Respect the Islamic world's contributions to modern civilisation
Sir: May I, as a British Muslim of mature years, express my opinion of most of those who are being presented to the nation as representing the various Muslim communities. I have respect for many of them, but what sorely disturbs me is that through self-interest or ignorance of history they fail to get down to the fundamental sources of mental conflict among Muslims, young or old.
Firstly, the constant use of the word "civilisation" since 11 September 2001, as referring essentially to the Western, Christian world, hurts Muslims deeply, for as historians know it was the Muslim universities and libraries in Spain and the Near East that provided the foundations on which modern civilisation was built. Where would mathematics and science be if we did not have Arabic numerals, algebra and logarithms, not to mention contributions in medicine, chemistry, philosophy, botany, and other spheres? The great works in Greek would have disappeared for ever had not Arab scholars lovingly translated and recorded them.
Secondly, the astonishing blind spot in Western mentality that paints Islam as being a religion of violence is so bizarre as to be perplexing. How has it become so easy to overlook centuries of Christian aggression and blood-letting, which go back to the atrocities of the Crusades and the genocide in the Americas, where ancient civilisations were wiped out by the conquistadors and others who considered themselves devout Christians? And the centuries of war in Europe, the colonisations of so many parts of the world, the two major World Wars, with their many millions of dead, and the 6 million Jewish dead of the Holocaust? And only recently the massacres in Bosnia, with more than 7,000 men and boys killed in Srebrenica by Christian Serbs? Does anyone ask whether the Bible encourages violence?
In light of these historic injustices, may I suggest the we put an end, in any way possible, to the daily bloodshed in Iraq, and intensify the peace talks on Palestine; that the neo-colonialist attitude towards Muslim countries must end, and that only the United Nations has the authority to intervene, absolutely as a last resort; and that the Muslim contributions to our modern civilisation be taught in our schools.
SALIM M BARWANY
Understanding cause of attacks
Sir: The shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, is quoted as saying that he finds the suicide bombings "totally explicable" in terms of the level of anger of the Muslim community (report, 3 August). Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, is quoted as disagreeing because she does not "see any justification for people blowing themselves up and murdering hundreds of other people". This is not a disagreement at all since Mr Grieve's statement is about explanation, while Ms Blears talks about justification. It is clear that someone who does not accept terrorism as legitimate can still consistently try to identify its roots, as, presumably, both Ms Blears and Mr Grieve do.
Sir: I've just heard Hazel Blears interviewed for The World at One on Radio 4. Commenting on her meetings with members of the Muslim communities, she proudly stated that her government firmly adhered to the democratic principle of solving problems by discourse and debate and never resorting to, or condoning, violence. What about the invasion of Iraq and the terrifyingly conspicuous avoidance of "jaw jaw"?
Sir: Hazel Blears acknowledged that the impact of the Iraq war on British Muslim opinion was repeatedly stressed, but she argued that anger over the invasion had to be channelled through the democratic process. Presumably this is the same democratic process that ignored the will of most of the population and one of the biggest demonstrations in British political history against going to war in Iraq in the first place.
Sir: I agree wholeheartedly with Tony Blair that the situation in Iraq is no excuse for suicide bombings. Few would claim it is. But many people believe that the Iraq invasion, in which Blair was a willing "pillion passenger", inevitably led to a heightened risk of terrorism against Britain. Our own security services warned in advance that it would. They got that much right!
Blair deliberately uses the word "excuse" to deflect attention from looking at the serious issues of the effects of US military policy in the Arab world. This is not only disingenuous but foolish. Terrorism will never be controlled without dealing with its root causes, including our own belligerent actions.
Blair's line is that we must "confront" this new threat everywhere we can. If we do not then terrorism will spread and threaten our very existence. We are told that this "evil ideology" is seeking to destroy our way of life. This is the new domino theory. As in the case of Vietnam it is used to justify military adventures and to "excuse" the killing of thousands of civilians abroad.
Sir: We have had "intelligence" that Iraq had WMD. We have had "intelligence" that there was no group capable of launching the London bombings. We have, presumably intelligent, politicians telling us that recent events have no connection with our own brutal actions in Iraq and our humiliation of Muslim prisoners. Perhaps we ought to revert to common sense. We could then begin to reclaim our integrity and reverse the ill-informed, and clearly arrogant, deployment of our military might, even if it would mean less oil for our 4x4s.
MICHAEL THOMAS PARKER
The Mayor cannot protect, or divide
Sir: It was odd to see Howard Jacobson become shrill in his attack on Ken Livingstone ("Why our Mayor should stop fanning the flames of division and try to put them out", Opinion, 30 July). Phrases such as "old opportunistic radical heckler", "incapable of accuracy or impartiality", and "brain dead interpretation" are merely heckling in themselves.
Odder still is his elevation of the office of Mayor to that of patriarch charged with the awful responsibility of "protecting us". Ken Livingstone has little capacity to do that, or to foment division between any groups.
Some Londoners may have positions which are long-held and unshakeable, others have not. It does them no harm to have a Mayor who is sometimes loud, contrarian and self-contradictory, for if anyone can suss him out it will surely be Londoners. If I were still a Londoner I would prefer someone not much troubled about political correctness and who refused, for example, to make an insincere apology to a reporter who felt slighted, rather than accept the Prime Minister's sleek advice to apologise and "move on".
