Robert Fisk’s well-meaning piece (16 February) asks whether the West should negotiate with Isis and if such dialogue could make a peace. The answer to both questions is no.
The same article refers to Hamas and the PLO, but the atrocities committed by these groups are incidental to longstanding geopolitical goals, defined in motive, and largely contained. Isis stands head and shoulders above all modern terrorist groups for the savagery with which it pursues its agenda. There appears to be no human empathy, no understanding of the wider moral dimension of what it is doing. At the core of Isis, there appears to be nothing. This is not a group the West can do business with. We learned our lessons at Munich.
And Isis does not want peace. With its spread into Libya, it is clear now that it thrives on the West’s shambolic attempts to introduce democracy to countries that neither have a history of democracy nor want it. By removing the strongmen who held these places together, all we have accomplished is to make larger a geographical Petri dish for this virus to propagate and spread indiscriminately in all directions.
Isis must be exterminated militarily, and at any cost. They represents the gravest threat to world peace in living memory. I hope that Mr Fisk can see the folly of engaging with these people, because as so many others before him discovered, buying the world a Coke is almost always more expensive than you hoped it would be.
For a moment I thought I was back in the 15th century: people being beheaded, burned alive, tortured, ethnically cleansed, shot down in the streets, enslaved. All apparently in the name of religion, or religious hatred of others’ beliefs. And why is this?
Perhaps we should consider the fact that these fanatics claim they are doing it for “God”, as seen through their own tribalistic, atavistic, unbalanced mindsets, of course. Because they follow this alleged authority, promulgated by a bunch of uneducated Bronze Age beardie-weirdies, they have lost all reason, decency, even humanity.
Are there any further depths to which men can sink? Why does anyone want a religion? Are men all inherently insane? Or just some of them? Would somebody mind pointing out the crazy gene?
The short, and simple, answer to Alan Stedall’s question (letter, 17 February) as to whether Islam is unique in the atrocities carried out by its purported adherents is that he should do a little history reading, covering the Crusades, the early interactions between Catholics and Protestants, and also the more recent events in Northern Ireland.
The longer answer lies in the need to distinguish between religion and the cultures surrounding it.
All three Abrahamic faiths are marred by their extremists. All three have extreme elements that believe in scriptural literalism, and are intolerant of those who disagree with them (ultra-Orthodox Jews make life in Jerusalem unpleasant for everybody else in this way). Extremists in all three have a record of diminishing the role of women, and of being intolerant of gays.
But those extremists are not representative of their respective faith communities. Liberals within all three seek to reconcile received wisdom with modern insight.
I wonder how many letter writers (17 February) reflected on the fact that Isis has raped, tortured and murdered far more Muslims than Christians. Do they really think that the victims of this brutal regime believe Isis represents Islam?
Disastrous ‘reform’ of criminal courts
In an era of budget cuts it is unsurprising that the Ministry of Justice welcomes cost-saving reforms for civil courts (“Online courts modelled on eBay to settle legal disputes”, 16 February). But why don’t they support similar innovation in our criminal courts?
Their only answer to the need for reform of the criminal court system is to slash and burn, which has resulted in a disastrous stymieing of access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society as a result of cuts to legal aid.
This is true even in the face of considered and thoughtful proposals presented to them by Lord Justice Leveson earlier this year. Leveson set out a programme of reform to propel our criminal courts with the white heat of technology into the 21st century.
To do this Leveson proposed early engagement via video link between defence solicitors and the prosecution and the greater use of video technology for both witnesses and victims. Leveson’s report also stressed that in criminal law there is so much more at stake than “dispute resolution”, with a person’s liberty and reputation at risk, and it is essential that people have the right to legal representation.
However, if the next set of Ministry of Justice legal aid reforms go through, the combination of a further fee cut and fewer duty contracts will see two-thirds of lawyers out of business, restricting access to justice further.
The Lord Chancellor said he would act on Leveson’s proposals and our criminal courts are crying out for innovation that will save costs and preserve equality before the law and access to justice. Chris Grayling must come to the table and listen.
Vice Chair Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association
Why a charity chose Binky
Much of the outcry over Binky Felstead taking money to plug Barnardo’s on her Instagram page feels misguided (“Reality TV star paid £3,000 to plug charity will give back money”, 17 February).
A celebrity’s Instagram page is a legitimate outlet for advertising, no different to advertising in a newspaper or magazine, and it’s easy to understand why Ms Felstead’s 600,000 Instagram followers looked appealing to Barnardo’s.
The reason many advertisers choose celebrity Instagram pages is because not only do they usually represent better value than conventional advertising, but connect with a hard-to-reach youth demographic who often do not consume conventional media.
Let the old parties die
Your editorial of 16 February, advocating state funding for political parties, highlights the fears of both Labour and Tories that they could not survive without their existing donors. Quite. Political evolution is essential for progress and that requires the death of the failed parties.
Elsewhere on the same day, the potential arising from collaboration between smaller Arab parties for leveraging change in the ossified and rebarbative regime currently running Israel is reported. Similar arrangements between Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow and others could hold the key to progress in the UK. Joint candidates in every constituency might well sweep the board. Heaven knows the electorate is desperate for inspirational change.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Your editorial discusses how parties should be funded without once considering whether there is any valid reason why they should be funded. You seem to accept as a given their own self-interested assertion that they are necessary and must be paid for.
Their dwindling memberships and the increasing public mistrust of politicians generally suggest that the electorate at large does not agree. That is the real reason for the wide, deep and entirely justified antipathy to the public funding of political parties.
A forgotten plague returns
Your report “Fastest rise in scarlet fever cases for half a century” (14 February) reminded me just how dangerous this disease can be. The boy who could have lived to be my uncle died of complications from the fever when he was 11 years old.
This was in 1917, a year after his father was killed on the Somme, a family tragedy which can only be imagined for my grandmother and my mother in such dreadful times of war.
Like lots of other killer diseases, this is one which could become a nightmare for parents, should the care that has been taken by doctors, scientists and public health workers be squandered by today’s lack of watchfulness.
Dire prophecies on the TV page
I notice that the Critic’s Choice on Monday’s television page includes Ukip: the First 100 Days, followed by House of Fools, and shortly thereafter by Catastrophe. We should hope that Tuesday’s Film Choice will be offering Deliverance.
St Albans, Hertfordshire