Letters: No democratic figleaf for Egypt

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 20 August, 2013

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The silence of western leaders in the face of the Egyptian massacres is deafening. It is proof, if any were needed, that western foreign policy uses “democracy” as a figleaf for the control of resources and other states. 

If it were China or Zimbabwe under Mugabe which had murdered 2,000 unarmed demonstrators, firing machine guns to disperse protesters, Obama and his poodle Cameron would have been the first to wax lyrical about the benefits of western democracy. Instead Obama can’t decide whether or not a military overthrow of an elected government constitutes a coup!

Absurdly, General Sisi considers himself another Gamal Abdel Nasser, forgetting that Nasser took on British and French imperialism by nationalising the Suez Canal. Sisi’s regime murders its own citizens instead.

None of this is to exonerate the government of Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood is a backward, reactionary party, which is opposed to freedom for women or workers. It sought to make Sharia law the law governing Egypt and Morsi an unaccountable dictator. However it was for the Egyptian people to remove the Brotherhood’s government, not the army.

Tony Greenstein, Brighton

 

Everyone knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would win the popular vote. The election was internationally accepted as fair enough.

The Independent and others tell us subsequently that the Brotherhood have been incompetent managers of the economy and disrespectful of the rights of the large minority that did not support them; factors of course not unique to the Brotherhood or Egypt.

For democracy to work, even in some minimal sense, a country needs both majoritarian rule and individual and minority rights. Having just majority rule won’t do. But were the violations of the minorities in Egypt so great or the incompetence so unusual for us to give up so soon on majority rule?

Unless you are confronting a humanitarian meltdown, bet on democracy whether you like the government or not, and call a coup a coup. Otherwise, where’s the hope?

Andrew Shacknove, Oxford

 

I am disappointed by the media’s coverage of the military crackdown in Egypt. Most Egyptian people I have spoken to say this is a fight for freedom of speech and of religious assembly and for human rights.

It is a fight to stop the Muslim Brotherhood turning Egypt into yet another backward Islamist state instead of the secular state where Muslims and Christians (and others) live together in peace as they have for decades.

They are bitterly disappointed that this aspect is being ignored by the West. The majority of Egyptians support their military’s position.

Paul Harper, London E15

 

I read with astonishment Bruce Anderson’s comment (19 August) that it was right for Salvador Allende to be overthrown in Chile in 1973, as it was right to overthrow Morsi in Egypt.

General Pinochet killed thousands of his own people afterwards. Bruce Anderson’s association with his friend Margaret Thatcher has clearly blinded him to this history.

Leighton McKibbin, Bebington, Wirral

 

Bring lobbying out from the shadows

The test for British citizenship gives the correct answers to the question “Which two of the following do pressure and lobby groups do?” as “Influence government policy” and “Represent the views of British businesses”. This might be true, but should it be? The Government should encourage lobbyists to inform government policy, but should never be influenced by them.

There is no need for a register of lobbyists (“Lobbying: Cameron condemned over ‘ridiculous’ reforms”. 19 August). All lobbying should be done in writing and all of it should be made public. All the information available to the Government in formulating policy should be subject to public scrutiny. The only influence should be at the ballot box.

Jon Hawksley, London EC1

 

Your front page story was interesting, but by page 7 we were informed that David Cameron had met Stephen Fry in an East End London pub. Is this pints for questions?

Martin Sandaver, Hay-On-Wye

 

Drama at scene of the crime

Thanks to Andrew Belsey (letter, 29 July) for pointing out that Faversham, where the forthcoming television series Southcliffe is set, has real-life homicide form.

There still survives in Abbey Street the house where in 1551 Thomas Arden was murdered at the instigation of his wife Alice and her lover Thomas Mosby. And as it has a big garden, outdoor performances of the 1592 play Arden of Faversham have taken place there.

There must be few other places where an Elizabethan drama can be performed where the actual events took place. It may be the first example of what we now call “docudramas”, as it follows the real story closely. It is accessible to modern audiences, includes comedy elements, and even features detective work.  

