Sir: How sad is it that, in what turned out to be the last years of his life, the great Bill Leak had to face serious and disruptive threats to his life from Islamists who violently objected to some of his cartoons and thus rejected the whole western liberal concept of free speech. In order to lessen the threat from Islamo-Fascists and other enemies of freedom I would urge all newspapers and other media outlets to publicly commit to joining in solidarity with every journal or journalist who, like Bill Leak, falls foul of these tyrants. By joining in solidarity I do not mean just supportive words I mean re-publication. If all round the free world tens of thousands of newspapers and other media outlets commit to republishing the cartoons or articles, the enemies of freedom fail.
Freedom-loving people throughout the democratic world need to stand together against threats, bullying and censorship. During the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill told the Nazis “Do your worst and we shall do our best”. This is the attitude that the democratic nations and all who believe in freedom must adopt towards those who would attempt to silence and terrorise us.
Dr Bill Anderson
Surrey Hills, Vic.
Sir: So terribly sad – Bill Leak has died in hospital of a suspected heart attack. This was a talent the country could not afford to lose. I hope that we may now get some action on 18C with the repeal of the salient clause and the excision of the contentious words in Bill’s honour. The revision could be called Leak’s Law.
Sir: The argument that Islam has strong feminist credentials (based on what the Prophet Mohammed did in the 7th century) is not unfamiliar. But it’s exasperating, considering the situation of women now in Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc, as Ida Lichter notes in her excellent article (Islam’s women, 4 March).
If people really believe the Prophet moved to improve the lot of women, I wish they’d emulate that aspect of his project. But I don’t hear raised Muslim voices insisting that – despite conventions under Islamic law – the Prophet would have wanted women in the 21st century to have equal rights in marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance and so on.
Pope Francis’s mission
Sir: Despite Damian Thompson’s intimations (‘The plot against the Pope’, 11 March), Pope Francis is going nowhere except onwards and upwards. Jorge Bergoglio has a loving family background which gives him a mature, balanced personality. He is gifted with a fine, open mind, underpinned by an Ignatian spirituality which reminds him of his sinfulness and his constant need for God’s grace. He also has vast experience of the pastoral ministry in the Buenos Aires slums.
No doubt there is a ‘Borgia’ element in the Vatican. This lust for power is not at all what the crucified Christ encouraged in His disciples. As the Pope presses on with the belated but vital reform of the Catholic church, we pray, and he must watch his back.
Father John Buckley
When to jump ship
Sir: Surely Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have called for a second referendum too early? If, as they seem to believe, Brexit will be a disaster for the UK economy, then why don’t they wait for that disaster to unfold and then call a referendum when they could almost be guaranteed to win it? As it is, we will probably still be negotiating the terms of our exit next autumn and it must be doubtful that the Scots will be keen to make the decision to jump ship before they know whether it is likely to hit the rocks or not.
Were warnings heeded?
Sir: Discussing a possible second Scottish independence referendum, your Scotland editor, Alex Massie, writes: ‘The economic warnings before the Brexit vote were equally virulent, yet made no impact’ (‘Back into battle’, 4 March). I don’t know what evidence he has for that. My impression, and I was involved in the Brexit campaign, was that they had a perceptible impact, and that had they not been widely (albeit erroneously) believed, the Leave majority would have been considerably larger.
House of Lords, London SW1
A rocket for the Trust
Sir: May I add something to Harry Mount’s account of the National Trust’s activities? (‘Dumbing down the house’, 11 March) In January, the National Trust decided to close George Stephenson’s birthplace — a cottage near Wylam — for the whole of 2017. Attributing this to ‘rising costs and a decline in visitor numbers’, the National Trust described the closure as ‘temporary’, adding: ‘Throughout the year we will be looking at other ways to engage with visitors and tell the story of young George.’ Aside from the question of what form this engagement will take, I would have thought that less interpretative signage in the south might have meant funds were available to keep open this historically significant property in the north. The Trust’s ‘Visit the North-East’ webpage suggests: ‘Lose yourself in the dunes of the Northumberland Coast.’ Would it be too much to hope that some of its directors follow this advice?