Letters: No rebranding please

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The Independent Online

Sir: My father was in the British Army in the Second World War and he fought alongside Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen as well as soldiers from many other countries. His generation's experience of cameraderie and brotherhood in the army resulted in all members of the British Army becoming convinced of the need to pursue justice, purge racism and for everyone to become "citizens of the world".

Imagine how he would feel if he were alive today when his grandchildren, who were born in UK, are to be rebranded as British-Asians or Asian-British, as proposed by our present government , who, it would appear, are more alienated from British history than immigrants to this country .

Just imagine Britain today if we had embraced rebranding 2,000 years ago. We could now be living in a maze of small ghettos of Ancient Britons, Celts, Romans, Scots, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, Eastern Europeans, Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Jamaicans and numerous other ethnic groups, with many of them still fighting each other.

Instead historic immigrants have gradually tended to coalesce into one, more or less unified, whole. Of course the current situation is very far from perfect, and the process of improving it (particularly in relation to the Muslim community) continues, but our country is the richer for it and is one of the most tolerant in the world.

We are nation of immigrants. Our life and prosperity rely upon new immigrants being assimilated, but they in turn must be prepared to assimilate themselves into our already very diverse way of life. However, the Government's proposed rebranding of the ethnic minorities is no quick fix for the problems we face and, if anything, obscures the real issues.



Sir: Hazel Blears wants people like me to be more "British". Having seen the CCTV footage of Britain's night-time economy, with its violence, vomiting and other anti-social behaviour, I don't think I will lower myself, thank you very much.



Judges, terrorists and human rights

Sir: The judiciary should be independent but that does not mean that they should pretend that the real world does not exist. They do have some responsibility for the people in the society which employs them.

Unfortunately, as their remarks make clear, they are in fact an arrogant and unaccountable clique who treat with condescension anyone who dares question them. Like your leader writers (leading article, 11 August) they believe that nothing that the state does should inconvenience terrorists or their supporters unduly, as this is against our "values".

Indeed for them as for you the main enemy seems to be not Islamic fascist terrorism but the Government. Many of us regard them not with gratitude but with increasing contempt.



Sir: Thank God we have at least someone attempting to curb the will of politicians. They didn't listen to the country at large and I doubt whether they will listen to the judiciary either, but there is a simple answer. Butt out of the affairs of the Middle East and we won't need the terrorist laws.

We all decided what we thought of Michael Howard at the last election, and if only we had a decent politician with leadership qualities, we would no doubt be able to tell Tony Blair what we think of him too.



Sir: I don't understand those bleeding hearts who cry "human rights" when those poor Islamic extremists who praise and encourage suicide bombers, as well as other foreign terror suspects, might possibly face torture if deported back where they came from.

What "human rights" do these twisted extremists respect when furthering their insane "jihad" against innocent civilians? The world is a much different place than it was even 50 years ago, and perhaps it is time to rethink what human rights mean and how they are applied to a modern democracy facing this jihad of hate.

Islamic extremists who encourage murder and suicide bombings in this country should be deported at once.



Sir: The Government and the tabloid media have it right, we are at war! But with what? What is more important to us as citizens of this country; attempting to locate and emasculate a few hundred misguided people who believe that they can only register their protests by terrorist acts, or the ill-advised government ministers who seem hell-bent on restricting the civil liberties of the other 60 million citizens?

I believe that it is time that all right-thinking people listened to the judiciary and did all that they can to resist the frantic and dangerous knee-jerk reactions of Blair and his crew, whose current policies could damage us all for generations. We should ask why is it that the Human Rights Convention is seen as a cornerstone of civilisation by the majority of human kind but feared by our government and tabloid press.



The brutal Chinese suppression of Tibet

Sir: Congratulations on publishing Leonard Doyle's telling insight into the Chinese occupation of Tibet ("Fear on the roof of the world", 8 August).

I and thousands of other visitors to Tibet can testify to the brutal approach of the Chinese to the suppression of Tibetan culture, presumably with a view to eliminating it all together. The Chinese language is the only language used in schools in many parts of Tibet and only Chinese "approved" tourist guides are allowed to accompany foreign visitors.

Leonard Doyle is correct to imply it is the lure of trade and business that is driving our government's foreign policy in this area, ignoring the seemingly illegal invasion of Tibet by China.

The good name of this country is further damaged when our Prime Minister can find time to meet visiting Chinese officials, but finds his diary too full to meet the Dalai Lama. I am appalled to read that the European Union cannot agree to appoint a special rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in Tibet.

The Independent would do Tibet a great service to continue to expose the truth about the Chinese occupation of Tibet.



Sir: Leonard Doyle's article paints a harrowingly accurate picture of life in occupied Tibet, but is inaccurate in stating that "in the West, the movement for a free Tibet, so active in the 1990s, is running out of steam".

Public support for the Free Tibet Campaign has quadrupled since 2000, and the Tibet movement worldwide has played a vital role in generating pressure on China that has resulted in dialogue being re-established between China and the exiled Tibetan leadership, and the early releases of no fewer than 14 Tibetan political prisoners - all since 2002.

