Dr Anne Summers on the blowback theory, Alan Newland on the role of culture, Peter Cave on Saudi-UK relations, and Neil Burgess on faith schools

Dr Myriam François (Making this about British values will stigmatise Muslims, 5 June) trots out the familiar line that UK military involvement in the Middle East prompts “violent blowback on home soil”. Quoting Islamic State on Britain’s “transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”, she attributes “tangible goals” to this movement. But this is to ignore the decades-long contest between Sunni and Shia Muslims for dominance within some nation states and within the region as a whole. It would be reasonable to ask “the lands of which Muslims?” when yet another massacre of parents and children takes place in, say, an Iraqi market. There may well be an argument for outside parties to withdraw and leave the different sects to it – concentrating on blocking arms supplies would certainly be more useful. Undoubtedly, western intervention hitherto has facilitated the exponential expansion of these conflicts; and what are probably emotionally disturbed and/or socially disadvantaged individuals in this country have been manipulated into believing and acting on Isis’s simplistic and mendacious narrative. Academics and others should be wary of endorsing it.
Dr Anne Summers
Birkbeck, University of London

• Myriam Francois is quite wrong to mock the idea that art and culture convey values (“What’s the reasoning, exactly? If only these men had read a little more Jane Austen, they couldn’t possibly have considered the prospect of mass murder?”). Indeed, Plato and Aristotle thought they did. Arousing pity and fear – through the likes of a genius like Jane Austen – is emotionally, psychologically and ethically beneficial to us all. If the men who carried out the Manchester and London atrocities had experienced more of it, they might have thought twice before they carried out mass murder. “British” values are indeed superior to those of many other countries, which is why so many people with a wide variety of faiths and beliefs, including millions of Muslims, have chosen this country and are proud to call themselves British.
Alan Newland

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