The Spectator

Spectator letters: Interpreting Islam, and Spectator-reading thieves

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Chapter and verse on Islam

Sir: Irshad Manji’s generally very sensible article on ‘Reclaiming Islam’ (29 March) suggests using the Qur’an sura 3:7 as a verse to challenge Islamists who claim a fundamentalist reading. She quotes the verse as saying that ‘God and God alone knows the full truth of how the Qu’ran ought to be interpreted’. I don’t speak Arabic, but unfortunately in my English translation this isn’t quite what the verse says. What it says is ‘only God and insightful people know their true meaning’. Sadly then the verse, I suspect, would be next to useless in challenging fundamentalist interpretations — as most Islamists would, I suspect, consider themselves to fall within the category of ‘insightful people’.

Fr David Palmer


Sir: I read with interest the article by Irshad Manji and in particular her quote of Chapter 3 verse 7 of the Qur’an which states that God and God alone knows the full truth of how the Qur’an ought to be interpreted. It reminded me of a minister in Northern Ireland being interviewed in the 1960s about the controversy about ‘Sunday swings’ that were locked up in observance of the so-called ‘Ulster Sunday’. The reporter tried to put across the viewpoint that people should have a choice. If they did not want to go to the parks on a Sunday, then fine, but why should people who did want to go be stopped from doing so?

He was somewhat nonplussed when the minister replied: ‘But, my dear man, I know what God wants!’ Clearly not only Muslim extremists have a hotline to the Almighty.

John McErlean


Majorly into adverbs

Sir: My friend Miriam Gross frets about the disappearance of the adverb, as in ‘He’s doing terrific’ (Diary, 29 March). She would be less concerned if (as I admit does not seem very likely) she watched bicycle racing on television. There she would hear the great Sean Kelly, as commentator on the Paris–Nice which he won so often, or the Milan–San Remo, or the Tour de France, saying that ‘It’s a majorly important stage,’ and other adverbially rich turns of phrase.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft


Don’t do it, Boris!

Sir: Charles Moore (Notes, 29 March) has a point in suggesting that Boris Johnson ‘should take a leaf out of President Putin’s book’, but there are limits. The thought of the Mayor of London stripped to the waist with his arms around the neck of a horse kept me awake all last night.

Robert Vincent


Dog wars

Sir: We read with interest Josie Appleton’s ‘The Battle against the Dog Police’ (15 March). In March, dog owners in Holland Park got a whiff of some new ‘dogs on leads’ orders. An Inspector Rumble had authorised new rules on Holland House Terrace, a place where dogs had previously run free. A parks officer laughed that the inspector had ‘told us to expect trouble!’ — and indeed these officers have been poised to pounce on dog owners. The reason given by the Parks Police was ‘too much dog waste’. This is categorically not the case in Holland Park. Besides, how can putting a dog on a lead persuade it to defecate less, or encourage an antisocial minority who refuse to ‘bag up’ to change their ways?

Our MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind made a representation on our behalf to the Parks Police. He received a letter from Claire Rai, ‘Head of Community Safety’ in Kensington and Chelsea, which read: ‘This means all dogs are required to be kept on a lead at all times in Holland Park... There is currently a proposal to amend the Dog Control Order with the designation that dogs must be kept on leads on both any land within the administrative area of RBKC which is open to the air and all public roads, adjoining footways and verges. This amendment has been approved by councillors. Public consultation will commence shortly.’

There remains a sword of Damocles over the heads of all dog owners. Earlier this month, we started an online petition that asks that we give dogs off-lead areas in parks where they can run free; that we give dog owners a formal voice in consultation; and that we amend Dog Control Orders to better suit the needs of owners. Dog owners would prefer not to ‘fight back’ but instead collaborate constructively with the authorities. If readers would like copies of original documents, please email

Professor John Cosgrove et al

Friends of Dogs in Parks, London

It wasn’t Hawthorn’s fault

Sir: In accusing him of being ‘the culprit’ responsible for the disastrous crash at Le Mans in which 84 people died, Taki casts an immense slur on the reputation of Mike Hawthorn, one of England’s greatest sportsmen of the 20th century (High life, 22 March). Perhaps you could give space to the verdict of the official commission of inquiry, which concluded, after examining all the evidence for several months, that no one person could be held responsible. Fact is, Taki, motor racing is dangerous and accidents do happen.

Mike Gross Braunton, Devon

Thieves with taste

Sir: The Shrewsbury Town Centre branch of W.H. Smith has removed The Spectator from its magazine racks, and you have to ask for it at one of the checkouts. When I asked why, the answer was that The Spectator was the most frequently stolen magazine of those they sell. I wonder if this reflects the quality of the writing or the villainy of the readership?

David Everington