Rise in Islamophobia underpins sharia row
Socialist Worker is quite right to draw a link between the ongoing “war on terror” and the Islamophobic outpouring that greeted the archbishop of Canterbury’s comments on sharia law (» Sharia row triggers wider racist backlash , 16 February).
What shocked me about so many of the comments was the way in which Islam in general was openly denounced as an alien and backwards creed – with the implication that Muslims in Britain are all dangerous “outsiders”.
This is an escalation from when the “war on terror” first started in 2001. Back then George Bush and Tony Blair were careful to claim that Islam was a “religion of peace” and that it was only “extremist” Islam that was a problem.
Seven years on these nuanced distinctions between “good” and “bad” Islam have been dropped. Just as the war itself has spiralled out from Afghanistan to Iraq, Lebanon and now possibly Iran, the ideology used to justify it has progressively got more vicious.
The other thing that the row over sharia law highlights is the way that racism is tied to nationalism. The archbishop of Canterbury is head of the Church of England, a key institution of the British state.
That’s why the reaction to his comments was so vehement, even stretching to calls for him to resign. The Daily Telegraph last week solemnly informed its readers that the queen was “distressed” by the row, fearing that it may “sap the authority of the church”.
Yet these people who fret about the Church of England’s “authority” are the also the ones who justify Britain’s wars in the Middle East by claiming we are fighting for secular Enlightenment values!
Jiben Kumar, East London
Italians defend the right to choose
There has been an attack on women’s rights and abortion in Italy from the right, the Vatican and part of the centre-left.
They are trying to make abortion illegal. In Naples, a woman was interrogated by seven police officers in hospital just after her abortion. The police also seized the foetus in an attempt to prove the clinic was performing illegal abortions. This has since proved to be totally untrue.
Right winger Silvio Berlusconi has called for a moratorium on all abortions.
In this terrible climate, women are taking back the streets. Some 150,000 marched through Rome in November last year.
Thousands of women in Rome, Bologna, Naples, Milan and Florence demonstrated on Thursday of last week against what had happened in Naples and to defend abortion rights – one of the biggest victories of the women’s movement of the 1970s.
A new women’s movement is developing. A national women’s assembly is to discuss how to continue our fight and prepare a demonstration on 8 March to defend the right to abortion.
Barbara De Vivo, Rome, Italy
A bloody scandal
I welcome the Scottish law lords’ recent comments that an inquiry should be held into contaminated blood.
Those of us who received contaminated blood during the 1970s and 1980s – in my case after testing for HIV came into force in 1985 – have had our lives devastated.
The British government has so far refused to hold an inquiry, saying that it would not be in the public interest and nothing new would be learned.
Thousands of people have died as a result of being given contaminated blood – and the people responsible have been given crown immunity.
The Scottish government has said that it will hold a public inquiry into blood contaminated with Hepatitis C but not HIV or anything else.
But they have the opportunity to look into all instances of contaminated blood during the 1970s and 1980s and it would be a wasted opportunity not to do so.
Scottish National Party MSP Nicola Sturgeon says that the Scottish government is waiting for the outcome of Lord Archer’s inquiry to decide what the remit for an inquiry should be.
But as this inquiry has no legal capacity, it has not forced the British government to give evidence. In contrast, a judicial inquiry would have the power to call government ministers to give evidence.
I would urge all MPs in Scotland and all MSPs to demand than a full judicial inquiry is held as soon as possible.
People like me have been campaigning for the truth for over 20 years. We have been given a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Nicola Sturgeon should not wait for the Archer inquiry findings to decide what the remit for an inquiry should be – the inquiry should look at all contaminated blood.
Help us by writing to your MP, MSP or Welsh assembly member and demand that the government hold a full public inquiry.
Gary Kelly, Chair, HIV Blood Transfusion Group, Glasgow
Reverse this appalling tax on disabled people
A recent report by Leonard Cheshire Disability found that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people.
Our Liberal Democrat/Scottish National Party run council seems determined to make this situation worse by imposing charges on services for disabled people in Fife.
