Letters: The Burqa

Women should be free to wear the Muslim burqa
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The Independent Online

I write further to the recent comments made by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, regarding the wearing of a veil and burqa by Muslim women.

His comments are extremely unhelpful, coming from the Head of State of a country in which there are around 5 million Muslims. They directly contradict comments made by President Barack Obama recently: "It is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

It appears that this is exactly what President Sarkozy is doing. Moreover, his views on the burqa are factually wrong. The burqa is an item of religious dress which many Muslim women choose to wear. However no Muslim woman should be forced to wear it because a fundamental teaching of Islam is that "there shall be no compulsion in religion".

France should adopt the policy of Britain, which is not to interfere in an individual's personal matters . Muslims in Britain are extremely fortunate that they can practice their religion freely – a right which is not even enjoyed in some so-called Muslim states.

There is no punishment in Islam for not wearing the veil yet here a so-called enlightened state is attempting to punish its citizens for the clothing they wear. What a tragedy.

Farooq Aftab

London NW3

I concur with M Sarkozy and Sophie Morris (24 June); the sight of a woman in a burqa simply gives me the creeps and I suspect most Sixties feminists would have a similar reaction. Furthermore I would maintain that it is an essential part of western civilisation that an individual should at all times show their face or be judged a criminal or an outcast.

However I remember that some 30 years ago I was pinched on my bare upper arm by a woman in a rural village in Egypt. She was affronted by the bare flesh I had on display. Would westerners therefore be prepared to cover up in Islamic and other countries where a display of legs and arms and bosoms and hair is unwelcome?

Certainly some Brits are culpable of gross misconduct and insensitivity, but the burqa is a horror and should be banished from our streets.

P A Mackay

Wantage, Oxfordshire

King of Pop's reign was already over

Even though Michael Jackson had 50 sell-out concerts booked at London's O2, his time at the top had been and gone. Ticket-holders for his concerts probably consist of life-long loyal fans, the curious, and those as desperate to recapture their youth as Jacko himself was. I fail to understand why the media is devoting so much airtime and print to the once "King of Pop".

There's no doubt that he was a hugely influential star in the 1980s and early 90s, but for the last 10 years he had been more like a king in exile. His contribution to pop music deserves to be recognised, but the tributes are getting out of all proportion to his achievements.

I disagree with those who say that his legacy will be his music. Regardless of how many millions of records he sells in death, it won't be to the teen market. Much of his music was of its time. I believe his legacy will be to provide a lesson as to what happens when people have enough money to surround themselves with sycophants and divorce themselves from reality.

Alan Aitchison

Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Michael Jackson did more than "clutch his crotch and twizzle to the beat" as Peggy Kay suggests (letter, 29 June). He broke 13 Guinness world records, contributed to 39 charities and won 19 Grammys.

I can agree with some aspects of the "bizarre and sad life" view: his constant need to redefine his face to the point where he became unrecognisable. Why? Maybe he never thought that he was good enough to be accepted, who knows? None of us who did not know him personally can ever really know the person he truly was.

His lifestyle was eccentric, true, his own home like a fairground. Very probably he simply wanted to create some fun and freedom in his life, and the lives of other children too, denied in his own restricted upbringing. He was basically a young boy stuck in a grown man's body and needed professional psychiatric help, as would anyone who had his kind of childhood.

I will for ever remember Michael Jackson for his moonwalk, the charity work he did and the fact that he was an extremely talented musician who wrote almost all of his songs. He deserves our respect, and may he rest in peace.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

I am led to believe that I will be refunded for the Michael Jackson tickets that I purchased. But for each of the four £75 tickets that I bought from the O2 there was a £9 service charge. I had not been sent my tickets yet, only a confirmation email. I certainly don't think this email was worth £36 in "services" and sincerely hope that the O2 do include this charge in their rebates

I believe that the service charge added to ticket sales needs an overhaul, as it is just a way for venues to make more money. If not, what is to stop my milkman charging a service charge, or shops adding a fee for getting something off a shelf and passing it to the customer?

Julian Sutton

Richmond, Surrey

What does it say about our culture when a quality newspaper feels it must publish no fewer than four obligatory letters (29 June) complaining about media coverage of Michael Jackson's death? One would have done: surely there is a form letter for this kind of thing.

Peter McKenna


Conflict in Iran and in Israel

Robert Fisk's comparison of the revolt in Iran and the Israel-Palestinian conflict is disingenuous (23 June). Whereas debate and opposition are stifled and crushed in theocratic Iran, in democratic Israel, citizens are empowered to speak their mind.

In the territories under Palestinian control, Israel acts only when there is violence directed at its citizens. A better comparison would be Hamas-controlled Gaza, where the authorities regularly stifle their fellow Palestinians who support Fatah.

The Iranian mullahs who are beating their own people in the streets also fund the likes of the suicide bombers and rocket launchers of Hamas and Hizbollah. So the only thing that the Iranian situation has in common with Israel is that a free Iran would bode well for both countries.

