Letters: Perspectives on murders for 'honour'

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Crimes that shame all Asians

Robert Fisk's piece about the honour killing within a woman's shelter in Lahore is horrific (8 September), but what is not mentioned is how the concept of "izzat", which is used to justify the killings, works.

Izzat is unique to that part of Asia, meaning the honour or reputation of a person or family. It is applied more rigorously to women than men. A woman can be seen as bringing her own izzat and her family's into disrepute by committing a transgression, like wanting a divorce. The families, mistakenly, feel the only way to reassert the izzat is by killing the woman.

Honour killings will only stop when the whole Asian community stands together in seeing them as bringing the izzat of all Asians into disrepute.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

Misogyny is rife in modern Britain

Robert Fisk writes about "honour" killings in Pakistan. This crime is not in the least rare in the UK, in our 21st-century so-called modern liberal democracy, but we have chosen to turn a blind eye, revealing our own inability to throw off misogyny.

We operate here in the UK a gender apartheid system based on a lily-livered fear of being labelled racist and have carved out a covert deal between the indigenous patriarchs and the ethnic godfathers at the cost of our ethnic women and girls. The collusion is thus: "You don't call us racist and we will let you treat your women in the manner to which you are accustomed."

This allows us to ignore forced marriages, polygamy and the most horrific female child abuse ever dreamt up by men to control female sexuality: female genital mutilation, for which there has not been one single prosecution, ever. It allows us to continue playing cricket with Pakistan, and will allow Cameron to let Turkey into the EU.

The real question that needs to be asked is why men in so many cultures, traditions and religions have descended into this kind of psychotic sadism with regard to females in their need to gain masculine status. Are women really so threatening that they have to be mutilated and killed for a man to have self-respect?

Elaine Chambers, London NW3

Give the Pope a chance to speak

Recently both Julie Burchill and Johann Hari (8 and 9 September) have indulged in tirades against the person and the visit of the Pope, both from the usual viewpoint of agnostic sarcasm.

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI is an extraordinary event in our history – the Bishop of Rome to a country whose state religion is officially anti-Catholic. Times have moved on and he comes by invitation and as the representative of a faith that has many members here. The abhorrent acts of some in the church do not detract from the faith and belief that the Pope embodies.

Anyone formally invited by this country deserves more respect than this. Our guest is coming; let's listen to what he has to say, we may well be surprised.

John Tehan, London SW18

We have a Church which does a great deal of good, but with an unacceptable history of sexual abuse and a gross failure to address the problem.

This is no easy matter. Indeed, sincerely confessed transgressions must be absolved and the confidentiality of the confessional must be sacrosanct.

This by no means excuses the sad history of how sexual (and other) abuses have been covertly or overtly condoned. Here, I can but relate to my own training as a senior manager in a Catholic school in the Clifton diocese some 15 or more years ago.

Our in-service training was provided by the diocesan officer/priest responsible for dealing with such abuse. He was painfully honest with his statistics and examples, and made it quite clear that it was the wish of the bishop and diocese that any disclosure be immediately reported in full to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Any child reporting sexual abuse had to be believed.

Sadly, this seems not to have been the universal method of addressing this evil. We must not turn away from this problem. We must honestly strive to end the past and present suffering.

J S F McLorinan, Western-super-Mare, Somerset

I'm sure Julie Burchill thinks it clever to be provocative, but I wish she'd think before putting pen to paper.

Condemning someone for joining the Hitler Youth when they could not possibly have grasped the magnitude of Hitler's plans is hardly reasonable. I can only assume that all Ms Burchill's decisions as a 14-year-old girl were wise and worldly.

Claiming that, for Catholics, "double-speak and duplicity are second nature" is a most despicable generalising insult. As Britons we have politicians rather than a Pope to rule over us. Do their failings tar us all with the same brush? One would think that in a democracy we are even more complicit, since we all have a hand in choosing our leaders, so I expect Ms Burchill is just crying out for the chance to take the blame for the expenses scandal, for example.

Finally, the point of Catholic absolution is that it is supposed to put an end to recrimination and violence by forcing people to admit to their sins in front of God, repent of them, and promise never to commit them again. High-minded and unrealistic, perhaps, and I would agree that it is not always an appropriate way to deal with criminals. But to suggest that absolution is just a free ticket to continue abusing children merely shows ignorance.

