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Ignorance over Islam and Muslims must end

Once again I see a non-Muslim Westerner attempt a grotesque misrepresentation of Islam. David Ireland (Write Back, May 20) is portraying Muslims with his own very narrow and undoubtedly self-indoctrinated interpretation of Islam.

I have lived in the Middle East for extended periods of time. I speak Arabic with some proficiency. I have also studied the history of the Middle East enough to note that geopolitics plays a massive role in the rise of Islamist extremism and conservative Islam.

Also, to put it bluntly, I see absolutely no refutation of substance from David Ireland. He can remain blind to the fact that what we say and do here in the West does impact upon the attitudes, actions and political views of Middle Eastern people on the ground.

It's easy for people sitting safely in the West to make these kinds of statements about Islam and Muslims, because they don't take the flak when extremists decide to take it out on innocent local communities.

We have a choice before us: we can continue discussing decontextualised sections of the Koran, misinterpreting them and making assumptions of how Muslims follow their own religion, or we can have dialogue with different Muslim communities, support indigenous human rights groups and cross-community inter-faith groups who do a huge amount of work on the ground. We need to start having genuine, progressive debates about these subjects.

GARY SPEDDING

Belfast

Anna Lo's views on NI could be more positive

I am rather disappointed by Anna Lo's recent remarks. I do not support Pastor James McConnell's views on Muslims, which I do not feel were offered in a right spirit, nor do I support the ill-advised view of Peter Robinson.

But for Anna Lo to suddenly say after many years in Northern Ireland that she is considering leaving because she feels "unsafe" seems a little odd.

I know Ms Lo is on record as saying she feels the state of Northern Ireland is "artificial", which gave offence to many people.

I wonder when she will find it in her heart to say something positive about her adopted country?

THE REV IAIN JAMIESON

Ballymena, Co Antrim

Bid to end blood sports boosted by election win

A major milestone has been achieved in the campaign for animal protection with the election to the European Parliament of a candidate standing for Holland's Party for the Animals (PvdD).

Seven animal protection parties from around Europe had come together to promote a change in our overall attitude to animals, whether domestic, wild, laboratory-raised or farm livestock, and to seek representation in the European Parliament.

Among the alliance's objectives is the abolition of so-called cultural and traditional practices that cause immense suffering to animals, such as hare coursing and fox hunting. Hopefully, the presence of a strong voice for animals in the EU Parliament will hasten the end of these latter 'sports'.

The rising strength of the animal protection lobby in Europe is heartening, but the election of a PvdD candidate will surely signal a new phase in the campaign to end blood sports.

JOHN FITZGERALD

By email

Joe showed up his religiophobia

It was disappointing but not surprising to read the article by Joe Nawaz in the Belfast Telegraph (News, May 30).

Joe's ignorance of the Christian faith was stark and he proffers no help to those standing against racism and xenophobia in NI with his own brand of prejudice. Joe asked rhetorically if there is any other type of faith in NI but extreme. It's a pity he didn't do a bit more research and then he wouldn't come across as such an extreme religiophobe himself.

Majority or minority, weak or strong, or many other things, anyone can be a victim of prejudice.

AUSTIN ORR

By email

Votes for Ukip simply a protest

The recent gains in the local and European elections and the media coverage of Ukip and its leader have been rather over the top.

The party has no control of any council, no majority on any grouping, nor even one solitary member of Parliament.

The support has been branded an earthquake, but is in reality a protest against the establishment.

Like them or not, the three main political parties have more to offer than a one-man band who has marketed his brand well, but has no real policies or solutions to the economic realities of a vibrant and multicultural 21st-century society.

PAUL RAYBOULD

By email

Stirring racism very dangerous

For generations we have been plagued by sectarianism and the recent election results show most people still vote tribally, thinking in terms of "them" and "us".

Now racism is worsening. Tensions are heightened when racial hatred is stirred by public pronouncements from those who do not understand the Muslim religion. To denigrate a whole religious faith over the extremism of a small minority is unjust and could have serious consequences.

MARGARET MARSHALL

Belfast

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