" and baptise their children, it follows the school intake will be more middle-class. The proof is in their results.

Peter Hicks


Early prudery

Your arts correspondent would have us believe Victorian prudery led to the concealment of Constable's charming nude ("Exposed for public view", 6 March). Not so. That bare bottom was pasted over in 1826, 11 years before Victoria ascended the throne.

Gwenda Sanders

Folkestone, kent

Man against mouse

This week there have been reports about the presence of numbers of mice in West End theatres and in the House of Lords. I don't understand the fuss. Can any of your readers cite a case of a human being harmed by a mouse?

Trevor Roberts

Bramford, Suffolk


During his lamentably short visit to London, Geert Wilders stated that Mein Kampf was banned in the Netherlands. And, he argued, what was good for the goose, was good for the Holy Koran. This was disingenuous. Publishing and selling Mein Kampf are illegal here but there is no prohibition on reading it. In fact, people courting brain damage buy English editions on the internet. Mr Wilders should be aware of this.

Anthony Fudge


Deep research

Am I the only reader to get irritated by having to delve into the depths of your inside pages to follow up on your front-page story? Those of us who like to read your paper in the logical way, that is from page 1 to 60 or whatever, have lost the thread by the time we reach the conclusion of your front-page story, especially we senior readers. May I suggest . . . (continued, Page 6)

DR Peter Glover

Rayleigh, Essex

Spring in the air

You ask, "Is spring back to normal?" (1 March). I was delighted by the flight of a peacock butterfly over the wall of the Grange Bowling Club in sunny Edinburgh EH9. Next day it snowed.

Arthur Ingram