As an actor Shakespeare visited the town often, so if he was involved  in the writing of the play, as has been suggested, one can picture him getting together with other leading members of his company in an inn after a performance, hearing the Arden story, and reckoning it might make a good play. It could have been the Phoenix in Abbey Street, which goes back well before his day.

One of the many beauties of Faversham is that if Shakespeare, or Arden, were to return today, they would recognise many of its buildings. Around 500 are listed, and many go back to the 15th and early 16th centuries.

Arthur Percival, Faversham, Kent

 

Discipline better than Ritalin

I agree  with Frank Furedi regarding Ritalin for children (14 August). I worked as a special needs teaching assistant in two small village primary schools. I was amazed at some parents’ lack of discipline and control over their children. Children need routine and boundaries that are clear and fair.

ADHD symptoms are the same for children who react badly to additives. We proved this by getting several parents to try sensible additive-free food and drink. The change was remarkable. Unfortunately, you could tell immediately when they had not stuck to the diet.

In my15 years experience, I only came across one boy who had severe ADHD, due to abuse as a baby and toddler, for which Ritalin was needed, and he became a happy, productive child.

Hazel Burton, Broadstairs, Kent

 

T-shirt and jeans at Oxford

While interviews form an important part of the admissions process to Oxford, Richard Humble is wrong to say that the way you dress or talk matters in the interview (letter, 10 August).

Perhaps in decades gone by it might have mattered, but I can confirm that an applicant who occasionally drops “like” into sentences and wears a T-shirt, jeans and trainers can pass an interview – because I was such an applicant. It’s about what you say, not the way you talk or what you wear.

Similarly, the point of the Oxford interview is that you can’t be prepped or coached for it – although a dress rehearsal in school might calm nerves.

Interview myths discourage applicants like myself from state schools who see Oxford as an exclusive finishing school for the wealthy, when really it’s a modern university dedicated to improving access through programmes like the UNIQ Summer School, which brings sixth-form students at state schools to the university to experience what Oxford is really like.

Tom Rutland, President, Oxford University Student Union

 

Charles meddles: who cares?

The influence of big business in taking us for a ride through PFI contracts; large American conglomerates using their power to avoid paying tax: these matters worry me a great deal. Any influence Prince Charles has (“MPs demand inquiry into revelation that Prince sent staff to work in Whitehall”, 19 August) is of no concern.

If Labour MPs want to be part of the next government they need to concentrate on issues that the electorate care about.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

 

Stop off in Hazel grove

John Ramsay of Stoke-on-Trent (letter, 17 August) is unwise to suggest that 10 sets of traffic lights on a 1.4 mile stretch of the A34 is a national record.

If he cares to travel 30 miles north he will find a 0.9 mile stretch of the A6 that runs (or crawls ) through Hazel Grove. It offers the prospect of stopping at 11 sets of lights – seven junctions and three pedestrian crossings. The boredom of so many stops may be relieved by counting the number of pubs lining that stretch of road. By coincidence, they also number 11.

Peter Rolfe, Stockport, Greater Manchester

 

Beard envy

Early one winter morning 60 odd years ago a platoon of recruits received this order from an NCO: “In the Army every man shaves every day, bumfluff wallahs and cotton wool merchants included.” Could it be that some of those moaning about beards are in the bumfluff brigade and feel jealous?

David Hinmarsh, Cambridge

 

Some plodder!

Frank McLynn describes the Duke of Wellington as “an unimaginative plodder who got lucky” (book review, 17 August). If that is the case, Wellington must have been the luckiest plodder in all of history. Among many other occasions, he “got lucky” at Assaye, Argaon, Rolica, Vimeiro, Talavera, Busaco, Salamanca, Vitoria, Nivelle, Toulouse and Waterloo.

Philip Ashe, Leeds

 

Late news

Because of a production error, the signature was omitted from a letter, published yesterday, about girls studying science at school. The writer was Iain Salisbury, of Edgbaston, West Midlands.

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