Andrew T Barnes, Bristol

I was disgusted and outraged by Julie Burchill's vitriolic outburst about the Pope and Catholics. I am a Catholic and do not consider myself to act "exactly as Catholic men are expected to – choosing one sort of woman to marry, and another sort to have sex with".

John Sexton, Woking, Surrey

The case Geoffrey Robertson makes against the Catholic Church and by extension, Benedict XVI (8 September) is expressed eloquently, but does he not underestimate the immunity hurdle?

The reason that the Pope, unlike the Archbishop of Canterbury, could get away with "maltreating a penguin in London Zoo" (should he so wish) has nothing to do with benefit of clergy; his immunity derives solely from the doctrines and practice of state and diplomatic immunity.

Robertson writes that the Pope is head of the Holy See "which purports to be a sovereign state". The Pope's immunity from prosecution while he is in the United Kingdom is not based on what the Holy See "purports" its status to be but on the simple fact that it is recognised as a state by Britain, one with which it exchanges diplomatic representatives.

If the Church should ever plead that state immunity protects it and its agents from the legal consequences of the actions of its employees (other than its diplomatic officials) it might be time to think about withdrawing recognition. Until then it might be advisable for the Royal Zoological Society to place its penguins under in protective custody; but even when the Pope's visit is over they will remain vulnerable to predation from, say, the President of Switzerland or the King of Thailand.

Bernard Cross, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

It is a judgement on our secular age that Geoffrey Robertson QC manages to write a four-page article discussing whether child abuse within the Church is a crime worthy of punishment or a sin subject to confession, penitence and absolution, without making any reference to Scripture.

In Mark 9, verse 42 Jesus says about children: "And whosoever will offend one of these little ones, that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea" (Tyndale/King James Bible). The Good News Bible clarifies "offend" to "should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me".

Either way the Lord is perfectly specific on the gravity of the offence, and while I do not have a Vulgate to hand I doubt if it differs greatly. Moving a culprit to another parish or country or continent would seem rather too lenient.

Frank Donald, Edinburgh

Diamond is the man for the job

The reaction of the terminally ignorant to the appointment of the extremely talented Bob Diamond as Chief Executive of Barclays is annoying. Even our old favourite Vince Cable has expressed unease at Bob's appointment. Since the phrase "casino banking" was coined, management, administrative and motivational skills have taken a back seat to name-calling, politicians' prejudices and sloganism.

Banking used to be populated by uneducated functionaries with no imagination. The revolution came in the mid-1980s with the arrival of a new breed– the MBA generation. These are men and women who are trained to run a business which makes money. They drive a business forward, but they do not take prisoners and they most definitely shoot the wounded. They would make lousy social workers and rarely or never go into politics because they are far too clever.

So who is Bob Diamond? He has many attributes which we Brits do not appreciate but which many envy. He is American, he's clever (Connecticut MBA), he has had an exceptionally successful career in the finance industry, he is rich, he has a very happy family life and most important of all, he is an excellent golfer.

Bitter and twisted British politicians have presented him as some sort of dodgy American snake-oil salesman and not the cerebral corporate entrepreneur that he undoubtedly is. He has a reputation as a great manager and motivator of Barclays' most important asset – its people.

I have spent much of my professional life in banking and have met several Diamond-types. They are the management equivalent of a rollercoaster: Sometimes terrifying but always exhilarating and if you do your job, the most generous bosses that you could ever work for.

Remember that no one is ever really ready for that next promotion.

Richard Ruzyllo, Glynde, East Sussex

The over-fishing of the oceans

Your story about the growing criticism of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), "Why your sustainable fish may not be as guilt-free as you think" (4 September), contained the inaccurate suggestion that our independent film on over-fishing, The End of the Line (2009), was made by the MSC to publicise its activities.

It was not. In fact, the MSC refused to put anyone up for interview by us and refused to endorse the film. I can only surmise that this was because of the trenchant criticism of the global fishing industry the film contained.

