Letters: The Norwegian massacre

Swift to blame 'Islamic terror'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Now that the architect of the Norwegian massacre turns out to be a blue-eyed, blond, white, Christian, right-wing fundamentalist, where have all the so-called experts on "Islamic terrorism" suddenly gone?

Even in The Independent (23 July) we read that "Jihadists networks have long singled out Norway", and quotes from several "expert" were strung together to make the case for an al-Qaida-inspired attack.

I look forward to now seeing an equally vigorous explanation of how Norway was "always a key target" for right-wing neo-Nazi groups, supported by a plethora of experts on "Christian terrorism" to explain the theological basis for these attacks.

Dr Shazad Amin

Sale, Manchester

The appalling incident in Norway displayed something equally frightening, the Islamophobia of the British media. On Friday night's BBC News, their lead man immediately prattled on at length about Islamic extremists and even brought in a university al-Qa'ida expert. I look forward to hearing the BBC apologise for their transparent prejudice.

Sadly, even The Independent wheeled out a story on Saturday to present a case for Norway as a terrorist target. Good case, but in the context of Norway, drivel.

Derek Wharton

West Kirby, Wirrral

Will the praise of the English Defence League and other far-right groups by the mass-murdering Norwegian Christian fundamentalist terrorist Anders Behring Breivik make these groups think twice about their anti-Muslim stance? Probably not.

But to the rest of us it should confirm what we already know: that it is extremism, whether religious or political, that poses the greatest threat to our safety and security, not any particular religion or political grouping.

Organisations such as EDL and the BNP find it convenient to demonise the Muslim faith as a whole, ignoring the presence of just as dangerous individuals and groups within the Christian faith, and within the ranks of their own supporters, as within the Muslim religion.

Francis Kirkham

Crediton, Devon

Interesting, isn't it? Two Prime Ministers, two reactions to the shootings in Norway. The Prime Minister of Norway: "We must counter such attacks with more democracy." David Cameron: "We must learn lessons from [what happened in Norway] and take measures to become more secure." As if.

One reaction is based on belief in what is right, the other is based on fear. I vote for more democracy.

Jenny Backwell

Hove, East Sussex

A problem with freemasonry

Your leading article (22 July rightly warns of the dangers of widening the focus of the phone-hacking inquiry. There is indeed a danger that those who wish to see the inquiry fail may seek to divert the discourse away from getting at the truth.

One concern involves Jonathan Rees, one of the rogue investigators used by several newspapers. Rees used his membership of the freemasons to gain information from corrupt policemen, Customs officers, tax officials and bank staff.

This claim was repeated in the House of Commons by Tom Watson MP and led to Simon Hughes MP demanding that any inquiry into phone hacking should be headed by a non-Masonic judge.

In April 1985, after a Masonic scandal, the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Kenneth Newman, told his officers not to join the Masons and cautioned those who were in it to quit. Newman said this was necessary if his men were to enjoy the confidence of the public.

In 1986, the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London consecrated a new lodge for the exclusive use of Met officers. The lodge number 9179 is known as the Manor of St James; there are 1,600 Masonic lodges in London.

In my experience, freemasonry may go some way towards explaining the corruption and incompetence of the Met officers, as well as the cosy relationship between the Met, Government, and News International.

Tom Minogue

Dunfermline, Fife

It has become apparent from coverage of l'affaire Murdoch that politicians cannot be trusted to make referrals to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

The temptation to do favours is too strong. We need to remove the question of such referrals from the political arena, and put them in independent hands, perhaps in those of the commission itself.

Laurie Wedd

Tonbridge, Kent

Defeat for local democracy

I was astounded to read that some health authority managers are being given "golden goodbyes" topping £100,000 (report, 18 July), with at least one manager being awarded £176,000, all courtesy of the taxpayer.

In Southampton, the Strategic Health Authority held a public consultation on whether Southampton's tap water should have the chemical fluoride added to it. A total of 72 per cent of local residents voted against this. But Southampton's SHA, a small unelected committee, are ignoring residents' wishes and will fluoridate the area anyway. This is despite statements by Gordon Brown etc claiming that no area would be fluoridated against the wishes of local people.

