Letters, February 17, 2011 part one

PUBLISHED: 11:32 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 11:32 17 February 2011

Multiculturalism is a success

SIR – This is a letter of complaint to Anne Main MP for St Albans regarding the Prime Minister’s speech at the security conference in Munich (February 5) on segregation, radicalisation and extremism.

Dear Anne,

We the Muslim community and residents of St Albans city would like to make a complaint to you as our MP regarding a recent speech made by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

In his speech in Munich the Prime Minister made reference to the failure of multiculturalism, he is quoted as saying: “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values”.

He is also quoted as saying: “In our communities, groups and organisations led by young, dynamic leaders promote separatism by encouraging Muslims to define themselves solely in terms of their religion”.

We find such comments deeply offensive and insulting. It is somewhat of a surprise that the Prime Minister holds such views about the Muslim community in the United Kingdom, as you are aware, the vast majority of Muslims here in St Albans and throughout the UK are integrated and very much part of the social and cultural fabric of British life.

Muslims have made huge contributions to British society since the early immigrants of the first generations who came over 50 years ago in the 1960s.

Muslims can be found in all professions from doctors to lawyers, teachers, police officers and other such walks of life.

Muslims here in St Albans have peacefully lived in coexistence with our neighbours from other faiths and cultures for many decades and continue to do so amidst the backdrop of the increasing Islamaphobic hatred shown against our religion.

On a day when the far right extreme group the EDL (English Defence League) marched through the streets of Luton town centre, the Prime Minister’s timing to deliver such an ill-informed and misjudged speech seemed to have played into the hands of the right wing extremists who have used it to promote their hatred against Muslims and Islam.

Many of us voted for the Conservative party at the last General Election and feel let down by the comments made by the Prime Minister.

In his speech the Prime Minister made specific reference to the Muslim community and failed to mention extremist groups such as the BNP and the EDL.

We do not deny that as with all faiths and ideological groups there are a small minority who may hold extreme views, however that is no reason to tarnish the whole Muslim community who are peaceful, tolerant and very much integrated into the British way of life.

We would like to request you to take our concerns up with the Prime Minister and demand that he makes an apology for making unsubstantiated remarks to a section of the community that has over recent years been unfairly marginalised by both the media and senior figures in government.

We would further urge you to invite the Prime Minister to St Albans so that he may see for himself a vibrant and diverse society which he regrettably undermines in his speech.

ALUM UDDIN

On behalf of the Muslim community of St Albans

Budget stores are unwelcome here

SIR – So, a few short months after the opening of Pound World, another empty unit soon to be turned a similar shade of blue and lit by fluorescent tubing for the masses right next door will adorn our once exclusive high street selling bargain throwaway goods at less than a pound.

Just what is St Albans turning into? I know times are hard, retailers willing to pay unjustifiably big rents are hard to come by and everybody is looking to save a few bob but come on, two “pound shops”, and in St Albans of all places!

These paragons of penny-pinching parsimony are turning a great heritage city once famed for its exclusivity into a chavvyfied conurbation of Romford!

Next, we’ll have McDonald’s back, perhaps a KFC and a Cash Converters thrown in for good measure. While we’re at it, why not stick in a couple of pawn shops too?

Is SADC so cash-strapped that it is having to resort to bringing in the lower echelons of the retail world in order to make ends meet – or is this a sea-change in the forward thinking of our illustrious council – and their forward planning really envisages a high street scene akin to post-war Britain?

This is a modern era and yes, the country is in a parlous state – but despite what the doom-mongers say, there is still plenty of money out there being spent.

The question one asks therefore is: is there such a need for these type of shops in a city where the average demographic comprises of ABC1s and where the average salary is around £35,000 a year.

Hopefully, we’ll get out of this recession soon and the people who now walk into these wretched pound stores will realise that they are nothing but a transient fad selling stuff that lasts five minutes – a stain on the retail landscape for now but one nevertheless that will be washed away by the waters of time as people move back to buying quality!

BARRY CASHIN

Green Lane, St Albans

SIR – I notice that a 99p shop is due to open on St Peter’s Street right next to Pound World (expect 1p price wars).

Whereas St Albans was originally the Mayfair of the Monopoly board is the intention now to make us the Old Kent Road?

NEIL DRURY

Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

SIR – Next to Poundworld we now have a 99p Store. Dear God! St Albans is morphing into Hatfield!

TOBY O’DELL

The Ridgeway, St Albans

Questionnaire is flawed

SIR – The St Albans District questionnaire, which residents were asked to complete, relating to the ‘Consultation on the Strategy for Locating Future Development in the District’, begins with this question:

‘The strategy for locating development in the district sets out that most development will be in the main urban areas (i.e. St Albans, Harpenden and London Colney) because these are the most sustainable locations, as they contain the widest range of services and facilities.’

That is a leading, even a loaded question. Although one could, as I hope hundreds have joined me in so doing, tick ‘strongly disapprove’, the converse and valid question was not even included. This might have read:

‘The strategy for locating future development sets out that most development will be in and around the minor settlements, because only with extra housing will such locations be able to support the necessary range of services and facilities to render them sustainable.’

There is a strong case for building up smaller settlements to the point of what is termed ‘a balanced community’, with a reasonable provision of essential services. Otherwise one enlarges existing major areas, where services – school places; road congestion; medical care, etc. – are already under pressure, whilst those in outlying ‘unbalanced’ settlements must resort to the eco-unfriendly car to seek out their facilities in these very same places.

However, my point in writing is not to argue the case, urgent though it is, but to ask why the question was not raised in the consultation questionnaire? I raised the issue with the district planning office and received an extremely polite reply telling me my comment ‘will inform the creation of the next stage of the Core Strategy Process’. Unfortunately, unless many people have spotted the original omission, this option may continue not to figure boldly at the nest stage – and no one has explained to me why it wasn’t included at this previous stage.

ERIC MIDWINTER

Bloomfield Road

Harpenden

TV sex show is a step too far

SIR – Elizabeth Dumpleton commented at length on the Channel 4 Wednesday evening series The Joy of Teen Sex in last week’s Herts Advertiser.

I glimpsed it the other week, and was disgusted because they were showing footage of naked actors demonstrating different poses of the sex act, and it happned that these were homosexuals.

It seemed like porn to me. As a believing Christian I usually comment on what is good, but I just had to complain at this.

However, my advice is to complain to the right place. I was able to complain to Channel 4 on line, and I recommend this to anyone who feels strongly.

I even got a reply although I had to chuckle at it. They said: “We are sorry that you found this programme to have WENT too far! (my emphasis) ” Do sex programmes attract illiterates I wonder?

ELSPETH JACKMAN

Address supplied

Cut bureaucracy, not services

SIR – In April of last year, you very kindly printed my letter on the state of the roads in St Albans, in which I pointed out that it is local council leaders, and not central government, who have the most direct influence over our quality of life and, as such, great care needs to be taken to elect credible and responsible local leaders.

As an example, Labour-run Manchester City Council is proposing to close leisure centres, libraries, swimming pools and public toilets in an attempt to make savings to meet central government budget cuts.

It seems remarkable that councils are quick to cut those services that improve the quality of life and well being of their hard-pressed citizens, rather than shed the ever-increasing layers of bureaucracy, waste and highly-paid management and consultants.

I do hope our council leaders in St Albans do not try to fob us off with what they would regard as non-essential front line services just so that they can protect the jobs for the boys (and girls) whilst the majority of its citizens are trying desperately to make ends meet in these very difficult times!

ERROL JOHNSTON

Castle Road, St Albans

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