Those of us responsible for making the film, which is based on my book of the same name, would like to add our voice to those scientists and conservationists writing in Nature who say that the MSC needs to try harder to ensure that the fisheries it is certifying are sustainable in the long term, as well as best practice internationally, as the two things are not necessarily the same. We need to ensure that fisheries certified by the MSC mean fish for ever, a slogan the MSC once used but has tellingly since dropped.

Charles Clover, London WC2

Secrets of early colour photos

The Prokudin-Gorsky colour photographs are indeed impressive, and very moving. A selection can be seen on the US Library of Congress website, which also makes clear that they were shown by triple projection of red, green and blue separations: positive black-and-white transparencies and the appropriate coloured filter on each projector.

Superimposed transparencies (letter, 9 September) will work if they use positives dyed in the complementary colours, the principle of the colour slide. To do this requires reversal processing: the original red, green or blue negative would be developed once, then the silver grains chemically bleached out. A second exposure to strong light sensitises any remaining unexposed emulsion, which is then developed to leave a positive image. The silver in this image finally has to be replaced by the appropriate dye: cyan for the "red", magenta for the "green" and yellow for the "blue". All a bit complicated, and probably not worth the effort as triple projection would have worked well.

Tim Dennis, Colchester

UK taxes violate human rights

I wholly concur with Sean O'Grady (8 September) and am convinced from my experience in practice as a chartered accountant that parts of existing UK tax law are contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The punishment for various infringements as set out in recent Finance Acts (often in multiple £100 fines) can be wholly disproportionate to the offences.

Each year the Chancellor of the Exchequer is required to confirm to Parliament that the Finance Bill is in conformity with Human Rights legislation. Perhaps we should question the basis of the advice on which such confirmation has been given.

Rodney Taylor, Barton-Le-Clay, Bedfordshire

Last week my wife gained some insight into the Byzantine processes of HMRC when they sent her a dunning letter for the settlement of a misconceived tax assessment which was not in fact due.

She phoned to ask why they continued to threaten her in this way, when she had written to them on 14 July and pointed out their erroneous calculation. They replied that they could not be expected to have taken account of her letter, because they planned to read it only on 8 October.

How bad does any organisation have to get before it gives up dealing with its customers on a timely basis, and switches its energies to a system for stacking up their letters and scheduling them to be read on some distant future date?

Ron Paterson, Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire

I must object to the use of the much-abused adjective "Byzantine" to describe the workings of HMRC, and its recent miscalculations (letter, 9 September).

The Byzantine tax system was very simple, being almost entirely based on income, regardless of its source, and the civil servants of the empire were severely punished for any failure in their roles. Would that we had a Byzantine tax system.

Ross Manning, London SW18

Case of Coalition hypocrisy?

I am confused by the Coalition's attitude with regard to state and media intrusion into private affairs. Nick Clegg claims that Labour is being pious in demanding that the Met be investigated for its handling of the News of the World phone-hacking case, but the Coalition is outraged by the apparent outing of William Hague and claim that the media have intruded into his privacy.

During the recent election campaign the Lib Dems promised to halt further intrusion by the state into our daily lives, but they appear to have backed the Tory proposal to weed out false benefit claimants by allowing credit-rating agencies to run checks into the personal data of every single person who applies for benefits, with the added encouragement of bounty payments. But the Coalition Government is filled with MPs who tried to block an FOI inquiry into their expenses.

It would appear therefore that the Coalition is only opposed to state and media intrusion into private affairs when it affects them; anyone else is fair game.

Julie Partridge, London SE10

Labour's loss

David Miliband tells us that Labour "lost the election because we didn't open up politics" (6 September). I disagree. Mr Miliband, Labour lost the election because it made a mess of the economy, joined two wars against the popular will and created a culture of dependence on the nanny state.

Dr Faysal Mikdadi, Dorchester, Dorset

The Blitz recalled

The presence of a Lancaster bomber overflying the Blitz commemorative parade in London this week (History, 8 September) should make us reflect on the reason why, despite the Blitz being a war crime, no one stood trial for it at Nuremberg.

Ken Cohen, London NW6

Humane error

A letter published on 9 September was headlined "No humane way to hunt wales". Shurely shome mistake. Obviously it should have read "No humane way to hunt Welsh".

Peter Metcalfe, Stevenage, Hertfordshire