SHAs are being disbanded shortly, but Southampton's SHA will be allowed to stay on longer to enforce fluoridation. Apart from the documented adverse health risks from this chemical, it gives the lie to local democracy.

A Wills

Ruislip, Middlesex

Fitting children for the future

While there are many predictions that could be made for school education 25 years from now, one area that Dr Martin Stephen did not address directly in his forward view ("Lessons from the future", 14 July) was how the curriculum might look.

The rapid pace of technological and scientific developments and economic upheavals is changing how people live, how they work, how they interact with each other, what they believe, and how they express themselves.

These changes demand the introduction of a stimulating and broad curriculum in both primary and secondary level schools which inspire enquiring minds from a young age not just to receive and learn knowledge, passively, but also to discover, apply and communicate it for themselves.

Schools should adopt curricula which instil learning qualities for life so that the children of today can cope as adults 25 years from now.

Nicholas Oulton

Managing Director, Galore Park Publishing,

Tenterden, Kent

How our coasts are guarded

Your correspondent Charles Norrie (letters, 21 July) has a misunderstanding of the work of the coastguard. The "Dad's Army" of the last war, effective as it undoubtedly was, has no place in modern coastguard activities.

The UK Government has a legal obligation under the Convention for the Saving of Life at Sea (Solas) to co-ordinate civil maritime search and rescue (SAR) around the UK coastline. It does this through HM Coastguard, and uses its own Coastguard Rescue Service (consisting of 3,400 highly trained volunteers) and declared facilities such as the RNLI and both civil and military air assets to achieve this.

The duties of HM Coastguard do not just consist of watching radar sets, answering telephones, and watching shipping. It is precisely lack of understanding of the complexity of the service provided by the full-time and volunteer coastguards that prompted the Transport Select Committee to reject the recent proposals to modernise the service.

I am proud to have spent 30 years as a volunteer coastguard, working alongside essential full-time staff in the Liverpool Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre but am concerned that this Government, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, seems happy to leave the west of England and Scotland with no local SAR co-ordination.

Such a gap cannot be filled with volunteers, no matter how well-meaning. There some holes that the "Big Society" will never fill.

Dennis Laird

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

This slaughter must be ended

I have no idea why the USA supports the rogue state of Israel, whose idea of a peace settlement is complete capitulation by its former Palestinian residents.

Nor do I understand why our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan to support a corrupt regime whose attitudes to women and liberty are little better than the savages they are fighting.

I accept that these attitudes are incomprehensible since Israel has no oil, and whatever the military success in Afghanistan the country will swiftly revert to the Middle Ages unless there is a will to change these things from within. Political pressure is the only possible way forward, not the senseless slaughter of individuals who have no possible bearing on these matters.

Pete Parkins

Bentham, Lancaster

Just give us a look at history

I regard this constant search for "bloopers" and incorrect details in historical dramas as geeky (Viewspaper, 19 July). Recently, my daughter (10 years old when JFK was killed) and my thirty-something grandaughter watched and enjoyed The Kennedys.

They tell me they now have a broad grasp of significant events in the USA half a century ago, of which they had been totally unaware. Many people in the UK have little or no knowledge of world history; thus any historical drama, however "flawed" will, inevitably enhance someone's understanding of the past.

I hope programme-makers will not be deterred by the blooper-mongers and carry on entertaining and informing us.

Ken Button

Sidcup, Kent

The answer to a badger cull plan

Forget the badger, forget bovine tuberculosis, these are not the issue (letters, 23 July). All of the problems surrounding bTB in cattle stem from the EU export rules which demand that cattle are tested for bTB, but the test cannot differentiate between a vaccinated or infected animal.

The answer is to narrow the testing to only those cattle destined for export, meaning we can then vaccinate the cattle remaining which will protect them against infection and allow unfettered trade within these shores.

If farmers allow themselves to be side-tracked and do not confront ministers with demands for changes to EU restrictions and testing rules, they are letting themselves be used as scapegoats along with the badger.

GE Purser

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

'School's Out', at long last

How times change. As a 10-year-old in 1972, I recall being hugely disappointed at not being able to watch Alice Cooper play "School's Out" on Top of the Pops, courtesy of the ban by the BBC at the behest of the late Mary Whitehouse.

