I enjoyed Mary Dejevsky’s observations on the European Court of Human Rights’ support for the French ban on “face-covering” in public places (3 July) and tend to agree with them.
An intriguing question is where the motivation for this unconventional choice lies. I suspect it is not to do with religion and sexual modesty, though it would be hard to prove.
When I was a teacher and rode a motorbike in the 1970s and 1980s, after a day spent in the beehive that is a comprehensive school, I relished the anonymity of shopping with a full-face helmet on. It was quite acceptable then. After a thousand reactions and responses all day, I was able to cut off, hide and relax.
In my town, Halifax, with its sizeable Muslim population, I don’t recall any niqabs prior to the events of 9/11. It is still a minority choice, but to be seen daily. This recent trend suggests a clearly political move.
I have a friend who uses her house as her niqab. The world worries and intimidates her; she rarely ventures out. Some youngsters with their hoods, mostly males, hide their faces from a world which rejects them and where they don’t feel they fit in.
Should it be illegal? That is a tough one. But it would be interesting for face-concealers to tell us of their true motivation.
Robin Barrett, Halifax
Activities should only be banned if they cause harm to others; Mary Dejevsky, however, proposes that the wearing of the niqab should be banned because it goes against social norms, or against “what it might mean to be European”.
But this is a recipe for intolerance, as well as being vague. Norms are not unchanging: for instance, gay relationships are now accepted but were not 40 years ago.
Two of the norms she cites – not throwing rubbish in the street and FGM – cause harm to others; wearing the niqab does not.
She also criticises as muddleheaded the British way of deciding piecemeal when the veil may or may not be worn. It is, in fact, a way of deciding matters, not dogmatically, but pragmatically, on a case-by-case basis. It is, I believe, the basis of Common Law. I am glad to live in a country which decides things in this way.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Non-profit way to beat the superbugs
In recent days we have all become aware of the dangers posed by our over-use of antibiotics to control infection. This has allowed harmful organisms to evolve defence mechanisms against them. Consequently our antibiotics are fast becoming useless.
You would think it was the job of the phamaceutical industry to overcome this problem, but it has declined to proceed because it sees no profit there.
But there is a way around this dilemma; Cern was founded 60 years ago by 21 European nations as a non-profit scientific endeavour. We have all read of its amazing achievements, including the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.
Co-operation in this scientific field has been a wonderful success. Surely now is the time for a similar body of nations, scientist and medical specialists to pool their resources and begin the search for a solution to the huge problem of runaway infections.
Peter Milner, Shrewsbury
Is the only area of medical research where a new financial model is needed that of antibiotics?
If the problem is that the big money comes from the pharmaceutical companies, and they feel they won’t earn enough on their investments, wouldn’t that be even more the case for long-term chronic diseases?
The median age for contracting type one diabetes is about 13. For the rest of their lives sufferers need to inject insulin a few times a day and to test their blood sugar levels several times a day. This is a market for insulin, insulin pens and needles, test strips and lancets. It would be financial madness for pharmaceutical companies to put money into finding a cure. Of course, by the same token it would save the NHS lots of money.
Perhaps the body looking at the funding of research into new antibiotics could cast its net wider.
Michael Godfrey, Osterley, Middlesex
Israel was once Arab land
Avi Lehrer takes Robert Fisk to task for implying that Israel was built on Arab land (letter, 3 July).
These are the words of the Zionist hero Moshe Dayan in 1969 (reported in Ha’aretz, 4 April 1969): “We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here.
“In considerable areas of the country we bought land from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages, and I do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either...
“There is not a place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”
It has been very well documented that a majority of the pioneers and leaders of Zionism considered that most of the Biblical lands belonged to the future Jewish state, and that the only effective way to achieve this was the “transfer solution”, a euphemism for the organised removal of Palestinians to neighbouring lands.
In 1917, at the time of Balfour’s promise of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish population of Palestine was only 10 per cent.
David Simmonds, Woking, Surrey
Schools for the greedy?
It was interesting but unsurprising to learn of the huge earnings gap between private and state pupils (report, 3 July). Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, which conducted the research, declared that this is a waste of talent. Is it? This implies that earnings are seen as an indicator of capability. Might it not be that earnings are more an indicator of motivation?
Could it be that the children of wealthy parents, who can afford private schools, inherit their values, in particular their fixation with money? From my limited interaction with young state-educated adults I get the impression that they are far more interested in engaging, meaningful and ethical employment.
The Sutton Trust is pressing for greater public access to private schools. Why? Isn’t our society already plagued by obsession with money, as an indicator of status, an entrée to privilege and evidence of success? Vocational and professional commitment is slowly being stifled as we succumb to the delusion that wealth and worth are synonymous.
Gordon Watt, Reading
Childish gesture by Ukip MEPs
I am extremely disappointed The Independent has continued to allow Nigel Farage a voice to express his anti-European views.
The Ukip MEPs have no intention of engaging with the work of the European Parliament. Their childish act of turning their backs at the playing of the EU anthem was disgraceful.
For five years, these MEPs will be pursuing their own agenda, so failing to contribute to the improvement of the European Union. Surely, they are failing to fully represent their constituents, and by accepting their salaries paid from public funds also taking money under false pretences.
Chloe Gover, Horton-cum-Studley, Oxfordshire
What does a Canadian know about cricket?
I was amused to learn that the new Canadian Governor of the Bank of England was favouring rounders over the traditional cricket match at the Bank’s summer staff party.
I have a letter, written in 1901, from Chas Fishwick to my grandfather, James Horrocks of Bolton, Lancashire. Chas was a friend who had recently emigrated to Canada and, like my grandfather, loved cricket, and was bemoaning the fact that there was no cricket at all in Canada, just a game he called Base Ball, and that that was worse than nothing.
He was an itinerant worker walking miles most nights by the light of the moon and stars and would also have walked many, many miles more to watch a cricket match.
So, Governor, please can you not have rounders again but have the lovely game of cricket? Bank of England and cricket: so very right for each other.
Joan Owen, Hinstock, Shropshire
Awaiting my tax rebate
Further to Sally Bundock’s letter of 1 July regarding her underpayment of tax of £1.81, I have had a letter from HMRC saying that I overpaid by 13p, and I assume this amount will be deducted from my next tax bill.
However, in the event that I am too poor to pay any tax next year (a distinct possibility), will HMRC then send me a cheque for 13p? I sincerely hope so.
Carley Brown, Exeter