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Thursday 4 August 2011
Letters: Perspectives on the Arab Spring
Not everyone hates the Muslim Brotherhood
Robert Fisk's coverage of the "Arab Spring" has been characteristically accurate and insightful thus far. However I must take issue with some of the claims in his article "Egypt's revolutionary youth are being sidelined" (2 August).
Those courageous young revolutionaries who brought down Mubarak's government with peaceful protest are not generally representative of the Egyptians at large. They represented the downtrodden, largely unemployed, youth of Egypt's cities. We should not forget that the majority of Egyptians live rurally in a different kind of poverty. To describe the Muslim Brotherhood as "hated" in Egypt is generally untrue; to Egypt's rural poor the Brotherhood have been a source of charity and support where the state has been absent. Certainly, the Brotherhood have an agenda – the maintenance of Egyptian religiosity and thus political support for themselves. Nevertheless, that political support does exist in the rural areas, as does a general Egyptian religiosity.
To suggest that Egypt's urban youth should have the greatest impact on the new government's formation implies that small groups who overthrow governments should always run the new ones, an elitist philosophy Nasser and his conspirators in 1952 followed.
It is certainly one of the Middle East's many injustices that the 25 January revolutionaries are being cut out of the creation of the "new" Egypt, especially when old faces from Mubarak's regime remain present, and this is something that we in the West should strongly discourage diplomatically. But we should accept that, for now, the Muslim Brotherhood's place in Egyptian politics is warranted. My concern is that this is the very reason why they are being included in the new government; to add a veneer of democratic legitimacy to a "new" Egypt looking increasingly familiar.
David Mclellan, Croydon, Surrey
As always, Britain sides with the forces of reaction
It is not just the Egyptian army that is wooing "the hated Muslim Brotherhood". The British Foreign Office has been doing so for many years, and will doubtless welcome MB rule just as they welcomed the House of Saud almost 100 years ago. British vested interests have historically courted the far right across the world as a bulwark against popular and progressive revolutionary movements just like the one which Robert Fisk describes.
Meanwhile, the unfathomable depths of the racist British neo-colonial mindset are apparent in the fact that a wide range of British opinion-makers have in the past depicted any criticism of the MB as "Islamophobia".
Peter McKenna, Liverpool
The rich caused the financial crisis, the poor pay to sort it out
The deal to fix the US deficit once again reflects how every financial crisis that occurs in the world today seems to be being dumped at the door of the poorest people. The deal reflects the same type of thinking as seen in this country when addressing deficit reduction: the average to badly-off suffer cuts to the public services they depend on, while the rich – who in the main caused the crisis – pay not a penny more in tax.
How long will people be prepared to tolerate this international con trick being perpetuated by the very rich to the cost of everybody else? When will a politician emerge with the guts to say to the rich, "You created this crisis, now pay your share to sort it out."
Paul Donovan, London E11
In the same week that we are being told that every family will be £1,500 or more worse off in order to pay for the mess created by bankers, the banks themselves have started to announce massive annual profits – in the case of one bank £7bn or more.
So why are we paying for the mess? Is it not high time that the Government started to claw back the money from the bankers who caused it?
Or will we witness the Tory Party and their Liberal crutch once again cosying up to the bankers while decimating public services? The voters have a right to know – before next year's local government elections.
Ian McNicholas, Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale
It is one of the immutable laws of accounting, whether the parties involved are local gardening clubs or nation states, that for every debtor balance there is an equal creditor balance somewhere. We hear a lot about the desperate deficits afflicting nation states but rarely to we have precise details of the owners of the debt.
Would it not be appropriate for those of us suffering from the effects of this game of capitalist roulette to be apprised of the identities of the shadowy creatures who appear to be in possession of hundreds of billions of pounds, dollars etc as they wait at the table poised to make their bets. We would then have the full list of dramatis personae and would be in a better position to calculate the extent to which the various parties are held democratically accountable for their role in the virtual destruction of the international economy.
Barry Butler, Birmingham
Children with anorexia
The widely published news that children as young as five have received hospital treatment for anorexia nervosa is of course a cause for real concern. A great deal of work is being done worldwide to understand the underlying causes of eating disorders. I am working with teams at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the University of Oslo on one such research programme, focusing on the biological and genetic components associated with these disorders.
