Sir: The Board of the Trustees of the Maimonides Foundation, a joint Jewish-Muslim inter-faith organisation, unreservedly condemns suicide bombing as an aberration of the universal principles of Islam. We express our sympathies with all the victims of the London bombings and send our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the dead.
We acknowledge the courageous decision of over 60 British Shia and Sunni Muslim religious leaders and scholars who held an emergency meeting to respond to the 7 July bombings in London. They unreservedly condemned the killing of innocent civilians and expressed their abhorrence at the misrepresentation of their religious ethics by such acts of barbaric violence.
We confirm that in our interactions with the Muslim community in Britain in the past decade, we have always noticed that the majority of British Muslims do not support the extremist ideology of hatred and violence perpetrated by a radical minority from the community. Furthermore, we are aware that since the events of 7 July, the Muslim community and its leaders are doing their utmost to distance themselves from the murderous actions committed in their names. More importantly, they are seeking practical ways of directing the community in the path of becoming a fully interactive faith community in British society.
A backlash against the community will give the oxygen of propaganda to the terrorists whose aim is to isolate the Muslim community from the rest of the society and convince them that all their ills are the fault of the West and democracy. One way of helping the Muslim community to counteract this misleading outlook is to offer them the hand of friendship. We believe that now is the time more than ever to give our support to the Muslim community as they begin their greatest challenge of confronting extremist elements.
PROFESSOR NASSER D KHALILI (CHAIRMAN)
SHEIKH ZAKI BADAWI
SIR GULAM NOON
LORD STONE OF BLACKHEATH
MEHRI NIKNAM (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR)
THE MAIMONIDES FOUNDATION LONDON W1
The real threat to our way of life
Sir: Tony Blair is fond of stating that the terrorists are attacking our "way of life" and forcefully asserting that they won't succeed. However, our way of life is nothing if it doesn't include such fundamental principles as the right not to suffer detention without trial, or the right to go about your business in your own country without being forced to register for identity papers, and present them on demand.
It seems that Tony Blair and his government are only too keen to change our way of life themselves. Indeed, they may represent the largest single threat to it.
Given that Blair clearly does not believe his own rhetoric, how then are the people of the Middle East, as well as British Muslims, supposed to believe him when he says that the aggressively interventionist foreign policy of the US and UK is not an attack on them?
Sir: Although I find commendable "the spirit of the Blitz", or possibly "the Dunkirk spirit", in the people of London, I believe that we are experiencing a number of Pyrrhic victories on our way to losing the war on terror.
History teaches us that there is no military solution to terrorism. History also teaches us that, in the end, we must inevitably sit down and negotiate with the terrorists and often face some unpalatable decisions. Currently, I see no evidence that our leaders are prepared to confront the causes of this current wave of terrorism. I believe they are either unwilling or unable to address the root causes. If they are unwilling, they should explain the reasons for their unwillingness before we vote them out of office. If they are unable through incompetence we should just vote them out anyway.
The origins of this terrorism lie in the Middle East as the result of policies carried out by the Western powers, mostly by the United States and Great Britain, since 1914. I would like to see a dialogue to end the injustices in the Middle East. I refer to all issues not just the headline issues of Palestine and Iraq. I imagine that the majority of people are unhappy with the foreign policies carried out in this region.
This is a double tragedy. We are being side-tracked into fighting a war against a problem which has diplomatic solutions. As a consequence, the calamitous issue of global warming is not being addressed. Frankly, if it is correct that it will take 10 years to defeat this terrorism, as some have suggested, there is little point. In 10 years' time, with paltry action against global warming the world will be in such a sorry state that terrorist atrocities will be an irrelevant sideshow.
Sir: It is quite possible to say both that Iraq is a factor in the suicide bombing and also equally strongly that Iraq gives no moral justification to suicide bombers. There is no inconsistency between these two statements, as they are answers to two quite distinct questions.
Tony Blair knows this well. When he said "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" he didn't mean that crime could be morally justified or excused, but merely that there are root causes which can be tackled. To try and understand the criminal is not to excuse the criminal. To try and understand the suicide bomber is not to excuse the suicide bomber.
What is frightening is that New Labour has become so expert at dealing with difficult questions by muddying the water. However, it seems to be less effective in dealing with the issues underlying these questions. It is stifling any serious and constructive debate on what we should do about the current threat and will continue to do so unless it can bring itself to recognise and discuss some of the factors at play.
Sir: A number of letters in recent days have linked the bombs in London with our presence in Iraq. The implicit assertion is that if we withdraw the bombers will leave us alone. Very well: how many bombs must the Countryside Alliance use to have the ban on hunting overturned? How many bombs must the AA explode to have all speed cameras removed from our roads. How many bombs must I plant before someone gives me £1m?
I have never voted for Tony Blair, and I may have my doubts about our electoral system, but I accept that he is Prime Minister of this country until the next election. I do admire him because in the war on terror at least he is prepared to do what he believes is right in the long-term and not simply settle for what is expedient in the short-term.
Sir: Geoff Hoon admits (The Monday Interview, 25 July) that the Government failed to predict the sheer scale of the violence in post-war Iraq. This begs two questions: whether they failed to consult anyone with a knowledge of the country, or whether, having done so, they failed to take the advice into account. Even so, there was plenty of information even in the public domain that could have told them what would happen.
