Lest we etc.
Sir: What can account for the hysterical reaction in some quarters to Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s Facebook post on Anzac Day (Michael Davis, 6 May, among others)? Anyone would think that Ms Abdel-Magied had denounced Anzac Day as a jingoistic ritual, branded the Anzacs willing dupes of imperialist propaganda and urged Australians to burn the flag on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance. But she didn’t. She asked only that when we celebrate the values of tolerance and freedom of speech for which, among other things, the Anzacs believed they were fighting, we should remember also the suffering of those still trapped in a world riven by war and repression. So why the outcry? Is it because Ms Abdel-Magieb is an Arab immigrant woman wearing funny glasses? Would anyone have cared if she were an Anglo-Saxon suburban housewife expressing her opinions in a letter to the Daily Telegraph? Is it because of her association with the ABC, that bête noir of Australian conservatives? Agree with her or not, I think many veterans would acknowledge that she delivered a good message at the right time, reminding us that us that Anzac Day is not just about a tragic military campaign but about the values for which so many Anzacs were ready to lay down their lives.
Sir: At present, a woman is on death row in Pakistan, an innocent politician faces a jail sentence in Indonesia and a comedian is threatened with a fine in Ireland because of blasphemy laws. The case of Jakarta governor Ahok, accused of disrespecting the Koran Al-Maidah chapter verse 51 [which says Muslims should not take non-Muslims as leaders] is particularly worrying for democracy, as it implies that anyone asking a Muslim to vote for, or campaign for, a non-Muslim, or any Muslim voting for a non-Muslim, is disrespecting the Koran. It would be great for democracy and human rights if religious leaders in all countries worked together to lobby for the removal of death sentences and jail sentences for blasphemy in all countries where blasphemy laws continue to be used to maliciously destroy people’s lives.
Surrey Hills, Vic
It’s a Unionist revival
Sir: Contrary to Alex Massie’s claims, there is no rebirth of Scottish Conservatism in Scotland (‘Queen of Scots’, 6 May). Rather, there is a strident Unionist vote from 2014 that has found its home in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party — the latter part being the key. Mr Massie makes the error of confusing support for Unionism with support for Conservatism. It is widely acknowledged that Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservatives have no discernible policies or philosophy other than opposing a second independence referendum.
This was clear in the recent Scottish local elections on 4 May, where their campaign was based solely on ‘sending the SNP a message that we don’t want a second referendum’ and was entirely devoid of local policies. It is also notable that during the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, Ruth Davidson went to great lengths to hide the name of the party that she leads. In addition, as Mr Massie himself notes, the Scottish Conservatives are often uncomfortable with the more Conservative policies of the UK government, which are not as sellable in Scotland. All in, Mr Massie’s Tory revival is a Unionist one, not a Conservative one.
Riding to the rescue
Sir: As a member of the Side Saddle Association and a former National Side Saddle Rider, I have to take issue with Sylvia Loch’s reply to Simon Barnes (Letters, 29 April). Firstly, side-saddle riding does not cause inevitable suffering to both horse and rider. If it does, why is it that my own horse can compete happily both side-saddle and astride, and is currently competing at a high level?
Saddle-fitting today is much improved and I have never had a horse end up sore or rubbed. As long as the length of time spent riding is built up gradually and regular saddle checks are made, there is no problem. As for the rider not remaining square to the axis, I have been competing side-saddle for over 30 years and am still perfectly sound.
Thanks to the Side Saddle Association, this form of riding has been preserved for future generations. Perhaps Sylvia should visit our National Show in August to see how elegant and classical the side-saddle riders of today are?
Clarissa Dawson BHSI, former National Side Saddle Rider
Who are the real racists?
Sir: Kelvin MacKenzie states that if he had known about Ross Barkley’s family tree he would never have compared him to a gorilla (Diary, 29 April). But why should this be so? It is clear that the footballer’s race played no part in Mr MacKenzie’s description of him, but it strikes me that to relate black people to gorillas in the first place hints at racism. This controversy only arose following the dredging up of a half-Nigerian grandfather by those who seem to spend their lives looking for reasons to be offended. By their broadcasting of their perceived link between a Nigerian and a great ape, it is they who should be condemned, not Kelvin MacKenzie.
Sir: Rory Sutherland’s piece last week (‘The MBA idiocies that ruin everything’, 6 May) reminded me of the old saw about management consultants, to wit: ‘A management consultant is someone who knows 100 different ways of making love to a woman, but doesn’t know any women.’
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