Spectator letters: Islamophobia, breast-feeding and Bach

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

Malcolm was hopeless

Sir: The attempts by Mungo MacCallum (‘Turnbull lives on’, 7 June) and Richard Ferguson (‘One of us’, 14 June) to paint Malcolm Turnbull as a future prime minister overlook the fact that Turnbull was an ineffective Liberal leader. Turnbull, aside from his lack of judgement, oversaw a fusing of Coalition and Labor policy, never seeking clear differentiation. If Turnbull had remained leader, the frightening scenario is that Kevin Rudd might still be prime minister of Australia.
Chris Harrington
St Ives NSW

Rational fear

Sir: An interesting contrast between the articles by Douglas Murray and Innes Bowen on Islamic influence in the UK (‘Save the children’, 14 June), and the one by Matthew Parris.
Mr Parris sees no essential difference between faith schools. But Christians do not on the whole advocate holy wars against non-Christians, or demand that adulterous women be stoned to death, or that anyone who insults their religion should be beheaded. True, there was a time when the Church might have done all these things, but that was hundreds of years in the past and we are now more enlightened.
Recent events in Syria and Nigeria, and now in Iraq, do not inspire confidence in Islamic moderation. But any criticism is immediately seized on as Islamophobia. I thought that a phobia was an irrational fear of something. I don’t see anything irrational in fearing the march of militant Islam.
Jerry Emery
Lewes, East Sussex

Medievalism reborn

Sir: Having been shocked by the revelations in Douglas Murray’s article, and being conscious of the decline in the traditional meaning of British values, I feel bound to propose the following. Firstly, that the Muslim parents of children being subjected to education that inspires them to militancy should be enlisted to help prohibit such teachings and influence, as they are against the majority view of that generation. Secondly, that mixed religious schools with equal emphasis on Islam and Christianity should be monitored. And finally, that Muslims who come to this country for economic reasons or to escape medievalism should be aware of the fact that it is being reborn in the schools in their new country.
Peter Hutley
Bramley, Surrey

Bosom buddies

Sir: Susan Hill’s account of the difficulties many mothers experience when first trying to breast-feed will ring true for many women (‘Breast advice’, 14 June). As she says, what is needed is a body of willing volunteers who will be available to help struggling new mothers and their howling babies. There is such a body, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which trains volunteers to offer free one-to-one advice. The NCT also offers preparation for childbirth classes (usually not free) and the opportunity for mothers to form a social group. There are other organisations offering similar support. I’m from the same generation as Susan Hill and I also remember the breast-feeding storm troopers she describes. I don’t think you would encounter them now.
Gillian Healey
Pershore, Worcestershire

Russia and the EU

Sir: John O’Sullivan (‘Moscow’s Wizard of Oz’, 7 June) overlooks the elephant in the room. Why is Russia not welcome as a member of the European Union?
O’Sullivan sees Russia as somehow different and apart from all other countries in the European orbit. Further, he clearly believes the difference to be an unalterable given of the modern world. It is only because this gulf between Russia and the rest of Europe is fixed by assumption that his conference intellectuals can talk about ‘the Eurasian Union’, ‘the wider geopolitical struggle with the Anglo-Saxons’ and ‘the “geo-politicians” in Moscow who chill our blood’.
I am not a fan of the EU, but no one conjures up such a vast and malign role for any of its members. These members include Germany, Britain, France and Italy, all of which have larger national outputs than Russia, and in that sense could do just as much geopolitical mischief if they were so minded. If Russia were inside the EU, it seems likely that John O’Sullivan’s ruminations would become absurd.
The trouble is that the European Commission top brass do not want Russia in the EU. Nations’ vote shares in the Council of Ministers are determined by population, and Russia would therefore have more votes than Germany, France or any other country. The geopolitical purpose of the EU is the redemption of Germany from its past, and the reinstatement to great power roles of Germany and France. Russian membership of the EU would ruin that. So we are condemned to the tragedy of continued tension in Europe between the western states and Russia, even though Russia (with about 10 per cent of wider Europe’s output) is now so overshadowed economically that the notion of rivalry between it and the rest of Europe is ludicrous.
Tim Congdon
Huntley, Gloucestershire

Consolation in a glass

Sir: The first letter in the most recent Spectator dealt with religion, and the last with malt whisky. I couldn’t help recalling those lines of A.E. Housman in which he brought the two elements aptly together: ‘And malt does more than Milton can/
To justify God’s ways to man.’
Ronald Arnold
Eynsham, Oxfordshire

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