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Monday 9 October 2006
Letters: Speed cameras
Why shouldn't speed cameras make money out of law breakers?
Sir: After reading the tosh written by some of your correspondents about speed cameras, I feel I must make some obvious points which seem to have been missed.
Speed cameras are painted bright yellow. If you're not awake enough to notice them, you're not awake enough to be driving, let alone speeding; how are you going to spot the cyclist in grey clothing on a grey morning?
I'm fed up with people who moan that cameras are there to make money for the Government. So what? If the Government can ease the tax burden on law-abiding folk by taking money off law-breakers, that's fine by me.
Your correspondent Karen Almond (3 October) clearly needs more driving tuition if, as she says, her eyes are now glued to the speedometer rather than the road because of the number of speed cameras in France. Her eyes shouldn't be glued to any one thing. The road ahead, her rear-view mirrors, the child or animal on the pavement, traffic signs and, yes, her speedo and other instruments all need the appropriate amount of attention. How do you keep your eye on all these things without missing anything vital? Concentration and practice.
Sir: A point that needs to be raised in the debate about speed cameras is the disproportionate effect of the totting-up procedure. As someone with nine points on their licence from speed cameras who has just received a ticket for doing 37mph in a 30mph zone, there will be a certain bias in my views. But is it right that for this misdemeanour the law demands that I will lose my driving licence for six months?
I have not been involved in an accident for over 10 years and in that time I have driven over half a million miles. Will the roads be safer with me off them for six months? Probably not.
But will I lose my job. Will the treasury be around £50,000 a year worse off; will the Halifax Building Society have another repossessed house to get rid of; will the last 10 years of hard work and a lifetime of law-abiding be turned upside down? Most definitely yes.
BIRCH VALE, DERBYSHIRE
The veil is a barrier to understanding
Sir: As a British Muslim I am increasingly disconcerted by the insidious and blatant Islamophobia pervading British society and on occasion influencing governmental foreign policy. On this occasion however, Jack Straw has made statements about the Muslim veil which are his personal opinion, which I happen to agree with, and which rationally speaking should not cause significant distress to my Muslim brothers and sisters.
The face-covering veil is an item of female apparel for which there is no definitive scriptural support. Many Islamic scholars would add that the wearing of the veil goes beyond the religious instructions that invite women to wear the head scarf.
Many of us are involved in consultation processes during which quality of communication is key to successful dialogue and resolution of a particular issue or problem. In order to optimise communication between two people one of the prerequisites must be the ability to openly view one another's faces so that a level playing field is developed in which each can assess the other's sincerity. This is likely to lead to higher levels of empathy and trust than if one of the protagonists were wearing a veil.
In this age of increasing antagonism towards Islam, it is imperative for Muslims to demonstrate the true nature and wonderful characteristics of their faith to the mainstream population. This cannot be possible if Islam's adherents live secluded lives making themselves even more mysterious and unapproachable by the use of face-covering garments.
DR NASEEM ANSARI
ARABIAN GULF UNIVERSITY, BAHRAIN
Sir: I am a Muslim and also a policeman so am perhaps qualified to tell Jack Straw and his Labour government that they should spend a little more time helping us deal with the young violent thugs running the streets, often covering their faces with hoods and scarves, and worry less about the law-abiding Muslim women covering themselves for the sake of religious-inspired modesty.
Sir: The reaction of Muslim leaders to what can only be described as a reflective piece by Jack Straw in his local paper shows how desperate they are to keep Muslim women in check. Lady Udin says that Muslim women "should be able to choose what they wear". If only!
Just what choice does a 12-year-old schoolgirl have in deciding whether to wear the hijab or not? She has as much choice in this as she has in choosing her religion. A very strong sense of tradition, coupled with intimidation and even violence, ensures that wearing a hijab is seen as a natural extension to growing up that no Muslim woman in her right mind could or should dare reject.
So long as this attitude remains unchallenged, Muslim women will never have a real choice in the matter. Grown-up women conditioned into wearing the veil throughout their childhood cannot exercise true choice. My mother could not walk out without the veil even after the revolution of 1958 in Iraq, and with the full support of her enlightened family. She said she felt naked.
The "right to choose" in this case is pandering to women's subjugation and to the mullahs.
Sir: There is a difference between having rights and exercising them. That difference is going to be key over the next few bumpy decades.
Some secularists argue for an unfettered right of self-expression and damn the consequences. Some Muslims state that the wearing of veils is their unfettered right: who cares who is upset? But while rights are necessary for society, they are not sufficient. We still need to live together. This requires both taking, and causing, less offence.
Plato (of use to Christians, Muslims and secularists alike) observed four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude, and that they must be held in balance. It takes fortitude and justice to uphold our rights, but it takes prudence to know when our rights are best exercised, and temperance not to draw offence, or anxiety, from the latest, and often dubious, report.
To assert any right without considering this balance is one of the best definitions of fundamentalism I know.
Sir: Why in a society that strongly wants to hold on to "freedoms" is the freedom for Muslims to dress as they choose being threatened?
NEW MALDEN, SURREY
Sir: The niqab is the most liberating garment there is. A woman wearing one can walk in the street to an assignation past her husband in perfect safety.