And the explanation for the lack of foresight is the pathetic belief that the Iraqis, not exactly a homogenous population, would uniformly welcome the Americans, and us, as liberators. The invasion was probably illegal and possibly immoral, but above all it was stupid.
The timing of the London attacks
Sir: While Prime Minister Blair continues to assert that the recent bombings in London have no connection with our illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, there seems to have been little public consideration of the timing of these atrocities and why these suicide bombers chose to wait more than two years before wreaking their havoc on our capital.
The extraordinary London anti-war rally of February 2003 demonstrated to the world that the majority of clear thinkers in this country were vehemently opposed to our joint invasion of Iraq, but they were nonetheless disregarded by the Blair Government. I suggest that Blair's re-election in May this year might well have been construed as the British public's approbation of its government's foreign policy, and as a consequence these bombings commenced two months afterwards.
If Britain stopped terrorising the peoples of other nations with military invasion and occupation of their lands, it is likely that the threat of terrorist action here in Britain would consequently vanish overnight.
We still need a vote on EU treaty
Sir: Steve Richards (Opinion, 26 July) writes that "there will be no referendum on Europe" and refers to "the collapse of the constitution".
The facts are that 13 countries have ratified the constitutional treaty and only two have so far rejected it. Several more are proceeding with the ratification process. I cannot imagine that Ted Heath would have thrown in the towel the way Tony Blair seems to have done.
As opposed to the "Brussels superstate" nightmare of Eurosceptic propaganda, the constitutional treaty actually proposes more power and influence for the elected European and national parliaments, and a change in the qualified majority voting arrangements which would favour big countries like the UK. It would also greatly improve the efficiency of the EU.
If Tony Blair were as principled in the face of hostility over Europe as he has been over Iraq, he would proceed with the promised referendum.
Lasting legacies of TV union disputes
Sir: Bectu, as the successor trade union to the ACTT, broadly supported Greg Dyke's ambition to "cut the crap" when we was director general at the BBC. But when Mr Dyke (Media Weekly, 25 July) describes Alan Sapper, the ACTT's general secretary during the TV-am dispute, as "really aggressive and unpleasant" he should practise what he once preached.
Greg claims that when at LWT he followed Bruce Gyngell's lead and "did everything he could to get rid of the unions", but that perhaps "things have now gone too far the other way". This is sheer vacillation (or as Greg would once have said, crap). To see ITV in the 1980s simply as a battleground of "little Hitlers" in the unions and incompetents in the boardrooms is to forget the huge profit-making that then went on, nurtured by a government determined to do to the ITV unions what they had already done to the print workers and the miners.
That profit didn't go into the pockets of 243 technicians at TVam, but it engendered the shareholding hegemonies that resulted in ITV plc today, and probably ITV-Time Warner tomorrow.
ASSISTANT GENERAL SECRETARY BECTU LONDON SW9
Sir: What a shame Greg Dyke spoils an otherwise interesting article on the unions in broadcasting, with its tone of reconciliation, by showing that even 20 years after the TVam dispute he still bears a grudge against my father, the then general secretary of the ACTT ("Union power was awful - but have we gone too far the other way?"). Worse still, his view of history is rather selective.
The union's principled position - that the employers could afford a reasonable settlement - was factually based. Its stance on new technology and the staffing levels that went with it was understandable but, with hindsight, probably flawed. Then again, this was the early 1980s. No union, in any industry, had at that time realised the full impact of anti-unionism coupled with huge technological advances.
"Aggressive and unpleasant" says Mr Dyke, of Alan Sapper. Tell that to the 243 members locked out at TVam. Bruce Gyngell, the chief executive, and others like him acted to support their sectional interest with venomous enthusiasm. He was neither a saint nor a visionary, and to personally demean those who refused to accept that he was adds no value. TVam has long passed into history, but the legacy of the union's achievements for its members is still very much alive.
The glories of Rome
Sir: I shall certainly be watching the new television production "Rome", by the BBC and HBO, and I am sure that its depiction of what the place looked like in the time of Julius Caesar will be entirely accurate.
As John Walsh says ("Sin City", 25 July) that picture is very different from Ancient Rome as we imagine it to have been. I believe we may owe our mental image of the city to Caesar's nephew, who, as John Walsh points out, succeeded him as the emperor Augustus. According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Augustus rightly boasted that he found Rome brick and left it marble.
A C BOLGER
Sir: May I correct a small factual error? In your brief report entitled "Moshe Dayan's eyepatch on sale", (26 July) you say the former Israeli leader was born in 1915 "in what was then Palestine". The administrative district in which Dayan was born was the Sanjak of Jerusalem, an Ottoman sub-province ruled directly from Istanbul. Palestine was created by the League of Nations in 1922.
Blair and Chamberlain
Sir: I fear Andreas Whittam Smith may be mistaken in likening Tony Blair to Neville Chamberlain. With his warning to the judiciary ("Don't attempt to undermine new anti-terror laws, Blair tells judges", 27 July) he's sounding more like a dictator very day.
The need to be sure
Sir: Lady Thatcher's attendance at the funeral of Sir Edward Heath reminded me of the four reasons for attending a funeral: as an expression of grief; an indication of sympathy with the family; as a matter of duty; or to make sure that the bastard's really dead!
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