Letters: The causes of ‘radicalised’ Islam

These letters appear in the 20 July edition of The Independent

Independent Voices
Friday 19 June 2015 18:00 BST

David Cameron is increasing the rhetoric against Muslim radicalisation, but he and others still pay lip service to “true” Islam as the religion of love. Just look, though, at scriptures and the behaviour of the religious, Muslim and Christian.

Intermingled with some kindly recommendations is a vast array of threats, violence and deaths divinely commanded, culminating, many believe, in eternal damnation for millions. Living according to religious “leaps of faith” leads us into holy quagmires of intolerance and brutality, blinding us to fellow feeling and the liberty to “live and let live”.

Religion is the danger, not just its radicalisation.

Peter Cave
London W1

Your editorial of 11 June points to the threat posed to Cameroon by the Boko Haram insurgency. As you say “only regional governments can finally defeat the grisly Boko Haram”.

From our 33 years of involvement round the corner in The Gambia we have learnt an important lesson.

In common with most international development agencies and governments the focus of our work with our predominantly Muslim partners has been on women’s empowerment through education and literacy programmes, loans for small businesses and support for traditional income-generating activities such as vegetable gardening, tie and dye and hairdressing.

Three years ago it became apparent to Gambian colleagues and ourselves that we have a major problem, namely unemployment and disaffection among young men.

We estimate that only 15 per cent of men are in employment five years after leaving school. Gambian friends tell us that there is an increase in drug taking. They express real concern that this group of disaffected youth without purpose in life and whose social standing, as they see it, has been undermined by the change in the gender balance, will be targeted by Islamists, who will give them a purpose, albeit a malevolent one.

It raises the question in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria. Has our focus on women’s development upset traditional social norms and been to the detriment of young men. Surely we must redress the balance. Yes, let’s absolutely discuss the rights of women, but we must engage men in that discussion and move forward together.

Dr Nick Maurice
Director, The Marlborough Brandt Group
Marlborough, Wiltshire

Palatial lodgings for Parliament

If Parliament is looking for a place to relocate MPs from the Palace of Westminster while the renovation takes place, why not look to a nearby palace well located for all the ministries?

With 77,000 square metres of floor space and a large garden to allow for erection of temporary structures, Buckingham Palace provides more than enough room to accommodate our politicians’ needs. And there is precedent: William IV offered it to Parliament after the old buildings burnt down in 1834.

The Queen prefers to live in Windsor Castle anyway. For a consideration she could surely be persuaded to decamp for a few years, and then use the proceeds to upgrade her own place.

Simon Prentis

Run RBS for the public good

The Chancellor’s announcement of plans to reprivatise RBS with no further restructuring is a wasted opportunity to transform the structure of UK banking for the better.

We must think bigger. Among its international peers, the UK stands alone in the belief that giant shareholder-owned banks are the only answer to its financial needs. Evidence of the success of regional banks, often in co-operative or public ownership, from competitor economies such as Germany, Switzerland and the US confirms that the UK can only gain from increasing the diversity of its banking sector, from increased support for SMEs to greater resilience in the event of financial crisis.

The Chancellor is overlooking potential in our shared ownership of RBS. Any review of its future must include the option of retaining ownership and forming it into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate.

Given the massive cost to taxpayers of bailing out the bank in 2008, their interests must come before those of shareholders. For the benefit of the British economy, the Chancellor should commission a full independent review of the future of RBS that examines all available alternatives to a loss-making sell-off.

Tony Greenham
Associate Director, New Economics Foundation

Dr David Green
Chief Executive, Civitas

Professor Victoria Chick
Professor Karel Williams
Manchester Business School

Professor Jonathan Michie
University of Oxford

Professor Christine Oughton

Ian Fraser
Ray Perman
London SE1

White actors as Shakespeare’s Moor

Steven Berkoff is, of course, right to reject the idea that Othello is a “no-go zone” for white actors on the grounds that “great drama is colour-blind and goes far deeper than the colour of a person’s skin”.

For some time now, black actors have played stage characters who are historically white, to acclaim. For instance, Adrian Lester was Hamlet in a Paris production directed by Peter Brook in 2000, the same year in which David Oyelowo played Henry VI in an RSC production of Shakespeare’s trilogy, and Hugh Quarshie became the first black Hotspur on a British stage in Trevor Nunn’s staging of Henry IV as far back as 1983.

When Oyelowo took on the Shakespeare role, he was quoted as saying that “the more barriers come down, the better”. It seems that it is now time to remind ourselves that this applies to white actors playing Othello, too.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire

Your report “Berkoff’s black rage over white actor ban in Othello” (18 June) quotes Steven Berkoff: “The play is full of paradoxes of black and white. Shakespeare’s language is full of wordplay about black and white.”

For the sake of accuracy, we should point out that this has been incorrectly attributed to Mr Berkoff, and was in fact said by the distinguished Shakespearean academic, Stanley Wells. Nor were Steven Berkoff’s comments within this article prompted by Paul Taylor’s theatre review in The Independent, but by Sam Marlowe’s in The Times.

Joanna Marston
Literary agent for Steven Berkoff, London SW7

Peter Forster (letter, 18 June) has treated us to yet another patronising justification for white men being able to act any role they like.

We do know what acting means! The point he misses (and he is far from alone) is that by now there are increasing numbers of disabled people, black people, older people etc with excellent acting skills who rarely, if ever, get the opportunities they and audiences deserve.

Merry Cross

For years I have been perplexed by the prohibition forbidding white actors to darken their faces for the portrayal of Othello. So I am grateful to Steven Berkoff for igniting public debate on the matter.

For now I have reason to hope someone will bring my confusion to an end by completing the following sentence: “A white person painting their face black is racist because...”.

Peter Tomlinson
Shipley, West Yorkshire

Othello was a Moor, of North African or Moroccan ethnicity. Shakespeare had a model of a noble Moor in the person of the Moroccan ambassador Abd-el-Oahed ben Messouad, who was in London c 1600, and whose portrait survives in the University of Birmingham Research and Cultural Collections.

However, we should beware of restricting roles to particular ethnicities. It would prevent colour-blind casting and deny “white” roles to prominent black actors. If Othello had been reserved for Moroccans we would have been deprived of Sir Lenny Henry’s superb performance with Northern Broadsides.

Frank Donald

Coalition defence of women

Jean Calder (letter, 17 June) in praising Theresa May for showing “exemplary commitment to countering violence against women” omits to give much of the credit for this policy to the Liberal Democrats, and specifically Lynne Featherstone, who as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development in the recent Coalition, campaigned against female genital mutilation. Credit where credit’s due!

Andrew Jarosz

British corruption

Amol Rajan (13 June) says: “This country is relatively free from corruption.”

Good grief, where has he been for the past decade?

Peter Crossan
Chadderton, Oldham

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