However, there is a more immediate and pressing concern; one that we must take action to address, before it is too late. There is a large body of evidence demonstrating that early intervention in addressing childhood eating disorders, and indeed many other mental health problems, pays dividends for the rest of a child's life. The child's long-term health benefits, as does the public purse.
What we need are greater levels of intervention and care provision for children affected by eating disorders. Children suffering from anorexia nervosa and similar conditions often require acute specialist physical and psychiatric care, and in-patient care is frequently essential.
But what we are seeing is the opposite; a reduction in the number of admissions to specialist in-patient services for young people. Instead, when hospitalisation is needed, they are admitted for 24-48 hours to paediatric units ill-equipped to meet their needs, re-fed and discharged without any treatment for the eating disorder itself. Consequently they remain ill, under-weight and deprived of both nutrition and treatment. The longer this goes on the worse the child gets. Meanwhile the few established services with an outstanding track record of providing dedicated care for such children are facing closure because referrals are no longer being made, purely for financial reasons.
In the short term, concern and action must be focused on ensuring that children suffering from eating disorders receive the care they desperately need when they need it. That means that care commissioners need to take sensible decisions based on clinical need, not financial expediency.
We cannot remain in a situation where the current decision-making vacuum surrounding the future of NHS funding and commissioning leads to young lives being irrevocably damaged.
Professor Bryan Lask, Academic Director, Ellern Mede Centres for Eating Disorders, London N20
Crack down on 'sharia zones'
Advice from Sharia "councils" may, as Christina Patterson writes ("Two legal systems and two choices. Which do we want?", 3 August) not be legally enforceable "at the moment"; but it inevitably risks violating UK social and democratic norms by reflecting the gynophobic commandments of the Koran, such as "Good women are obedient ... as for those from whom you fear disobedience ... beat them" and "Your women are your fields, so go into them as you please." Both are potentially incitements to violence against women.
Patterson's references to "Sharia-controlled zones" and "patrols" in Waltham Forest are deeply disturbing. Councils and police must use all available legislation against fly-posting, graffiti and vandalism to crack down on this anti-social behaviour.
"Patrols" must be treated in exactly the same way as any that, say, the English Defence League might decide to mount.
David Crawford, Bromley, Kent
Media studies are on the case
Professor Giddings (letter, 2 August) suggests that media studies academics have been absent from public commentary and debate on phone hacking. This is not the case.
In the past month, colleagues at the London School of Economics Department of Media and Communications alone have commented on the BBC, Sky News, CNN and a large range of broadcasters, and contributed articles and comment to a range of newspapers.
More importantly, we have been researching, publishing, teaching and giving lectures for many years on the related areas of privacy, media plurality, phone hacking and regulation, and making others aware of our work using Twitter and our blogs (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/).
It is relatively easy to ascertain if people are in the news by searching with Google, but if Professor Giddings would like some advice on how to substantiate his claims I suggest he enrols on our masters programme.
Damian Tambini, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, London School of Economics
To all those shameless cynics who have been led by the recent hacking revelations to believe the Metropolitan Police is an inept, corrupt organisation, let them be reminded that Mr Murdoch's pie attacker was speedily apprehended, no vital crime evidence (left over pie) is to be found hidden away inside some bag in a basement office, and no officer has or will be attending parties at the attacker's residence or seeking employment from him.
Let the victim and the bemused world rest assured that justice has been swiftly and thoroughly served here by the Metropolitan Police.
Sergio Oliveira, New York
Country house weekends, phone hacking, alliances of security representatives, government officials and journalists! No, not Chipping Norton and the shocking follies of News International, just the latest BBC TV summer drama serial called The Hour, set at the time of the Suez Crisis and splendidly executed too.
The BBC seems to have selected this particular transmission time with prescient harmony with recent shocking revelations.
Ian Herne, Hillingdon, Middlesex
I heartily endorse James Lawton's timely exposé of the humbug and hypocrisy surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games (28 July). Like him, driving through France – and Belgium and Holland and Denmark – even decades ago I was stunned by the quality of provision for youth activities and sport in comparison with the embarrassingly abysmal facilities available in this country.
