Twenty-one men are decapitated because they happen to be Coptic Christians. A Jordanian pilot is burnt alive in a cage after being captured. “Lone wolf” terrorists carry out deadly attacks against liberal and Jewish targets in major European cities.
After each atrocity, our leaders and learned men assure us that this is “nothing to do with Islam”. This is strange because none of these attacks have been carried out by individuals declaring themselves as Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists or Hindus. Must we believe that the fact that all these atrocities have been carried out by those declaring themselves as followers of Islam is a coincidence?
The first step to solving any problem in life is finding the courage to look it in the face and recognise its nature, no matter how challenging. It seems that our political leaders not only have no solution, they deny the nature and source of the problem. The time is long overdue for an inter-governmental review of the Islamic religion and the apparent ease with which its tenets are lifted by psychopathic killers to justify their brutality.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Thousands of Muslims went to Downing Street to protest over cartoons of Mohamed. How many Muslims have voiced their anger over the burning alive of a prisoner of war by the so-called Islamic State?
Wherein lies the greater insult to the Prophet? A few cartoons seen by a few or the murder of a prisoner of war, which the Prophet forbade?
I am second to none in my admiration and respect for Islam, but sometimes, as I do of my own Christian Church, I despair of its adherents.
The scourge of anti-Semitism is reprehensible. History will judge us. This is our solemn obligation to never allow Jews’ anguish during the Nazi Holocaust to happen again. Anyone who makes threatening, offensive, comments towards Jews; or makes their places of worship targets of hatred, betrays our civilised values.
By the same token, attacks on mosques and anti-Muslim hatred should be prosecuted with the full force of the law. Negative stereotypes have risen sharply even in schools and universities in the West. Depicting the Prophet of Islam as a dog and lampooning divine religions should not be considered as freedom of expression. Such acts sow the seeds of discord and division.
This is a critical chapter in our history. We should foster tolerance, dialogue and understanding.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
Last week I stood outside the gates of my synagogue in London.
I watched our children practising their terrorist evacuation procedures within the grounds of the building, with its enhanced security systems, high wire fences and toughened glass. I watched as the police patrol car did its rounds, the Community Security Trust officers in their bullet-proof jackets did their checks, and the synagogue’s own hired security did perimeter inspections.
And me, just an ordinary Jewish Londoner? I was at those gates doing my voluntary duty, just like the man in Copenhagen outside his synagogue. Fear, life and death as a Jew in Europe today.
Stephen Spencer Ryde
Turning on Saturday, as I usually do, to Howard Jacobson’s column, I came across this puzzling sentence about God: “He lives on as a derangement in the minds of people who kill to express their love for Him or kill to assert his non-existence.”
I am aware of many incidents of people killing in the name of religion; but killing in the name of atheism? I am not aware of this at all.
I cannot remember being moved to tears by a cartoon; Brian Adcock’s comment on the Copenhagen attack did it today (16 February).
View from Dresden’s Baroque core
Regarding your perceptive article on the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Dresden (12 February); as one of the first Western academics to be invited by the German government to spend time at the Department of Architecture of the Technical University there in 1992, I feel I can add a further perspective.
It is not strictly true that considerable areas of the Baroque city are now a wasteland. While one may certainly regret the presence of numerous, quite banal, communist and post-communist concrete blocks within the central area, the substantial number of middle-class residential streets which they replaced, although extremely attractive, were not part of the incomparable townscape that gave such renown to Dresden; rather they were not so very different from similar fashionable neighbourhoods built in other German cities during the late 19th century.
The problem lies in that whereas two-thirds of the quite small Baroque “Old Town” and the entire adjacent “noble” sector (Royal Palace, Zwinger Art Museums and Semper Opera) have been reconstructed, the destruction of these later residential districts has deprived the ancient centre of a proper architectural framework that serves as an appropriate aesthetic transition between the rebuilt 18th-century townscape and the outer modern suburbs.
Fortunately, as a result of the increasing popularity of Dresden as a desirable place to live, there are now schemes in development that eventually will recreate – in somewhat more modern form – considerable areas of the lost late 19th-century neighbourhoods.
Furthermore, the recent manifestations of political extremism in Dresden should not be allowed to perpetuate the idea of an exaggerated “victim mythology” among the inhabitants of this city. German inhabitants of damaged places have long been pragmatists in accepting a cultural distinction between the artistic and social importance of rebuilt historic centres and the remaining, somewhat less picturesque, but often more comfortable – and not always excessively ugly – buildings in which the majority of them live.
Hon. Consultant to the Historical Reconstruction of Central Dresden
NHS alive and well in hospital car parks
In response to Lewis Smith’s article “Hospitals still allowing parking firms to prey on visitors” (16 February), it is worth pointing out that hospital parking charges are a matter for the Welsh government, not Westminster.
In 2008, Wales became the first part of the UK to introduce free hospital car parking. Today, patients, visitors and staff to all but three NHS hospitals in Wales benefit from free car parking. The health boards responsible for these three hospitals with long-term car park contracts have introduced schemes to reduce costs until these contracts end in 2018.
Free hospital car parking has improved the patient experience and also helped relatives, carers and other visitors. Along with free prescriptions, it ensures Aneurin Bevan’s vision of an NHS truly free at the point of need is alive and well in Wales.
Professor Mark Drakeford
AM Minister for Health and Social Services, Welsh Government, Cardiff
A coffee and a receipt, please
The Conservative MP Peter Bone has ridiculed Ed Balls for demanding receipts, saying: “If you go into a café for a cup of tea you would not expect a receipt for it. It shows a complete lack of understanding of business.”
Well, it is obvious that Mr Bone has no knowledge of business. If, for example, you go into Costa Coffee and buy a single coffee you will always be given a receipt. As an accountant I can advise Mr Bone that this is a stock control procedure which also prevents the employee from pocketing the cash taken.
Of course, a sole trader with no employees would not need such a control system. Presumably Mr Bone thinks sole traders should be allowed to fiddle their tax, because this is the only reason you would not have a reconcilable accounting system.
No secret about ‘American Pie’
Further to your editorial (14 February) concerning the meaning of the lyrics of Don McLean’s “American Pie”, I should be surprised if they mean anything at all.
Over the years I have concluded that the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, a number of Bob Dylan compositions and, no doubt, many other songs have been written merely to fit the tune, rhythm, and mood of the music. That is not to deny that they are skilfully written, but the lyrics are meaningless.
I eagerly await the “American Pie” manuscript auction in April to see if I am wrong in this case, but Don McLean’s comment that it will “divulge everything there is to divulge” does not sound promising to me.