Letters: Why was this man shot at all?

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Sir: I have read with interest comments on what is seen to be a new police policy of shooting to kill under specific circumstances. Armed police have been trained for many years to shoot at the upper torso. A target hit in the upper torso by a high-velocity large-calibre round will probably die quickly as the round will disrupt and destroy the arterial system between the lungs and heart. The change in policy was not from disabling to killing, but shooting at the head instead of the torso. The difference is that a head shot results in instantaneous death.

If police marksmen are dealing with people who are carrying explosive devices, and who are prepared to detonate them, then a head-shot is a sensible change in policy as a direct hit immediately disables the target.

All the discussion about a "shoot to kill policy" is misplaced. The question that should be asked is why police officers shot a man more than once in the head, when one shot would have done; when that man had done nothing to arouse suspicion, and when he was already under disabling restraint. He was shot at very close range, had not been challenged and did not see any uniformed officers in his vicinity.

I doubt that anyone would criticise police officers who kill someone who poses an immediate threat to the lives of others. The question of a cover-up by the Met is a side-issue, as is the issue of an imagined new shoot-to-kill policy. The question that needs to be answered satisfactorily is why armed Metropolitan Policemen shot a man at close range, who had not behaved suspiciously in the least.

It seems that he died because he came out of a building that was under surveillance, and that is not a reason to shoot someone out of hand because he was not Caucasian, but of typical Brazilian mixed genes. It seems that Jean Charles de Menezes was executed by the Met, in that he was shot at very close range whilst under restraint. The Metropolitan Police force and the officers involved must be taken to court on this issue or public confidence in the police in general will fall.



Who speaks for secular Muslims?

Sir: A person's religious beliefs and practices are private matters. Just because someone does not practice religion as strictly or openly as is prescribed by religious organisations, does not mean that he or she should be deprived of rights to be represented nationally and their issues not taken into consideration by the Government. Such is the plight of ordinary secular Muslims in today's Britain.

Most secular Muslims are not members of any of the leading religious groups, nor do they follow religion with strict enough vigour which would allow them to be considered for membership of any of the leading so-called Muslim representative groups such as Muslim Council of Britain or its affiliates. Secular Islam in Britain is feeling marginalised. Without adequate platforms it is being ignored by both the media and the Government.

All that MCB and other hard-line Islamic organisations are doing is taking advantage of the lack of leadership from within the secular majority of Muslims. They tend to "Islamicise" every single issue that is faced by ordinary Muslims, thereby diverting the attention from the real core social issues. The latter include failed integration, due to self-imposed segregation by community elders hell-bent on maintaining the cultural customs that they brought with them at the time of migration to Britain. Other problems are purely economic, such as unemployment and obstacles faced by Muslim women joining mainstream careers.

For successful integration of both Muslims and Islam into the British society, the voice of modern, moderate and secular Muslims needs to be heard and brought into the mainstream.



Sir: Like Faisal Bodi ("Panorama was a hatchet job on Muslims", 23 August), I found the Panorama programme inadequate, unscholarly and disturbing. John Ware, the reporter, was judgemental and appeared to be ignorant of the most of the basic demands which religious faith makes upon disciples.

He appeared, for example, to invite his viewers to hold up their hands in horror that a Muslim would assert that his loyalty to Islam overrides that to his nation. Is it not just the same for a Christian? All my Christian life I have heard and taught that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that we should love God and neighbour, first, foremost and above all else. Again, Mr Ware showed deep distaste that a Muslim should assert that he wishes to change the world; but I, for one Christian, deeply yearn for a changed world, and urge others in the same direction. What's the difference?

In holding these views, I certainly do not consider myself a fundamentalist, and I have much time for relative, contextual moral and religious thinking. The danger of fundamentalism, however, is equally sinister from whatever source it comes, whether religious or secular. John Ware's approach led to a most unfortunately shallow and unbalanced programme, and a badly missed opportunity.



Sir: Faisal Bodi misses the main thrust of last Sunday's Panorama. The title was "A Question of Leadership"; it was not Islam that was being put on trial, as he suggests, but its current crop of leaders.

For instance he could not understand the reason to interrogate Iqbal Sacranie, the head of the MCB, about his decision to attend the memorial service of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. I'd like to help him out. Sheikh Yassin was the founder and spiritual leader of an organisation, Hamas, that sends out young men and women with the sole purpose of blowing to pieces innocent civilians on their way to work, sitting in cafés or queuing outside discos. Most reasonable people would not wish to be seen condoning this savage policy.



Sir: It is regrettable that, in trying to defend Islam, Faisal Bodi unleashes his fury at the Jewish community and Israel. He alleges that Rabbis hold despicable views about Gentiles, yet I can tell him from my own experience and that of many Rabbis all over the UK, this is simply not the case.

My Rabbinic colleagues are engaged in important civic and inter-faith work in their communities, building bridges with Christians, Muslims and other faith groups. This work is rooted in the Jewish belief that all humanity is created in God's image.

In particular, my work on Jewish-Muslim relations has been enriching and brought me into contact with a number of Imams. In my dialogue with them, I have found a willingness to go beyond the divisive and shameful mantras about Israel exploiting the Holocaust and suchlike. Perhaps Bodi would be well advised to spend more time listening to these voices in his own community?