Last week, my 10-year-old daughter returned excitedly from school to inform me that the very same song had been played as an introduction to her end-of-term assembly. Progress indeed.

Guy Lavis

Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes

You can only try

The importance of positioning "only" correctly (letters, 22 July) suggested a challenge, so here's a sentence that can accommodate the word "only" in front of each of its seven words, "The talented child played his uncle's violin". Can anybody come up with a longer one?

Michael Ferguson

Twickenham, Middlesex

No women?

May I suggest that a more appropriate title for your Monday Sport supplement last week would be "Male Sport"? I searched in vain for a report of last Sunday's Women's Football World Cup final and then realised that no female sports were mentioned at all. Only one female got any mention, Hazel Irvine, for presenting coverage of "a golf club she cannot become a member of because she is a woman".

Christine Payne

Lewes, Sussex

Watch it, there

Someone needs to point out to Julie Burchill (Notebook, 21 July) the difference between getting into "shtup", rather than "shtuch" before she makes a very big mistake. The former, of which she accused David Cameron, refers to the act of sex and the latter to "getting into trouble".

Jeremy Gerlis

Pinner, Middlesex

And run and run

Personally speaking, I'm delighted with the ongoing correspondence concerning clichés. I understand that our pub's quizmistress is planning a round on exactly this subject. My team should be able to hit the ground running.

Paul Tomkies

Gravesend, Kent

Perspectives on social change

Business giants are ruling politicians

Charles Bidwell and Steve Ford (letters, 22 July) identify the issues that have conspired to construct the toxic situation in which the whole of Europe if not the entire globe, find ourselves, apparently powerless to confront the grip of corporations that hold us daily to ransom.

Reagan and Thatcher removed the controls, declared that there was nothing wrong with greed and that society was an irrelevance. The business response was the great concept of "globalisation".

Corporations determined to be become bigger than national governments and started to call the shots, ably abetted by business disguised as journalism acting as opinion-formers (eg News Corp and Fox) playing on the self-interest of consumers.

Europe's politicians failed us. They should have sunk national differences and formed structures that were bigger than the emerging global businesses.

The European Union was probably formed in part with the intention of becoming an economic bloc capable of standing up to the control exerted by the North American economy.

The EU could have banded together to face down the global hijack; instead they continued to defend national interests and to lap up the bait of easy credit laid before them by the banks.

We fell for the lure of the easy life and the consumer lifestyle easily overcame financial caution and the merit of gradual reward through patient and honest effort. This is exactly where politicians failed us all.

They lost sight of the fact that their duty is to provide leadership, to do the right thing, to protect society from itself. Instead they curried favour with the electorate by giving them what they wanted, not what they needed.

We desperately need great leadership, and a renewal of social conscience and cohesion.

Derek Brundish

Horsham, West Sussex

Britain's social gap widens even more

Mary Dejevsky's view of the housing market is probably fairly accurate ("The property ladder that threatens to become a snake", 15 July).

She paints a picture where fewer people will be able to buy their home and will be condemned to paying rent to a landlord for life. For many, the rent they pay will probably be almost as much as they would pay on a mortgage. Most people are aware of the growing inequality in our society and this is just another illustration of this widening gap between rich and poor. Slowly, we are moving back to a situation that existed before the Second World War.

We have seen the wealth of the nation almost double in the past 30 years but the position of the average worker has hardly improved. In the past year alone, the top executives of the FTSE 100 companies had a median pay increase of 32 per cent to give an average annual income of £3.5m, whereas the average earnings across the UK increased by 2 per cent, half the rate of inflation.

While most people are now struggling to make ends meet the sale of luxury cars, Rolls-Royces, Aston Martins etc, and luxury goods has rocketed. The top 1 per cent of the working population now get 5 per cent of the nation's total earnings, a situation not seen for more than 70 years.

The 1,000 richest people in the UK are worth £395.8bn, having increased by £62bn last year. The wealth of this tiny proportion of the population is equal to 40 per cent of the national debt. Something is corrupt.

Ron Watts

King's Lynn, Norfolk