Since the council introduced the charges last month around 500 people have already dropped out of the shopping service. This is an atrocious indictment of Fife council’s policy on social work services.
We are worried that more people will give up their services and we are very concerned for their welfare and safety.
We are demanding that the council has a rethink.
We have been campaigning hard against these charges.
We have petitioned, lobbied, protested and held a very successful public meeting with over 200 people in attendance earlier this month.
Now we are calling on people not to give up their vital services, and urging people who have given up their services to ask for them to be immediately reinstated.
We are advocating that people refuse to pay the bills as they come in.
We appreciate this is a radical step to take but it comes from a position of principle. These charges are a tax on disability.
Louise McLeary, Kirkcaldy, Fife
Vulnerable hit by health visitor cuts
Thanks for your article on the crisis facing health visitors in Waltham Forest (» Cuts put Waltham Forest children at risk , 16 February).
Across Britain we now have the lowest number of health visitors since 1994.
It is now the norm to see 50 to 70 people queuing for up to two hours at the child health clinics that we run in the borough. The wait alone is likely to put many people off.
We are forced to limit every patient’s time to the minimum and we generally work through all our breaks.
This can have terrible consequences for assessment and building trust.
Spending quality time with vulnerable patients is vital to identifying potential developmental problems or risk. The short time we can offer mothers and their children can mean missing important facts.
The consequences are the stuff of nightmares, yet the bosses of our primary care trust seem to think that we are exaggerating the problems.
All health workers should stand together to oppose cuts in the NHS, and to stand up for services that benefit those who might otherwise go untreated.
Norma Dudley, Unite/CPHVA union rep, East London
Stop press – fees hit poor
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the front page of the Guardian on Thursday of last week – tuition fees favour the rich.
Apparently “new research” has found that poor kids don’t go to university because fear of debt puts them off.
But this was obvious from the start – as campaigners against fees spelled out when they were brought in.
How is this front page news?
Alice Newbold, Guildford
What if Rock was south?
I think Benjamin Kindler (» Letters, 9 February) will find that most hard and fast capitalists would also object to the government’s support of Northern Rock on at least two grounds.
Firstly, they would oppose the partial nationalisation of a financial institution.
And secondly, a Labour government doesn’t want to see savings and jobs getting all screwed up in the Labour heartlands of the north east of England.
If it were called Southern Rock, Labour wouldn’t give a toss.
Terry Western, Sudbury, Suffolk
A shipping shocker
The true scale of shipping emissions has finally been revealed – almost three times as much carbon is emitted than previously thought.
A leaked United Nations study calculated that annual emissions from shipping contribute nearly 4.5 percent of all global carbon emissions and they are due to rise by 30 percent by 2020.
World leaders always play down shipping emissions, claiming that they contribute less than 2 percent of global emissions.
If Gordon Brown refuses to include shipping emissions in his climate bill he will be abdicating his responsibility to defend our environment.
Sarah Carr, Rotherham
War wrecks lives of young
Recently I spoke to a young soldier and asked him why he wanted to go to Iraq.
He was no more than 17 years old.
I told him that more than 10 percent of returning soldiers are suffering from post traumatic stress and are turning to drugs and alcohol.
Hundreds have returned blinded and limbless.
Why should our young men and women die obscene deaths for wars that are simply not worth fighting?
Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition
Sinister plans for education
A recent public meeting in Batley, West Yorkshire warned against proposals for a new academy in the area, which would lead to schools losing accountability to parents and the council.
Academies can be controlled by individuals who have no knowledge of the education sector or the area.
Many have no staff or parents on the governing bodies.
A newly launched campaign is fighting the idea.
John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire
Privatisation by back door
Our local New Labour mayor Martin Winter has surpassed himself this month. He has sidled up to Gordon Brown with plans to set up six new academies in the area.
We are one of the most deprived areas of the country with understandable educational under achievement.
We already have a “Creationist” school which has a reputation for excluding kids.
People oppose privatisation by the back door.
The campaign against the academy has rejuvenated activists.
Lois Hubbard, Doncaster, South Yorkshire