Dear Editor, The news that the Government plans to spend £12.5 million; of which £800k is to come to Birmingham; to persuade disaffected Muslim youth not to become radicalised is welcome news for all of us but shows the distinct lack of joined up thinking for which Governments are notorious.
One would have thought that after years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland caused in part by segregating communities and educating them based on their religion we would have learned our lesson. However, the Government still continues down the path of establishing more and more faith schools. This despite all the research that shows, given similar intakes of pupils, faith schools perform no better and often worse than secular ones. Instead of ensuring all our children get the equal education that they deserve we continue to reinforce the psychology that says I am better/different than you because I am a (place your chosen belief system here).
Based on their one-sided and faith-based education, some young Muslims already think they know what our society stands for and they reject it. Acts that have been carried out in Britain based on insular faith-based education show that some people will kill themselves and anyone who happens to be near to them because of it.
The answer then surely must be that we have to show that it is possible to live a worthwhile and moral life without religion. This applies to all religions that promulgate faith over reason, not just Islam. It has taken years for the UK to become a primarily secular society and many years since the state murdered people because of their beliefs. Having come this far we all need to be very aware that faith-based initiatives are a retrograde step and we should protest state funding of any such scheme because it always comes with strings attached.
Whatever beliefs people have they should be their beliefs and should not be supported by the state using our money. Religious education paid for by the state should always be education about beliefs including the secular, not indoctrination in one particular creed. If after being exposed to other evidence to the contrary people reject their existing faith they should not be murdered for doing so as is currently demanded by Islam and has been carried out historically and hysterically by other religions, especially Christianity.
To this end it would make sense for this money to be used to promote the existence of groups like the National Secular Society which promotes the separation of religion from state finance and the British Humanist Association. Most importantly it should support the council for ex-Muslims in the UK (www.ex-muslim.org.uk) extremely brave people who, under threat of death, reject Islam and promote the worthwhile cultural aspects of being Muslim without the necessity of having a god.
A further benefit of this exposure would be that people from all creeds can see it is possible to live the best life that they can because it is the right thing to do and not because it is demanded by some invisible deity.
Atheist from the age of being able to have rational thoughts and Humanist by choice.
The butt stops here in a city of excellence
Dear Editor, Coming from outside the area, we have had the great pleasure of spending a few days in Birmingham three or four times in the past 12 or so months.
We were fortunate to enjoy its magnificent architecture; take in a performance at the Hippodrome; enjoy a couple of fabulous free afternoon jazz concerts in the foyer of the Symphony Hall; slowly wander around the magnificent art gallery; take in the sights and sounds of the city before a stroll along the central waterside area and a pint or two in a real ale pub off Broad Street.
One feels this is a city with plenty to offer everyone and that the rate payers of Birmingham have much to thank the council for. It has made a first class job of developing the canalside areas that attract local residents, people from all over the UK and foreign tourists alike in walking, cycling, fishing and boating: but how farsighted of them to find yet another use for this precious resource and allow the smokers that venture on to the balcony of the Walkabout bar for a cigarette to use the water below as a giant ashtray.
Out they come in droves on to the veranda, clutching their drinks of choice (mostly drunk from the neck of a bottle) to light up. Some are in everyday wear, others dress as fairies, brides, vampires, policemen, schoolteachers, cowboys, Brownies, St Trinian's schoolgirls or the cast of the Sound of Music (did they ever solve a problem like Maria?).
While all are united in their desire for a cigarette and the manner in which they dispose of their fag ends, one thing that differentiates these specimens of human fancy dress shop jetsam is how far they can flick their butts into the canal and the skill they employ in so doing.
Some adopt an underarm action making perhaps only a couple of feet; others, more adept at the game (obviously visitors to Edgbaston), prefer the legbreak technique which typically gains four or five yards; while the real experts appear to be those who can continue a conversation, look in the opposite direction to the intended trajectory and flick the stub from between thumb and forefinger to land somewhere in the middle of the pond. Not once, not twice, but three times or more being quite common.
What style, what expertise, what panache? If ever this became an Olympic sport, we could take gold, silver and bronze, not only in the individual free-style events but also in the men's and women s doubles, the mixed doubles and the team medleys, such is the dedication on show here.
Why stop here, though?
Why not three legged jettison a take away meal races; all comers middle distance fly tipping; inter county refrigerator hurling or international supermarket trolley polo?
We're bound to have untapped talent waiting to be discovered in all these disciplines and there's plenty more room in the canals after all.
So, congratulations Birmingham, a marvellous city with so much to offer and a council that obviously leaves no stone unturned to ensure all its citizens are catered for.
We salute you.
Experience to help the next generation
Dear Editor, As The Prince's Trust celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Business Programme, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to our volunteer business mentors, staff, supporters and donors who have made it possible for thousands of disadvantaged young people to launch businesses and boost the West Midland's economy.
In the last five years alone, The Prince's Trust Business Programme has helped more than 2,500 young people from across the region to set up in business through low-interest loans, grants and mentoring for up to three years with access to a new Business Club launched last week.
Fifty-eight per cent of Prince's Trust businesses are still trading into their third year, which compares favourably to the national average. This is despite the fact that the young people we help have struggled at school, have been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law.
However, national funding for the Programme has never been more uncertain. Last year, we supported 40 per cent fewer young entrepreneurs into business than in 1999 and less than any other year for over a decade.
Nationally, the Programme costs £1 million per month but each pound invested in the loan generates over two pounds in return which directly benefits the region's economy.
I am appealing to the region's best business brains to pass on their experience to the next generation or help towards offering start-up finance to some of the West Midlands' brightest young minds. By working together to invest in our young people, we can add real value to the communities we live in and to our region's economy.
The Prince's Trust regional director for the West Midlands..SUPL: