This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Chef's experience deserves sympathy
Having read the article ("Fury at star's comments on city muslims", November 16) regarding the comments made by Clarissa Dickson Wright about her experiences with certain members of the Muslim community in her latest book, I must admit that my sympathies in this case are with her.
Leicester does have a fair-sized Muslim community, as well as numerous other religious groups and foreign nationals, and as such, multi-culturalism has got to be the order of the day if people are to co-exist together in relative harmony.
This, however, does not mean that sexism and downright rudeness from either side of the divide is ever acceptable, regardless of religious tradition or the interpretation of such traditions made either in religious texts or simply handed down verbally from generation to generation.
Miss Dickson Wright points out in the article that none of the men would talk to her because to them she was an English female, and in their culture they do not talk to females they don't know.
In my experience, Leicester's Muslim community is just as helpful as any other when being asked for directions or aid, but then again I am a man and Miss Dickson Wright is a woman.
I must admit that if I had been treated with the same amount of apparent discourtesy and rudeness from virtually everyone I asked directions from, then I would not be afraid to say so, or who to point the finger of blame at.
Also, let us not forget that Miss Dickson Wright was born into a time in English culture when courtesy, respect and good manners ruled the day, and the term 'political correctness' had not yet replaced them.
In a multi-cultural society, exceptions to some traditional rules have to made, and a good rule of thumb surely has to be this: "To be courteous and helpful to any one in distress regardless of race, gender or any other social difference."
Rather than chastising Miss Dickson Wright for having the backbone to express her displeasure over such downright rudeness, surely it would be much better for representatives of the Muslim community to apologise for the behaviour of the small minority that she encountered, and to invite her to sample the excellent delights of Muslim culinary dishes with perhaps the hope that she may write yet another book extolling the tastes of a true multi-cultural tradition.
Alan R Pendragon, South Knighton