Sir: In his interview with Peter Hain (The Monday Interview, 1 August) Colin Brown quoted an article which implied that I support suicide bombing in the Israel/Palestine conflict. This is simply untrue. I have on numerous occasions made clear that I am totally opposed to the killing of civilians, whether by suicide bombers or by the Israeli army.
MAYOR OF LONDON LONDON SE1
We must reject diet of violent material
Sir: Why does another young black student have to die in a senseless and brutal murder ("Victims of Hate", 1 August)? Twelve years on from the death of Stephen Lawrence and still the lesson has not been learned.
When are we going to explore the reasons for such hate instead of looking to place blame on a person or organisation. Surely society itself must take responsibility. When are we, the people of this country, going to rebel against the constant stream of violence, crime, sex and foul language that young people are bombarded with.
Is it any wonder that we are faced with such violence when the growing generation is being brought up on a diet of unacceptable TV programmes, computer games, magazines and the like? It's no good complaining about horrific and inexcusable crimes if we are prepared to accept what is being fed to young people in their formative years.
Celebrate diversity of plant names
Sir: Including local common names for plants on National Trust properties might be harder to achieve than Peter Erridge may realise (letter, 2 August). There are many local common names, and the commoner the plant the more local names there are for it. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland has adopted a formal list of common names but many of the names on it will be unknown to locals who for centuries have had their own usages in plant naming, as in other aspects of life.
In a week when BBC radio is celebrating the richness of local dialect it would be sad to see "water blobs", "milkmaids" and "eggs and bacon" being sent yet another step down the road to oblivion.
ILKLEY WEST YORKS
UN force could deter aggression
Sir: In your editorial of 30 July headed: "The UN needs a permanent force", you argue for an ongoing international body involved with peacekeeping. This would replace, or at least supplement, the present ad hoc interventions, notably in Africa.
Surely this commendable concept should be extended to the prevention of war between sovereign states. An international force of professionals, recruited from each UN member state and with substantial armament would help deter aggression. America has for years prevented war between India and Pakistan, both of them nuclear powers. How much better would it be if the role of the "world's policeman" was undertaken by the many, and seen to be altruistic and impartial.
Sir: Anyone reading Romeo Dallaire's account of his time as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda, Shake Hands With the Devil, would know the importance of putting in place a properly trained and equipped United Nations Army. How can UN representatives expect to have any success with peacekeeping in the most difficult of circumstances when they have to beg for manpower from any country that will supply it, and when very often all they have to work with are untrained recruits who do not have basic equipment or supplies?
Lottery games are going strong
Sir: Your article "Arts projects to lose out as Lotto money goes to Games" (28 July) stated: "Now is not necessarily a good time to launch new gaming schemes: disappointing sales of the EuroMillions games have fuelled fears that the Olympic scheme may struggle to hit its targets."
In fact The National Lottery is currently experiencing its longest period of growth since 1997, with ticket sales of over £90m a week, compared to £48m a week when The National Lottery launched with just one game in 1994.
EuroMillions sales are strong and with nine countries now participating it is the biggest lottery game in the world by total population eligible to play. It currently generates annualised sales of well over £100m. EuroMillions is also a major driver of incremental growth in our portfolio of non-Lotto games, which showed a 10.9 per cent growth in 2004/5.
The "Go For Gold" scratchcard is the first in a series of dedicated lottery games that will be launched between now and 2012. These will be the first of their kind where players will know the money generated will benefit a defined good cause: the 2012 Games.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CAMELOT GROUP WATFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE
Orwell's real name
Sir: It's spooky that with certain individuals predicting we are on the threshold of an "Orwellian nightmare", (Letters, 1 August) the present incumbent of 10 Downing St is a certain Tony Blair. George Orwell was a pseudonym: Orwell's real name was Eric Blair.
Sir: In his letter "Terror labelling" (3 August) S Abdel-hay of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, while complaining about the phrase "Islamic terror", asks the question: "I wonder why IRA bombings in London, Brighton or Liverpool were not called Catholic terror or Irish terror?" The answer is that people who carried out these acts did not claim that they were motivated by the Bible and that their conduct was sanctioned by Christianity. When terrorists commit heinous crimes in the name of Islam, some Muslims remain quiet but when the world calls these fanatics "Islamic terrorists", the so-called "silent majority" speaks up.
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA.
Shoot to kill
Sir: Raj Kothari (letter, 30 July) questions the legality of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. He should know that a "shoot-to-kill policy" has always existed in the sense that killing someone may be the only way of stopping them from taking a life.
Sir: Is anyone else as irritated as I am by the caveat that lurks beneath your sudoku puzzles: "There's no maths involved. You solve the puzzle with reasoning and logic"? Placing my mathematician's pedantic hat firmly on my head I would like to point out that mathematics is reasoning and logic. If the point of the message is not to scare anyone way, then try something like: "There's no calculation involved". After all, you wouldn't think of placing a cautionary message underneath your crossword to the effect that there's no English involved", would you?
Sir: If Xena is indeed a planet it has been exercising an unknown astrological influence on my destiny and millions of others. This might account for many otherwise inexplicable events, including my failure to get letters published in The Independent.
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