Since then things have got consistently worse. Only this morning, while collecting my Independent from the newsagent, I signed a petition on the counter protesting at the removal of the only play facility in the area; the newsagent even reiterated Lawton's point about concerns over child obesity. Judging by my contacts with inner-city estates, the betrayal of young people is complete: not only do youths have no job prospects but children have no adequate recreational facilities.
Despite all the cant from political leaders, it is scandalous that in the 21st century the street corner remains the recreational default position. No wonder the majority of people (according to recent opinion polls) remain indifferent or sceptical about the 2012 Games.
Dominic Kirkham, Manchester
Where does James Lawton get his evidence from that provision for sport in France is so superior to that in Britain, apart from "driving through any town in France"?
Part of the reason for this local provision is the dire lack of organised PE and sport in many French schools. Through the school partnership scheme our previous government poured millions into school sport, linking schools with local clubs and providing new opportunities for thousands of youngsters. What we started in 2000, the French and other EU countries admired and copied.
We are not alone in the childhood obesity problem. As recently as last year The Independent was reporting that French schools were addressing the problem by piloting sport afternoons – yes the same afternoons that our independent schools and universities have had in place for many years.
Mike Lisle, Liverpool
Pay for your own rehab
At a certain point in all our lives we have to take responsibility for ourselves. Just because drink, drugs and other forms of addictive substances are available, why is it necessary for some members of our society to consume them? They don't force themselves into our bodies; we do have a choice as to whether we imbibe, snort, inject or whatever.
Why on earth should the hard-pressed NHS resources (our taxes) be used to rehabilitate drug users ("Rehab needs a fix", 2 August)? If they can afford to indulge in the first place then they should purchase private rehabilitation when they want to stop.
Further, why on earth should the Government be asked to consider the needs of drug addicts over the needs of our older folk who have always taken responsibility for themselves and may now be reduced to hoping that someone will take care of them in their old age. Similarly, those of us who are born with mental and physical health problems also need protection and help.
If you are a drug user then, sorry, you chose that route and you have to take responsibility for yourself.
Jan Huntingdon, Swindon
Troubles at the Poetry Society
Having followed the reports of the current troubles at the Poetry Society, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this is the third time since the middle 1970s that there have been major public rows at the Society.
The first concerned the takeover of the Society and The Poetry Review by an avant gardist clique –a situation that lasted for approximately seven years. The second occasion was in the early 1990s and concerned the sale of the Society's premises in Earls Court, a downsizing operation to enable the Society to rid itself of accumulated debts. And the third occasion is the current one.
I would like to suggest that the Arts Council should make a thorough investigation into the affairs and constitution of the Poetry Society, because it cannot be right to keep having these public rows in an organisation that is subsidised by the taxpayer.
It has been suggested that it is only non-poet members of the Society who cause these difficulties. I am afraid this is simply not true, and has not been true, over the periods to which I refer.
William Oxley, Torbay
Aggression? No, just an error
Your have referred to the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid convoy last year which killed nine men as "bungled", and I've lost count of the times commentators describe the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in terms such as "an error of judgement".
If, as the terms imply, these people have evidence that the aggressors in these cases had benevolent intentions that went awry through want of skill or foresight, would they please reveal it? Otherwise some of us cynics might continue to see in the smirks of Blair and Netenyahu something other than the philosophical resignation of loveable failures.
Mark Kesteven, York
I couldn't agree more with Eddie Webb (letter, 2 August). People seem afraid of mentioning death, and use all kinds of namby-pamby euphemisms. One of my neighbours died last year and when my friend told me about it she said, "X has passed away." I replied with "You mean she's dead," only to be told that I was being a bit blunt. I made a point of using the word "dead" as often as possible during the rest of the conversation.
Martin Wilkinson, Wigan, Greater Manchester
Your correspondents have discussed an English anthem. Though I don't follow football, even I know that all we need for our national anthem is to sing "England 5, Germany 1" over and over again. This country cares more about World Cup qualifying matches than the Queen's divine right to rule.
Henry St Leger-Davey, Winchester
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