Dr Munjed Farid al Qutob (Letters, 17 December) claims that the Sydney gunman was a criminal, not a Muslim. This brings to mind the words of Tony Blair in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when he claimed that the perpetrators were not Islamic terrorists, just “terrorists pure and simple”.
But by the time London was attacked in July 2005, Blair had changed his tune. In a speech to the Labour Party conference, and recounting by then 26 al-Qaeda episodes, he noted that the terrorists’ motivation was “a religious ideology, a strain within the worldwide religion of Islam, as far removed from its essential decency and truth as Protestant gunmen who kill Catholics or vice versa are from Christianity. But do not let us underestimate it or dismiss it. Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God’s work; they go to paradise”.
Then in September 2013, David Cameron turned the clock back to mimic the Blair of 2001, stating of the al-Shabaab attacks that month in Kenya and all the others before: “These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don’t. They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don’t represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world.”
Of course the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and their violence, or the actions of a lone Sydney gunman, no more represent the average Muslim than the late Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church represent the average Christian. But does that mean religious dogma isn’t a significant contributing factor to their “warped view of the world”, nonetheless?
It is interesting to see how those who commit crimes in the name of their god are rapidly disowned by their fellow religionists. Yet, as Voltaire wrote: “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
As long as it is allowed that children may be indoctrinated into belief in a god who has great powers, and is able to hand out great rewards or terrible punishments, there will be people who interpret their belief in ways which are harmful, and who believe that they have sanction from or duty to their god to do harmful acts.
At this moment, one may naturally think those comments apply to one particular sect, but not so. The reason why religious groups who recognise the problem will defend the right of all religions to indoctrinate children is that they realise that once a restriction is applied to one religious group, it may become clear they are actually all indefensible.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob complains that the media rushed to attribute the tragic siege in Sydney to religious extremism but attached no religious significance to the terrible multiple murders in the US by an army veteran. He implies that this reflects a bias against Islam but overlooks the fact that it was the gunman himself who made the siege in Sydney an Islamic act when he obliged his hostages to hold the Shahada up to the view of the cameras outside. The media may often be guilty of jumping to conclusions, but in this case there was clear evidence that the gunman’s motivation was at least in part religious. The fact that he may have been of doubtful mental stability does not alter this.
If Dr Al Qutob wishes to persuade the world that Islam is a peaceful religion he might do better to address the substantial number of his co-religionists around the world who clearly take a very different view to his on aggression and terrorism, rather than berating the media.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Congratulations on your headline, “In God’s name” (17 December). A despairing world does indeed wonder how religious atrocity can be halted.
Derek Fabian & Ewa Maydell-Fabian
Wake up to the dangers of Ukip
I greatly applaud your editorial of 16 December, “The nasty party”, for condemning the appalling utterances of some of Ukip’s principals. It is high time that the majority of those that are being sucked into giving Farage and his cronies support and succour were made aware of the real dangers they are at risk of creating if Ukip gains too much power.
How did a relatively small number of fascist extremists win over the majority of normal Germans to their way of thinking and behaving? It frightens me to think that the same could happen here over the next decade or so, unless ordinary members of society with the power to vote wake up to the dangers that they could be facing.
Ukip’s success at securing £1.5m from the European Union from a fund set aside for parties that want to promote European integration exposes the party’s blatant hypocrisy. Taking money from the EU while fervently working against it is the same as those who come to the UK, who don’t believe in our laws and seek to overthrow democracy, but who use the human rights legislation that democracy created to prevent them being deported. Ukip would be the first to condemn such people for this treachery and yet they consider it perfectly acceptable to behave in the same way themselves. Please remember this next May.
Newhaven, East Sussex
Perhaps you might consider letting a representative of the Green Party have a slot to balance that nice Mr Farage on a weekly basis. It would be so refreshing to hear from a rational but radically different opinion from all the other, rather restricted, views that are rolled out with tedious monotony.
Cuckfield, West Sussex
Ukip’s immigration spokesman maintains Ukip’s candidates are “ordinary people” who did not have the media training that their political rivals had and sometimes had to be “guided”. This is one hypothesis. Another is that it is a party whose policies attract individuals with views that are repellent enough to require censor by its central office and which brings out and fosters a blinkered nastiness in its supporters.
St Erth, Cornwall
John Blenkinsopp (17 December) asks why The Independent gives Nigel Farage “the oxygen of publicity” by allowing him to have a weekly column. Might it have something to do with the newspaper being called The Independent?
Does cartoon violence really hurt?
I read with interest your report (17 December) of the joint University College London/University of Ottawa research findings that on-screen death and violence in cartoons “can be particularly traumatic for young children, and the impact can be intense and long-lasting”. Noting that both Snow White (1937) and Bambi (1942) were included in the survey, one might be forgiven for wondering how it is that successive generations of kids have previously proved to be highly resistant to the effects of such trauma, despite prolonged and repeated exposure?
Could it be that young people are able to determine the difference between make-believe and the genuine article?
How to improve ‘question time’
Like Alice Jones (13 December), I watch Question Time and I concur that it often descends into a transplant of the Commons Punch and Judy show. The most interesting and informative part is the audience, who seem to have ideas quite different from the supposed opinions of Britons.
It would not be difficult to improve the show enormously. To start with; no more than two politicians at any time. Instead, include scientists, engineers, doctors, architects, and lawyers on each show. Not only would these professionals have a good knowledge of the minutiae of the issues at stake, but because, being professionals, their livelihood and reputations depend on logical thinking.
Port Solent, Hampshire
Prince William should look closer to home
Prince William campaigns on behalf of African rhinos and elephants. Well done; both worthy and excellent causes. But why doesn’t the slaughter of our native breeding hen harriers, now in steep decline due to being shot by gamekeepers on grouse moors, also merit his attention? In 2007 allegations were made that his brother, Harry, had shot two hen harriers on the Sandringham Estate, but the case never came to anything.
Welcome US-Cuba rapprochement
President Obama mentions health as part of the new relations between the US and Cuba (report, 18 December). It will, of course, be 100 per cent from Cuba to the US and might help the US to attain a civilised universal system to replace the shameful apology that it currently has.