Sir: Michael Karam’s article (Ya Allah!, 16 September) is timely. Many Westerners seem to be unaware that there is such a person as a Christian Arab (a Christian who speaks Arabic as their first language), yet there are millions. At the time of the Crusades, Christians were a majority in the Near East. In 1914 about 25 per cent of the Near and Middle East was still Christian. The percentage is now much lower because events have forced massive Christian emigration, especially to North America.
The serious consequences of this ignorance were not only felt by the Christian Iraqi removed from a flight after another passenger heard him speaking Arabic. The West’s ill-thought-out interventions in the Arab and wider Muslim world have had dire repercussions for the Christians of the region, who have become targets of Muslim revenge.
It was clear to me at the time of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq that President Bush and Blair had no idea that there was a Christian community in Iraq, nor that it would be put in extreme peril once the invasion started. Today it has almost disappeared. The final betrayal has been the inadequate response of the West to the plight of Christian refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In justice they should be given priority as genuine asylum seekers; instead, politically correct immigration authorities seem to be prioritising Muslims and the Christians are in danger of being forgotten.
The Mass in Maltese
Sir: Michael Karam is quite right to point out that the Arabic word for God is shared by all major faiths represented in the Middle East. But one doesn’t have to travel outside Europe to hear that designation used hundreds of times daily, and by non-Arabs. In very Catholic Malta and Gozo, there are more than 1,000 masses a week, most in Maltese. As a first-time visitor last year I was delighted to listen to the familiar forms recited in that fascinating language and to join with the people saying: ‘[I believe in] Alla.’ It felt good to do so.
Dr Clare Hornsby
Out of the race
Sir: Visitors to any British town centre will have no trouble spotting all manner of thriving businesses built up by immigrants. And anyone working in the private sector will doubtless encounter high-flying second- and third-generationers as colleagues and managers.
Yet why does much of the public sector still feel so different? By veering into mental health and crime statistics, Munira Mirza (Theresa May’s phoney war, 16 September) risks missing the point. While institutions are not necessarily racist (or sexist or homophobic for that matter), they are often ossified after years of dominance by narrow cliques disconnected from a fast-changing wider society. If Mrs May’s race ‘audit’ can begin to tackle this, it will achieve something worthwhile.
Sir: Every week I turn to ‘Ancient and Modern’ in the hope that the Roman soldier who heads the column will have been issued with a smartphone. He will never conquer the barbarians with such outdated technology. Perhaps Peter Jones could put a word in Caesar’s ear?
The Taki effect
Sir: Taki does not seem to realise just how famous and influential he really is (High Life, 16 September). In his column of 9 September he urged readers to obtain my book Facing the Persians. It deals, among other poems, with the minds of his revered Spartans at Thermopylae. Within days it had sold out, requiring urgent reprinting, with requests coming both nationally and worldwide, from Germany to western Canada. Unrecognised indeed!
A fat lot of good
Sir: I write to disagree with Theo White’s proposal that government should interfere in any way with people’s choice of food (Letters, 16 September). In 1979, a report came out which suggested that we should cut down on sugar, cut down on salt, cut down on saturated fat, and increase fibre in our diets. Professor John Yudkin also wrote a book, Sweet, White and Deadly, which set out how bad sugar is for us. It was widely publicised, and as a nutritionist I had to write a review of it when at university. I concluded then as now, that sugar is the culprit for many of our woes. Our enemy is sugar.
But do I want a sugar tax? No. People have to make their own decisions and take responsibility for themselves. Did either of these or any other books and articles make a scrap of difference? Not a bit. Despite plenty of research and reports, the public take notice of either what suits them, or what suits the media. In the case of salt and fat, subsequent research has shown that all the hype about cutting down on saturated fat and salt was misguided.
In the case of sugar, Professor Yudkin’s book has been swept under the carpet and the result is the massive increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Until we get away from lobbyists and fad diets, and start to believe the results of proper research, we will never improve our eating habits.
Sir: Any of the 1,600 inhabitants of Barbuda who take The Spectator will
be surprised to read that it is a British overseas territory (‘Portrait of the Week’, 16 September). Barbuda, along with its sister island Antigua, became an independent country in 1981.