Green energy policy to promote peace

Sir: Oil once again appears as a catalyst for conflict, the Sunni population of Iraq fearing a federal state could leave the country's oil resources in the hands of the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Shia in the South ("Sunnis warn of backlash to federal constitution", 23 August)

Is any government considering alternative energy sources not just for environmental reasons but as a means of promoting world peace? Iraq is potentially rich in solar energy, which knows no political boundaries. Of course, while this could help secure energy for all sections of Iraq, so long as Western economies are oil-based, the export value of oil will continue to divide the country. How about the USA seeking to satisfy its energy needs by tapping the solar resources of the sunny south, its deserts, the wave power of its huge coastline, and wind. This would release the US from that part of its foreign policy which is ruled by the concern to secure oil supplies. They and the world might be safer for it.

Co-operation in developing alternative energy strategies world-wide, for example sharing technical expertise with developing countries, would lead to greater self-sufficiency for all countries, and greater political and economic independence. It would be an energy strategy promoting peace rather than war.



Sir: Bruce Anderson (22 August) is entitled to disagree with Malcolm Rifkind on the Iraq war, but it is unduly arrogant to label the Rifkind stance as "wholly" wrong. With the absence of WMD, a chaotic legacy in Iraq, thousands of civilian casualties, flawed intelligence, dodgy dossiers, extremist jihadis recruiting new terrorists, and a British and US public that now believes the war made us less safe, the anti-war camp must now be regarded as having been at least partly right. A little more humility, please, from Mr Anderson, who I believe is (largely) wrong about Iraq.



Where languages are a life skill

Sir: Part of the problem with foreign language learning in this country (Mary Dejevsky, 16 August) is that it is perceived as something remote and suitable primarily for scholastic and academic study.

Within "mainland" Europe, languages form a larger part of the general cultural environment, and linguistic competence is seen as a normal life skill like learning to drive, swim or operate a PC.

Would it not be possible to use some of the bandwidth of Freeview to carry some of the channels produced by European broadcasters so that the full range of programming is available for students and speakers alike? Some of the programmes are even rather good.



'Minor' offences in the classroom

Sir: The parents of a 15-year-old are suing Marlborough College because it has expelled their son. In reports the father made it clear that the 400 misdemeanours his son is being punished for are all "relatively minor", saying, "It was chewing gum, forgetting books, stuff like that."

The implication is that a student who repeatedly breaks the rules should not be punished unless they do something major. As a teacher I would like to make the point that the odd major incident is actually easier to deal with than constant "minor" ones which break the flow of lessons and stop the whole class achieving their potential in each lesson.

It is very frustrating when you ask parents for support and they reply that their child has not done much wrong.



Sir: I am fascinated by Mr Gray's theory that a high-fee, prestigious and selective school owes anything to his acknowledgedly badly behaved son. There appears to be no recognition that this young man is neither a credit to the school nor wanted by its staff, and that since he and his father are solely responsible for his poor behaviour, he thoroughly deserves this reasonable request to seek the rest of his education elsewhere. I sincerely hope that British law does not further erode personal responsibility in giving this young man rights that he would appear to have done little to earn.

We owe greater respect to all schools and to all education than to support the modern culture that schools should accept poor attitude and poor behaviour. Being late, chewing gum and forgetting his books and files will not keep this young man a job, and Mr Gray would have little luck in taking an employer to court for not happily accepting his son's little foibles.



Insult to girls and their mothers

Sir: I was dumbstruck to read in Virginia Ironside's column (22 August) the negative views of girl babies given by her and her correspondents. To discuss all girls as manipulative, affectionate only when a favour is being sought or as a competitor against the mother is insulting to girls and women.

Girls and boys are sometimes capable of negative behaviour, but in my experience as a mother of a funny and bright 20-month-old girl, I don't recognise the traits that she is supposed to possess. A child's personality is partly formed by its genes, but is also the product of upbringing. If these are truly Virginia Ironside's views of girls, then thank God she had a boy.



Worth the wait

Sir: May we suggest Miles Kington (22 August) visit the remarkable station buffet at Newtown, Montgomeryshire? Delicious cakes, excellent coffee and tea (not a tea bag in sight) and a tempting meal menu all on offer. For once we were almost sorry when the train arrived.




Unbreakable code

Sir: The requirement for MI5 to produce documents in Welsh at its new office in Cardiff (Pandora, 23 August) could be turned into a significant advantage. Why not conduct its business exclusively in Welsh, thus eliminating the enormous expense of encoding communications throughout the world? It would also help to placate all those English tourists in Wales who become so upset when they enter a pub and the natives immediately "begin" to speak Welsh. It'll only be the local MI5 agent having a meeting with his controller!



Intelligent design

Sir: Doug Meredith has a point when he asks why people are forced to wear glasses if we are indeed products of intelligent design (Letters, 23 August). I would have thought the answer was obvious. Opticians are also products of the Intelligent Creator, and, as such, would have no purpose if it were not for mankind's need for spectacles.



Sir: Never mind the eye, what about the banana? Tasty, nutritious, easy to peel. Now that's what I call an intelligent design.



The Tebbit test

Sir: My memory perhaps fails me but was the "Tebbit test" (letter, 22 August) to determine whether one was adroit enough to ride a bike and play cricket at the same time? To the few who could manage this an invitation to citizenship was extended, I think.