Friday 13 December 2019

Letters: Decline of Arab world highlighted by chaos in Middle East

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Baretle village, which is controlled by the Islamic State, in Khazir, on the edge of Mosul
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Baretle village, which is controlled by the Islamic State, in Khazir, on the edge of Mosul

The unhinged behaviour of the so-called "Islamic State", detached from all considerations of rational purpose or intent, may incline us to forget that the great Arabian cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo were once beacons of enlightenment, tolerance and trade.

The Arab world, one of civilization's great sources of learning, introduced us to the foundations of mathematics, science and philosophy, but has now become a toxic mix of fundamentalist religious beliefs, autocratic dynastic government and steady disassociation from the rest of the world.

I remember as a child being spellbound by the 'Arabian Nights', where I was introduced to tales that have influenced writers through the ages. It was a world of excitement and imagination. Children continue to be beguiled by 'Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp', the 'Voyages of Sinbad', and 'Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves'.

One of the least-understood aspects of the weakening of a distinctive Arab culture is its relationship to the development of Islam, as it steadily corroded the Arabian response to the world around it. At the extreme end fanatical jihadis, in combining Earthly and spiritual authority, seek to eliminate state boundaries in order to establish a world-wide Caliphate. The notion of democracy sits uneasily with their world view.

What has the West provided? The disastrous invasion of Iraq left a legacy of repression, economic stagnation and the intensification of mistrust of our world, particularly as represented by America. Brand America is very hard to sell in the context of the unlawful detention and torture in Guantanamo.

Here was a crass failure to act in accordance with the principles that were publicly so robustly espoused.

The breakdown of Arab culture should lead us to examine more critically our own way of life and the extent to which it has taken a direction that befits us as humans. We seem to be perpetually bewitched by vague ideals of national origin and destiny, but hesitant about confronting our share of present, unpalatable reality.

Philip O'Neill, Oxford, England

One is not amused

Information has been relayed to me from a source on the British royal staff that Queen Elizabeth is in a severe tizzy over the possibility of a "Yes" to an independent Scotland.

My informant's intelligence implies that there are many sleepless nights in Windsor Castle due to the stark possibility that Britain is shrinking faster than the Arctic circle, a condition that is blamed on the ozone hole getting bigger. But that is no consolation to the royalist supporters who can only blame today's resurrection of Robert the Bruce, Alex Salmond. He does not resemble the hole in the ozone layer in any way, but is on course to create a giant hole in London's exchequer book.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Calls for help have been received by the followers of the Ulster Covenant to drum up support for the brethren in the Better Together campaign, pushed by the hapless Alistair Darling.

A low cloud has appeared over "Ulster says No" territory, signalling the start of a migration that is akin to that of the wildebeest in the Serengeti. The Orangemen who often speak of their close affinity for their homeland of Scotland are intending to side with the English queen against the birthplace of their forefathers, who perhaps fought and routed the English invader at the battle of Bannockburn. Strange days.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall

Time to alter final ticket policy

Now that lightening has struck three times, might it be time for the GAA to adopt a 'retain-your-ticket-stub' policy and allow those who attended the first match the chance to see the replay.

Conan Doyle, Kilkenny city

Hurling final a cause for pride

Sir, Let us hope that the rest of the world was able to view the scintillating All-Ireland hurling final to form some idea of what the real Ireland is like. I was one of only two Kilkenny supporters (the other being my son) in the Clyde Court Hotel this afternoon where mesmerised American tourists were supporting the so-called underdogs with cries of 'Up the Blues'.

We can hardly hope to see a finer display of hurling. How pleasing to see the replay designated for Croke Park on September 27, if the players have sufficient time to recover from their heroic endeavours.

In the football semi-final Mayo were surely defeated in the end by sheer exhaustion in the second period of extra time in the replay against Kerry (who were deserving winners).

May I suggest that we send the two hurling finalists as missionaries to the northern counties to teach them the rudiments of this wonderful game, played with superlative courage and pride this afternoon.

Such an occasion must surely be a source of pride for Irish men and women throughout the world, and a source of envy to the rest of us.

Dr Gerald Morgan, Trinity College, Dublin 2

Austerity shown to be futile

Obviously, the pumping of more than €500 billion into the EU economy by the European Central Bank means the horrendous austerity hell nations have been are going through has been meaningless, if this could have been done as far back as 2008.

We are led by a group of damn fools who see citizens as mere cash machines. Grr.

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork

EU ineptitude on display

They have squeezed the last drop of blood out of us, and practically sucked the financial marrow from our bones.

Alas, all they have succeeded in doing, despite all that pain and hardship, is arriving right back where we started.

Any wonder Europe's economies are flat-lining when the cure has killed the patient?

Now that the death certificate has been drawn up these geniuses - whom we do not elect, but who nonetheless control our commercial universe - seem to be on the verge of some kind of epiphany.

They know that they have made something of a hames of the whole business.

All that anguish and sacrifice has achieved nothing, so they have hit upon plan B.

Print more money and do away with interest rates.

The banks can throw money around again like snuff at the wake, and there will be some version of quantitative easing.

Further evidence, as if it were needed, that if the EU is the answer it must have been a silly question!

D O'Brien, Connemara, Co Galway

Israel should look to itself

The Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, criticises pro-Palestinian protesters by saying that they "show no respect for democracy, for dialogue and for the hospitality for which this country is famous".

May I suggest that he promptly takes himself off to Palestine and helps promote such ideals, particularly among that particular groups of his fellow men who are clearly not familiar with such notions as applying to their neighbours.

Ted O'Keeffe, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Irish Independent

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