Letters: Niqab confuses language of liberalism

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 18 September, 2013

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Reading Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article (16 September), I discovered some surprising things I didn’t realise about myself.

Apparently, in supporting elementary values of liberty and tolerance at my college, BMET, I had become an “unwitting ally” of “the guerrilla army of Muslim Salafists”. I must also apologise for hoping that authority might listen to the views of those it has power over – or as Alibhai-Brown put it, “intimidating” the college.

Who knew I could so easily become the dupe of a conspiracy of “brainwashed”, “vacuous women” who are “well funded by sources in Saudi Arabia” to “spread conservative Islamic worship across Europe”?

But apparently I have, along with the whole of the National Union of Students, Shabana Mahmoud (the local MP), Waseem Zaffar (chairman of the city council’s social cohesion committee) and even Nick Clegg.

It is a marvel how such blatant illiberalism can couch itself in the language of liberty.

Sam Gurney, Birmingham Metropolitan College

 

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown serves her Muslim faith well in condemning the niqab. By any measure it offends against normal human interaction.

Recently on a bus journey with my wife we noted a seat occupied by a woman thus veiled with only her eyes showing.  A mother and young child in a push chair boarded, with the child placed directly in front of the woman.

The child attempted to engage with the woman, thinking it was a game of peek-a-boo, clearly expecting some sort of response. No response was forthcoming. We shall never forget the child’s expressions moving from the spontaneity of joy, to puzzlement, to sadness, and then hurt. 

That such seeds are planted does nothing for Islam, or the harmony of our community.

Roy Spilsbury, Penmaenmawr, Conwy

 

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her well argued piece is, one fears, preaching to the converted. I suspect that, like me, most British citizens find the sight of black-enveloped women both scary and morally offensive,  

If the argument of human rights is proffered, the human right of any British citizen to see the faces of their fellows should trump any other religious or cultural soi-disant right?

Penny Reid, Wantage, Oxfordshire

 

The Lib Dem minister Jeremy Browne has called for a national debate on banning the Muslim veil in public places including schools.

I had no idea we had already solved the problems of the sexual objectification of women, the commodification of their identities, false body image resulting in anorexia, bulimia and plastic surgery addictions, plus the sexualisation of childhood as exampled in culturally grotesque dance and beauty pageants for toddlers.

Despite presiding over cultural practices that have forced yet another generation of feminists into being, our elites feel no shame in imposing their values on to the practices of other ethnicities and societies.

Gavin Lewis, Manchester

 

In all the discussion on niqabs and burkas no one has mentioned the fact that covering up completely out of doors in a country where sunshine is rationed is a health hazard. Women who choose to dress in this fashion are in great danger of developing a severe loss of vitamin D, essential for bone formation, and put their health at risk.

I expect had the Prophet (PBUH) lived here he would have mentioned the fact. In these cloudy islands, for the common good, both these items of clothing should be banned by law.

Jennifer Bell, Cadeleigh, Devon

 

Does Talat Ahmed of the Muslim Council not have any sense of history? We have considered it “un-British”  for people to appear masked in public since long before the days of Dick Turpin and his like.

Christopher Anton, Birmingham

 

Scant evidence on badger TB

Your report “Badger cull in focus after shooting” (16 September) is not the first to state that “badgers can pass bovine TB to cattle”, when the real question is not, “Can they?”, but “Do they?” The only evidence ever produced by government scientists clearly shows how the probability of cross-infection from badgers to cattle is extremely low.

This conclusion was reached following a crude experiment by the Ministry of Agriculture in the 1970s, when a group of 13 badgers were taken from an infected badger population and confined for four years in a covered, concrete yard approximately one third the size of a football penalty area. In that period five calves were also housed in the yard to determine if and when they would become infected. There was no direct sunlight “disinfection” in the yard and the badgers slept in the calves’ food troughs. 

Despite this bizarre and totally unnatural situation it was only after periods greater than six months that any of the calves became positive to the tuberculin test. Four other calves were placed in the yard for periods of one to four weeks, but none became infected. Until there is evidence that badgers can infect cattle in the real countryside, the evidence is purely circumstantial – not sufficient for the “capital punishment”.