F P HUGHES
HAWKESBURY, ONTARIO, CANADA
Proud to be a gun-owning American
Sir: Apart from the fact that the most basic right of every person is the ability to defend their life, the "gun culture" of the United States (The Big Question, 4 October) comes down to this: either we are citizens who have the absolute right to change our government any time, or we are subjects, ruled by an elite class of people on whom we must rely even for our very survival.
I am glad that I live in a country where our Founding Fathers documented this most basic right in our founding document. For every tragedy that the press loves to report, many lives are saved without much public attention. The very fact that such crimes are news emphasises how unusual they are. I hope the people of Great Britain take back this right.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, USA
Solar energy to end global warming
Sir: The estimate of $1 trillion as the cost of capping greenhouse-gas emissions (report, 30 September), is based on a premise that is absurd. It assumes there will be no advances in the way energy is produced and that we will continue to depend solely on archaic energy sources such as fuels.
The only way this might happen is if people are not given alternatives and governments allow the status quo to continue - which is unlikely. We already have a pollution-free energy source, the sun. Plants have been using sun energy for hundreds of millions of years to convert energy at a high rate of efficiency while helping our atmosphere. It's time for a fraction of the money governments waste to be spent on increasing direct solar energy efficiency through research and development of next generation solar cells.
SEBASTOPOL, CALIFORNIA, USA
Police cells are no place for prisoners
Sir: You report that the Home Office has decided that housing convicted prisoners in police cells would be preferable to releasing inmates early ("Police cells may be used as prisons near capacity", 6 October).
This is an indefensible decision. Police cells are designed to hold prisoners overnight, or at most over the weekend. Police stations have no facilities for education, rehabilitation or drug treatment. For a fraction of the cost of using police cells, prisoners nearing the end of their sentences could be released to supported accommodation managed by organisations like Nacro. It is obvious which course is more likely to reduce reoffending.
Nor can the crisis of numbers be solved simply by building more prisons. Unless we reverse this country's increasing overuse of custodial sentences, courts are likely to fill any new prison places with even more prisoners, providing no relief for currently overcrowded jails. It is like running up an escalator which is moving ever more rapidly downwards.
The law should be changed to require courts to take prisons' capacity into account when sentencing offenders. This should be reinforced by sustained government efforts to persuade both the courts and the public of the benefits of using prison more sparingly.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NACRO, THE CRIME REDUCTION CHARITY, LONDON SW9
Outdated notions about men and sex
Sir: I was shocked by comments in Thomas Sutcliffe's column (3 October) in which he claimed that all men pay for sex in an indirect way.
This makes some terrible assumptions, both about gender roles and individuals' motives. Since Mr Sutcliffe limited his accusations to men this would mean that women don't enjoy sex at all, otherwise the same would be true for every woman who bought dinner for a boyfriend. Also, does this mean that the only reason a man ever buys presents for his wife is to get sex out of her? It would be a rocky relationship where sexual relations came about for any reason other than that both halves of the couple had the desire to express their love together.
It seems the point made by Mr Sutcliffe is that all men want from a relationship is sex. I have known teenage girls who believe this; a middle-aged journalist should know better. I do not deny that visiting a prostitute is not the only way to pay for sex, but these comments were rash and thoughtless.
ST ALBANS, HERTFORDSHIRE
Sir: Your "Race map of Britain" (6 October) confuses the concept of "race" with "religion" by presenting the idea that the source of an individual's identity is his racial heritage. A person's character, religion or philosophy is not determined by his genetic lineage, but by his own choices and actions.
D S A MURRAY
Israel and Resolution 242
Sir: Alan Mackie (letter, 5 October) states, as if it were an incontrovertible fact that "Israel has steadfastly refused to accept UN Resolution 242 and withdraw to its 1967 borders in return for a comprehensive settlement". This is simply untrue since it offered to do precisely that after the end of hostilities in 1967 only to be given the immediate response by the Arab nations at their meeting in Khartoum that they would not accept any peace with it. Merely stating something does not make it true but, if one repeats it often enough, people who know no better may eventually come to accept it as such.
MARTIN D STERN
Sir: There is good news for Hywel Thomas (Letter, "Green chandeliers", 6 October) and MPs still looking for energy-efficient bulbs that are fit for purpose. Energy-efficient lights are available in tiny, aesthetic, soft-tone, rapid-start, candle-shaped bulbs. At £9 per bulb this special new bulb is not cheap, but consider the savings: each bulb lasts 15,000 hours and will save £30 over its lifetime. Oh, and produce 80 per cent less greenhouse gas. This puts all other bulbs in the shade.
Evils of online gambling
Sir: The US government deserves to be congratulated for taking steps to try to ban internet gambling (report, 3 October). Internet gambling in the comfort of one's home has been shown to be particularly addictive, especially for women, and also for the more vulnerable members of society whom a responsible government would be concerned to protect. That people can in this way easily accumulate huge debts, not only for themselves but potentially for their families, on their credit cards, is particularly alarming.
Revenge of the gaijin
Sir: We have a number of Japanese friends we visit and who visit us. In Japan it seems to be a national sport to ply gaijin with an assortment of truly awful delicacies which out of politeness we have to eat. In revenge, we give them Marmite.
RAY & PAULINE RADLEY
BURY ST EDMUNDS, SUFFOLK
Sir: Norman Warner reassures us that patient safety will be safeguarded by training doctors under the Modernising Medical Careers programme (letter, 6 October), enabling them to treat "modern patients". Is there also a modernising programme that patients should follow? I worry my geriatrician may think me out of date.
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