The Tibet movement remains as vibrant and dynamic as ever, but the Tibetans' peaceful struggle does not make dramatic headlines and the international media have, since 9/11, inevitably dedicated much of their news space to the conflicts in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iraq. Perhaps if other media followed The Independent's lead and featured Tibet and its support movement on their pages more often, the misconception that the movement is running out of steam would disappear.



Wild with desire for simple food in the air

Sir: The great majority of passengers who travel economy (or "back-of-the-bus" as airline catering companies call us) have to endure what can only be described as muck when stuck on a long flight. Celebrity chefs, as you report ("No pie in the sky as strike ends BA's flight meals", 11 August), only concern themselves with the more profitable business and first-class menus to justify their stratospheric fees. Few restaurant chefs know the everyday reality of home cooking. But comfort food, simply cooked, is what we ordinary mortals crave in a pressurised cabin, not lobster and caviar.

The current dispute between BA and Gate Gourmet could be a great business opportunity in dealing with in-flight catering. The company could set up take-away booths positioned in pre-boarding lounges offering "gourmet" sandwiches, healthy salads in tubs and even fresh soup in insulated cups for hapless customers as we obediently file into our cramped living quarters.

I like to shop a few hours before departure in local markets and take on board fresh crusty bread, delicious cheeses, sliced cold meats and some heavenly vine tomatoes. It drives my fellow passengers wild with desire.



The West's nuclear standoff with Iran

Sir: Can anyone explain to me why the United Kingdom has a greater need for nuclear weapons than Iran?



Sir: Might there not be easier negotiations with Iran if Israel were not, as is widely believed, already in possession of nuclear weapons?



Sir: Regarding the West's concern about Iran's nuclear programme, does it mean that when we invade them to get their oil, they will be able to defend themselves? Unlike Iraq.



Follow Scottish lead for happy babies

Sir: We wholeheartedly endorse Margaret Mikkelsen's call for England to follow Scotland's lead in introducing a law that would make it a criminal offence to hinder a mother's ability to breastfeed or bottle feed in a public place ("Mother in plea for breastfeeding law", 10 August).

Scotland now has the fastest growing rate of breastfeeding in the UK, due, in part, to the introduction of the law in November 2004. We know that breastfeeding is best for the health of both baby and mother so anything that helps mothers with their choice is about ensuring we give babies the best start in life.

Both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mothers struggle to find places where they feel comfortable to feed their infants. You don't need to be a scientist to realise that babies are not physiologically able to wait for their feed. We have two options, to share public spaces with happy, contented babies or cross, screaming ones - I know which one I would prefer.



Where the rain goes in a dry summer

Sir: As Jacob Tompkins (Letters, 9 August) implies, the idea that the north and west of this country have a lot of water is a fallacy. What they have - on average - is a lot of rain. A lot of rain equals surplus water only when there is somewhere to store it.

Just as rainfall diminishes from north-west to south-east, so water storage decreases in the other direction, a fact controlled by geology. The hard rocks of the north and west provide little natural storage for water; reservoirs can be built on them but hold relatively small volumes. When rainfall does not arrive they are quickly in trouble - one has only to remember the pictures of Mardale reappearing from beneath a drying Haweswater in 1984 and 1995.

The permeable rocks (aquifers) of the south and east hold much larger volumes, which is why this area of the country has been able to sustain a larger population despite low rainfall and high evaporation. It is also why, as Tompkins points out, in times of drought severe shortages of water tend to be felt more in the north and west.

Even now there are vast volumes of groundwater in the aquifers of southern and eastern England - so much that they are still overflowing to sustain rivers and wetlands. We could tap more of this groundwater only by reducing the flows of these surface waters. This is something that should be borne in mind when planning housing expansion in the South-east.



Expensive outside EU

Sir: So the two most expensive cities in Europe are Reykjavik and Oslo ("London gets cheaper if you grow your hair", 10 August), the respective capitals of Iceland and Norway, countries which are both non-members of the EU. Surely no coincidence?



Science and religion

Sir: As a humanist I have been particularly impressed by the triumph of science and technology this week, with the space shuttle demonstrating what can be achieved when we humans use our reason to solve problems. In stark contrast, religion is now showing us its darkest side through the evil and insane "suicide bombers". I certainly find it very depressing that when it is clear how beneficial reason is to our welfare and how damaging magic thinking is, so many humans are still enslaved by religion. We still have a long way to go.



Well adapted

Sir: I am appalled at the torrent of racism directed at Muslims in this country, often citing their failure to integrate into British society and to adopt our customs. Nothing could be further from the truth, as a glance at the lifestyle of the extremist Islamic cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed will attest. He lives in a £200,000 council house, hasn't worked since he arrived in the UK, has seven children, gets £300 in state benefit and drives a Motability car. Our indigenous white welfare dependants have more in common with the cleric than they perhaps realise.



Mysteries of Sudoku

Sir: Tony O'Brien's problems with Sudoku (letter, 11 August) can easily be solved. Simply change the numbers 1-9 to the letters TONYBLAIR. He will soon give up this infuriating puzzle and get on with his life. Q E D.



Sir: Tony O'Brien should follow the example of our friend in New South Wales whose first act of the day was to photocopy the Sudoku in the Sydney Morning Herald - one for her, another for me. It is much easier to rub out on photocopy paper, and no white out (good Aussie name) was required. My husband contends that Sudoku is a Japanese plot to devastate western economies.