The siege of a café in Sydney should not be viewed as anything other than simply a criminal incident committed by a lunatic with a history of sexual violence, assaults and murders.
On the same day, an Iraq war veteran killed his ex-wife with six members of her family in the US. Contrary to the incident in Sydney, where media outlets rushed to attribute it to an Islamist extremist; no religious meaning was attached to the shooting rampage in the US.
We should abstain from attaching any religious flavour to these criminal acts. Islam and Christianity are the same as they ever were: peaceful religions which forbid wanton aggression and terrorism. And as Christmas, “the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ”, is fast approaching, there is every need to refrain from empty slogans, political grandstanding and petty rivalries, and to resurrect the gospel message of salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation, humility, tranquillity, co-operation and peace.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
As an Australian and a former Sydney resident, I am deeply saddened by the events at Martin Place. Yet somehow, it is not terrorism I fear the most. It is how the Australian government may react.
Will another Australian be dumped in Guantanamo Bay, subjected to torture and tried by a kangaroo court? Will security forces be given even more draconian powers than the ones they already have but didn’t use?
I can’t help thinking that if the siege in Sydney had occurred in America or Israel the gunman would have been swiftly shot by a marksman as soon as he became visible through the café window, which he clearly did on a number of occasions, as could be seen in the live editions of various television news programmes.
That would have brought about a much earlier conclusion.
Wimborne Minster, Dorset
Torture report shames us all
The US Senate’s CIA report is welcomed. It is a start. It may do some good and, it being a formally published document, the law ought to take its course.
However, having no special information, I feel I have known all along that the denials and half-truths of British and US officials and politicians have been lies. We are not stupid, and if I knew, then, probably, most of us have known.
The blind eyes that millions have turned appear to be the same blind eyes that much of the population of German and German-occupied collaborationist Europe turned towards the Holocaust. Uncertain and impotent we may be, but it shames us all even so.
That shame is intensified by the effrontery of the liars. And they ask us to vote for them?
Sober as a Lord
I write regarding the piece by Donald MacInnes about catering in the House of Lords (13 December).
At no time has the House of Lords voted against a shared catering service. No such proposal has been made by the House of Commons. Furthermore, we work closely with colleagues in the Commons to procure catering supplies cost-effectively. It is preposterous to suggest that the House has a “champagne fund”; we sell champagne at a profit in the Lords and most of it is sold in our gift shop (30 per cent) or at revenue-generating banqueting events (57 per cent). Such activities have helped us to reduce the cost of the catering service by 27 per cent since 2007-08.
Mr MacInnes said that this matter left him “spluttering” in anger. Your paper’s failure to reflect my statement pointing out that Sir Malcolm Jack’s evidence was inaccurate has left me similarly incandescent with rage. Neither the House itself nor its authorities would reject so lightly any proposals for closer working with the House of Commons, particularly were it to be in the taxpayer’s interest.
Chairman of Committees, House of Lords
Pupils and teachers both let down
The Ofsted annual report made it clear that it is not just the country’s most able pupils who are being let down by schools but also those with a special educational need (SEN) (“Bright pupils are cheated by ‘lack of scholarship’ in schools”, 11 December).
The report stated that pupils with SEN, including autism, are being failed by lack of appropriate support from teaching staff. It also stated that not enough attention is paid to the development of personal and social skills, despite the fact that this can make a “substantial difference” for pupils with SEN.
This comes as no surprise to us, given recent research which found that 60 per cent of teachers did not feel adequately trained to support children with autism. Such a huge skills gap, and the impact it has on pupils with autism, should be clear to all.
With more than 1.4 million pupils in English schools having a special educational need, school leaders must ensure staff are trained to support them. Local authorities also have a role to play in ensuring that all schools under their control have access to an autism specialist teacher.
Chief Executive, Ambitious about Autism
We are often faced with headlines which say, in effect, “Pupils let down by teachers”.
During my long career in education I met many pupils who could not, and some who simply would not, apply themselves to the hard work which is necessary for those who want to learn.
It seems that nowadays disruptive pupils can refuse with impunity, and at the same time disrupt those who are willing to put in the effort. With modern technology there are many more ways in which this can be done, mobile phones and computer games being but two examples.
The whole concentration seems to be on the pupils, and the teachers get the blame. Anyone can lead a horse to water, but no one can make it drink. Education has to be a two-way process. Perhaps it is time for the headline to be revised and read, “Teachers let down by pupils”.
It was disappointing to read your recent article on the Ofsted’s inspections of free schools (“Ofsted tells a third of free schools to improve”, 3 December); not least because it failed to reflect the fact that free schools are significantly more likely to be judged as outstanding than all other state schools.
Nearly a quarter of free schools have been recognised as outstanding, compared with 19 per cent of all other schools, no small feat given the these schools did not even exist three years ago.
Director, The New Schools Network, London SE1
Maths is more than numbers
I must disagree with Guy Keleny when he recommends that the term “maths literate” be replaced by “numerate” (Errors and Omissions, 13 December).
The word “numerate” is not appropriate to the problem. Numeracy refers to ability with numbers – in other words, arithmetic. Arithmetic is just one part of mathematics – even school mathematics introduces people to algebra, geometry, calculus, all topics that require the development of logical thought processes.
The problem nowadays is that our politicians and others are quite capable of adding up numbers, but the choice of which numbers and the conclusions about the effects of their sums seem to be beyond them. They just don’t think things through logically.
I agree that “maths literate” is not sensible – but the country’s need is much wider than “numeracy”.
Professor Anthony North
New invasion of Scotland
Marilyn Mason (letter, 15 December) asks if the rest of us will have to make up the difference between low taxes and high welfare payments in Scotland. The answer is no: we will use our right of free movement to cross the border and take advantage of this regime, provided, that is, we are still in the EU.
Platform for a nasty party
Your editorial “The nasty party” (16 December) rightly shows The Independent’s feelings about Nigel Farage and Ukip. So why give him the “oxygen of publicity” by allowing him to have a weekly column?
Marriage of inconvenience
Lynton Crosby thinks that legalising humanist marriage would distract from the Tories’ main message at the election. Too right. Celebrating and valuing humanity sits uneasily with the inhumanity of creating deep social divisions through the misallocation of resources and opportunity. The country would be stunned.
London SW20Reuse content