John Bryant, Wildlife consultant for Protect Our Wild Animals, Tonbridge, Kent

 

Hillsborough investigation

Mark Steel (“Take your time on Hillsborough. No Really”, 13 September) questions the IPCC’s independence by stating it is run by former police chief Jon Stoddart. Unequivocally wrong. Mr Stoddart is in charge of a separate criminal investigation, examining the causes of the deaths of the 96 supporters. The IPCC is conducting an independent investigation into the aftermath of the disaster and the claims of a cover-up.

This investigation is headed by myself as deputy chair of the IPCC. I have spoken at length about my commitment to overseeing this investigation and it is an enormous task that has both moved and humbled me.

Mr Steel questions the time being taken by our “rolling programme of interviews”. Interviews are being done on a daily basis. We aim to complete a significant number of the over 200 officers whose statements were amended, by October. Mr Steel claims handwritten statements of 90 fans were changed. Again this is wrong. Our published investigation update is clear that the figure of 90 relates to pocket notebooks of police officers which had been recovered by the IPCC.

Hillsborough is a hugely important and sensitive investigation. It deserves factually accurate and fair reporting.

Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission, Warrington

 

News from the Great War front

A naval equivalent to The Wipers Times (Television review, 12 September) was The Natal Newsletter. Produced weekly on board the cruiser HMS Natal from 1913 to 1915, its content was cheerfully satirical, with humorous verse and football results; in the family unit of a ship, there could be nothing to frighten the horses.

The Editor was “Bun Tyng” (Yeoman of Signals), assisted by “Queenie” Norris. Window-gazing in Cheapside, while on leave, they had seen a duplicator, and scraped together enough to buy it.

The paper was favourably reviewed in The Star, The Scotsman and several provincial titles, and had an average circulation of 400, rising to 800 for the Christmas edition which proved to be its last.

On 30 December 1915, while anchored in Invergordon in the Cromarty Firth, the Natal was devastated by an explosion, probably due to unstable cordite, and sank within minutes; 421 people, including civilians watching a film-show on board, lost their lives.

Bun Tyng (my father, R C Wilson) was among the 400 who survived the disaster; Queenie Norris, sadly, was not.

Diana Oxford, New Malden,  Surrey

 

Lib Dems and the price of power

The problem with Bob Morgan’s analysis (“Lib Dems were right”, Letters 17 September) is that the price of making “some Lib Dem policies real” is the implementation of a series of divisive and destructive Tory policies, including the commercialisation of the NHS, increasing tuition fees, demolition of social care services and the privatisation of the Post Office. Is this the price we have to pay for a tax on plastic bags? In this context, his letter sounds like a plea for power at any cost.

Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk

 

How to swat a fly

Regarding Tony Wood’s advice on how to swat a fly, (letter, 17 September) I have a simpler method. I once worked in a laboratory that was infested with flies in the summer and I had read that flies jump backwards on take-off. I took a flexible steel ruler and bent it back, then released it, aiming just behind the fly. It worked, but there is one problem. Since then I’ve read that flies don’t jump backwards on take-off. Perhaps someone out there knows the answer and can explain why my method worked.

John Naylor, Ascot

 

Wooster’s honour

Trevor Walshaw’s description of modern politicians as “flash political Woosters” is an unforgivable slur (Letters, 17 September). Bertie Wooster may have the “brains of a peahen” but he is very kindhearted, well-meaning and decent.  He strongly disapproves of bandying a woman’s name, and he “has never hunted”. The man is head and shoulders above our current crop of odious, shallow, patrician, shifty self-servers.

Penny Little, Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

 

Wild West laws

A small number of innocent people being shot is seen as a small price to pay for the right to bear arms. Most American films feature death and destruction; we have to face the fact that they are a bunch of cowboys and they will never change.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

 

Fair cop

An armed police officer has successfully challenged his dismissal for having sex on duty, on the grounds that he had his gun on him whilst engaging in the act. Could it be said that it was indeed a gun in his pocket, and he was pleased to see her?

Mark Thomas, Histon, Cambridgeshire

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