What is liberalism?

Good to hear voices of quiet reason in this long-running debate on extremism.

Trevor Grundy and the journalists he quotes in his article on David Cameron’s July 20 speech in Birmingham (Asian Affairs, August 2015) are spot on with their fears that it may be the first step on a slippery slope.

Cameron is, of course, fair in some of what is says – most notably regarding young Muslims’ alienation from British cultural life – but his arguments were narrow in their analysis of why some turn to violence, and have an Achilles’ heel in that he, and others around him, fail to define ‘non-violent extremism’. How are we supposed to steer between our long-held and very British values of free speech and political dissent, and compliance with government policy?

Also, since when did social conservatism become such a crime? The Jehovah’s Witnesses, among other Christian groups, espouse most of the socially conservative views held by many Muslims in this country, yet they are also pacifists. So do these count as ‘extreme’ views in our seemingly anything-goes society, even if they will always be ‘non-violent’?

Come on, liberal Britain – let’s live up to our name and not insist that everyone conform to some kind of liberal dictatorship, which is starting not to look like such an oxymoron.

Martin Latter

Belfast

Seminar success

Sir

Heartiest congratulations to everyone in The Democracy Forum team on organising such a great event with such a large number of very intelligent and famous people (Democracy Forum seminar ‘How committed is the West to rooting out the sources of terrorism’, July 21 2015).

I will do my utmost to send the story and the photographs very widely to cover at least four continents, if not the whole world.

Please make sure that I stay on your mailing list, and with very best wishes for future events.

Professor Harbhajan Singh

Chair, London Faiths Network

Dear Sir

It was good to be with you at the Democracy Forum conference on Tuesday (21 July). Thanks for inviting me.

The conference was a great success. It is of course a very popular topic and should be discussed more often at every opportunity to find a solution to this growing problem of terrorism – call it the jihadi movement, the Taliban, ISIS. We are really living through a global war being inflicted in any part of the world. Millions of innocent people are suffering.

The contributions to the conference were very good and enlightening.

Kind regards,

Lord Diljit Rana

US still top dog

Excellent analysis by David Watts on Professor Joseph Nye’s China outlook, though I would have also liked to see some consideration of the country’s external and systemic problems, which will surely, along with its numerous internal and demographic problems, impede its quest to surpass America as the global superpower.

While China has a growing number of economic partners, it has few dependable allies. To satisfy its ever-increasing appetite for vital commodities, China will have to reinforce its footholds in more countries, many of which (eg Myanmar, Libya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe) are highly unstable. And Vietnam and the Philippines, small as they are, have publicly challenged Chinese maritime claims and actions.

In addition, the US, for all its faults, maintains its image as a liberty-respecting nation, unlike China. In the matter of power versus influence, the country that wields its power more effectively will exercise more influence.

Sanjay Badami

Mumbai

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