Reflections on the Barcelona attacks | Letters | World news

We should always remember that the difference between liberal democracies and jihadi terrorists is that we embrace life and freedom, and theirs is a death cult intent on destroying freedom (Fighting terror means protecting freedom, 19 August). In the light of the dreadful attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, there are lessons to be learned from Spanish history. The golden age of Spain from the year 711, under moderate Muslim rulers, heralded an age of relative harmony between the different faiths of the country. Christians and Jews were granted “dhimmi” status, and allowed to practice their religion. By contrast, the radical Islamic Almohades, who assumed control of the country in the 12th century, persecuted other faiths. This pattern was repeated by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, with the Spanish Inquisition of 1478. Societies will only thrive if the ruling faith makes place for people of other faiths, but unfortunately this simple notion is anathema to fundamentalist Islam.
Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott emphasised how we divide the world into “me” and “not me” from our earliest moments, whether through smell, age, class, gender, sexuality, religion, or politics. Multiple differences and beliefs jostle side by side in a successful liberal democracy, which reflects on past history. Those “believers” who tortured and killed non-believers in previous centuries are not seen as holy in this century, although as Afua Hirsch points out (Opinion, 22 August) we have not adequately rethought our slave-owning history.

The danger we are now witnessing is the process by which a small group of largely young people in transitional vulnerable periods of life, often refugees or children of refugees, come to feel they are without adequate identity and community. They are dangerously vulnerable to a pressure to fight to the death in order to die in company that they feel recognises them as having a higher purpose.

Thanks to Peter Kosminsky, who has always been willing to face the big issues with intelligence and passion. It is indeed sad that honourable people could be retraumatised by the (albeit censored) sights shown. But full sights of executions and floggings carry on globally out of western sight, though in plain sight online. Having a TV channel providing such intelligent and painful political drama as C4’s The State (Report, 22 August) is a hallmark of a successful democracy. The task of the reflective adult (of whatever belief or race) is to manage the tension between me and not-me.
Dr Valerie Sinason
London

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