Michael Dickson


BNP left to express people's unease

Your correspondents misunderstand a key reason for the rise of the BNP (letters, 26 June). Apparently immigration from the Normans, Romans, Danes all contribute to our great mix of races so we should all accept of mass immigration now. Hold on a moment. The infusion of other races and tribes into this country would have been greatly resisted at the time, before life settled down once more.

Now we have mass immigration, there is once more mistrust and misunderstanding of different races. That is natural, and has happened throughout time. What is unnatural, is there isn't now proper conduit to express that unease. The BNP has seen this gap and taken it on. The main parties have to allow people to express unease, and encourage integration, instead of brushing the issue under the carpet.

Graham Howson


Getting noticed in a wheelchair

I can add to Simon Icke's experiences of people's reactions to a wheelchair (letter, 15 June). My mobility scooter, which is quite nippy, attracts admiring comments from all ages, and many people would like to have a go themselves. My party piece, however, is to use a stick which opens into a tripod seat; I get lots of interest from older people who would like a sit-down.

My independence is somehow visible with these gadgets. When using a wheelchair, I make eye contact and speak to people more, so they have to notice the wheelchair user. I think it would be a good idea for everybody to have a go at both pushing and being pushed in a wheelchair.

Pat Williams

Faringdon, Oxfordshire

On the road to climate chaos

Michael McCarthy's articles on the climate crisis and the worldwide destruction of biodiversity have made an important contribution to raising awareness of these issues in the UK. This makes it doubling perplexing to read (23 June) that he drove 722 miles from his west London home to see three rare butterflies. By choosing to travel by car he emitted 259kg of CO2. Wikipedia states that the annual per-capita emissions in Bangladesh are 250kg.

If we environmentalists are not putting our own houses in order, what hope is there for the billions who have not Michael's level of awareness of the urgency of the catastrophes bearing down not only on us but on the innocent Bangladeshis on the front line of the drowning seas?

Donnachadh McCarthy

London SE5

The prejudices of the past

David Usborne's review of the latest release of the Nixon tapes (June 25) makes a perfectly valid point in that the former President's views on "modern society" were not, well, modern. Indeed so, this befitting a man born into relative poverty in 1913 in a shabby part of small-town California, replete with all the received prejudices from that era.

As an avid reader of published diaries, I can testify that it is rare not to have occasionally winced when chancing upon some remark or phrase that would never pass muster in today's offend-nobody society; that is their delight. What is wrong is to assume that our present-day beliefs will not receive similar maulings in 40 or 50 years' time. Each generation manages to embarrass its successors.

John Axon

Petts Wood, Kent

Ordinary MPs

Some MPs are defending their right to have second jobs on the grounds that it keeps them in touch with real life. But what are these second jobs? Almost all seem to be consultancies or directorships. These are hardly typical of the everyday jobs that most people do to earn their living. I would be more impressed about the value of the experience of external jobs if these MPs undertook such tasks as cleaning moats, installing bathrooms or gardening.

Paul Burall

King's Lynn, Norfolk


From the lyrics of Florence and the Machine's "Kiss with a Fist": "You hit me once/ I hit you back/ You gave a kick/ I gave a slap . . .A kick in the teeth is good for some / A kiss with a fist is better than none.". This is "emphatically" not about domestic violence according to Tim Walker (Independent Magazine, 27 June). Regardless of what the "silly rhyme" meant to the 18-year-old composer, I suspect some may get the impression it is about domestic violence.

David Boardman

Hebden Bridge, west Yorkshire

Doorstep chuggers

I have read the recent coverage about chuggers. I live in Islington – and do not have to leave my house to be accosted by them. I have received three visits from chuggers representing the same charity in the past four days. I have complained to the charity because in my view this verges on harassment. I support a number of charities via CAF online – a simple, tax-efficient way of making donations that does not involve revealing bank-account details to strangers who arrive on one's doorstep – but I shall never make a donation to this charity.

Rita Hale

London N1

Flooded out

The 25th of June was the second anniversary of the terrible flooding of Hull, Doncaster and Sheffield – with all the destruction and loss of lives and livelihoods caused. Coincidentally, that week was also the first of Gordon Brown's premiership. What a chance he missed! How the north of England, that day, needed a hands-on Prime Minister, visiting the affected communities and offering them immediate compensation and rehousing, no strings attached. Two years later, I wonder: was that first challenge for Gordon totally beyond him?

Godfrey H Holmes


No medals

Liz Finlay (letter, 26 June) objects to "medal" as a verb. Perhaps she has never milked a cow; she has, probably, booked a holiday, dreamed a dream; she may have cycled to work, even booted a ball into the net. All nouns used as verbs. What's the problem?

Fred Sedgwick


Any noun can be verbed.

Michael A Isserlis

Northwich, Cheshire