Letters: Sinister G8 proposals

Share

Sir: While congratulating you on your cover story of 27 October highlighting the measures taken by repressive regimes to prevent the worldwide web from being used to expose their misdeeds, I must admonish you for then failing to properly report the G8 summit on counter-terrorism. The G8 recommendation, inter alia, to criminalise those websites deemed as containing propaganda in support of terrorism must surely be of concern to those of us determined to see that the web remains free of state censorship.

Years of conflict have surely demonstrated that claims made by "the enemy" are invariably deemed "propaganda", while statements by our government are founded upon the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Likewise, the definition of "terrorist" is open to several interpretations, some for example being regarded as partisans or freedom fighters, or indeed anarchists.

The quote "the first casualty of war is invariably the truth" was exemplified by Prime Minister Blair's casus belli for our invasion of Iraq, since when I have regularly visited the Aljazeera website to ensure that I remain properly informed. We now know that Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb Aljazeera during the invasion of Iraq. One must accordingly wonder whether this latest G8 recommendation might for example now be used as a covert means of excluding us from this constant source of embarrassment to both the American and British governments.

After centuries of deception by governments worldwide, the web has at last given the individual the opportunity to make up his or her own mind as to what is truth and what is propaganda in cases of international conflict and repression. We must fight unswervingly to protect that right.

PATRICK LAVENDER

TAUNTON, SOMERSET

End state funding for faith schools

Sir: Religious leaders congratulate Ministers for their "sensitivity" in abandoning plans to make faith schools more inclusive (report, 27 October); Ministers tell the public how they took into account lobbying by religious leaders. This sends a stark message: the views of those who don't profess faith in a supernatural being and want their children to be educated to think, rather than be indoctrinated into a particular ideology, count for little or nothing.

Among all the mutual back-slapping, there is no mention of those who supported the proposals and/or wanted them to go further. This includes not only teaching unions and the National Secular Society, but also the majority of the public at large.

Contrary to Government protestations, those who support faith schools are a minority in Britain. A recent Guardian/ ICM poll indicated that close to two thirds of us are of the opinion that "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind".

If parents want to send their children to a faith school, it is they who should pay for it - not the general public. Religion is a matter of private belief. In a secular state, it has no business dictating government policy.

DR GRAHAM GARDNER

ABERYSTWYTH

Sir: The role of the existing faith schools in our education system is both complex and divisive. They owe their privileged status to the role that they played in helping to develop a universal school system in the 19th century. Generally, at least on this side of the Irish Sea, their role in educating children as the citizens of tomorrow is fairly benign.

However, as a school inspector, I have some personal experience of the difficulties we may face as a society in accommodating many of the Muslim schools that wish to become state funded. I was due to take part in the inspection of a Muslim school last year, only to be informed by the inspection contractor at the last minute that the school's governors refused to accept the presence of any males, including inspectors, on the premises.

For a state-funded school, this struck me as wholly unreasonable - but I'm still not sure what offends me most; the school's manifest insularity, or the misguided and short-sighted appeasement demonstrated by those responsible for carrying out the system of school inspection. The Secretary of State for Education assures us that all faith schools will be wholly open to accountability and inspection. My own experience suggests otherwise.

ROBERT TWEED

NOTTINGHAM

Sir: The result of Alan Johnson's humiliation by the Catholic church is that new faith schools can now be built bigger than the faith group needs. So, entirely at public expense, the church - or Islam - takes control of educating yet more than the present one in four of our children - and the choice of schools for conscientious unbelieving parents and career opportunities for similarly conscientious teachers gets yet narrower.

DAVID POLLOCK

LONDON N16

Sir: What a day to be British. The right of publicly funded bodies to discriminate against four-year-olds based on the religious or atheistic views of their parents is staunchly upheld. Bravo!

PAUL D SMITH

ENFIELD

The dark side of Lord Longford

Sir: Those of us who had dealings with Lord Longford in Fleet Street 35 years ago would scarcely recognise Jim Broadbent's curiously buoyant portrayal of him as a man of "broad humanity" in the Channel 4 film ("The quality of mercy", 23 October).

Longford was running his "Festival of Light" campaign at the time, a feverish anti-porn coalition of tut-tutting worthies like Malcolm Muggeridge and (for reasons that always escaped me) Bishop Trevor Huddlestone. Their diligent fieldwork seemed to involve endless forays into strip joints here and abroad from which his lordship would emerge, eyes a-popping, to confirm to the assembled tabloids that the world was on a high road to hell.

Longford's reaction to sceptical journalists descended frequently into threats that he would complain to their editors and get them sacked. I covered the Festival of Lights rally in Trafalgar Square. When Longford and his hymn-singing cohorts marched away to conclude their business in Hyde Park I stayed behind to witness the police move in on a group of gays dressed as nuns and beat the living daylights out of them.

When Longford and Muggeridge read my report they descended on the paper's editor, Harold Evans, and harangued him thoroughly. The fact that he would later find Myra Hindley "utterly plausible" is no surprise at all.

PETER DUNN

BRIDPORT, DORSET

This UN employee is biased against Israel

Sir: John Dugard was given a mandate by the 49th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate violations of international law in the West Bank and Gaza.

In his article "Despite the 'withdrawal', the siege of Gaza goes on" (5 October), Dugard exploits his office to make bogus "political analysis" of the motives of Israeli security measures - a matter entirely outside his competence as a human rights rapporteur. Although the political issues Dugard addresses are indeed a subject for legitimate debate, with valid claims to be made on either side, Dugard blatantly abuses the mandate with which the UN entrusted him by hijacking it for the purpose of political grandstanding.

It is very saddening that a rapporteur working in the service of the UN places his personal political agenda above his official responsibilities and risks discrediting UN institutions and undermining their ability to fulfill their multilateral missions.

LIOR BEN DOR

SPOKESMAN, EMBASSY OF ISRAEL, LONDON W8

Planning regulations and climate change

Sir: A robust, democratically controlled land-use planning system can play a great role in reducing carbon emissions. Chris Patten, while Secretary of State for the Environment, described planning policy as "in many ways the most effective tool of environmental regulation available to us". Yet this whole principle is now under attack.

Next month's Treasury-sponsored Barker review is considering how planning restrictions can be diluted to make development easier. The Department for Transport's Eddington review is likely to recommend less public say over major infrastructure projects such as new roads and airports. And forthcoming changes to housing policy are likely to make it easier to build on greenfield sites, which will increase car use regardless of the energy efficiency of the roads themselves.

If politicians are serious about climate change, they need to get serious about planning.

SHAUN SPIERS

CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT RURAL ENGLAND, LONDON SE1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape