My "Thought for the Week" shared a small, but important, point that many people miss. That is the need to be honest about the limitations of your own knowledge, but also recognising when other people are not competent to discuss something. Refusing to debate the ignorant will save you time and is better for your blood pressure.
Muslims were a major part of Britain's Armed Forces in both World Wars. However their story has largely been forgotten. This matters for community cohesion. The NMWMT will commemorate Muslim servicemen and servicewomen, and tell their stories, thereby bringing people closer together.
I am often asked why Islamic finance uses secular legal systems instead of using Islamic law. The reasons are very practical ones. Traditional Islamic law ("fiqh") suffered many centuries of non-development and is therefore not adequate for modern commercial life.
Money is free when you receive it, and it is not taken away in future. Free money is rare. However the government addition to your Lifetime ISA is free money in my opinion. Provided you are confident of not breaching the Lifetime ISA rules, and fall in the qualifying age range, the free money makes a Lifetime ISA extremely attractive. I have illustrated this with some modelling.
Islamic finance originated in Egypt while today the main jurisdictions are the Gulf states and Malaysia. However I believe that the UK and North America lead on Islamic finance innovation. I offer three possible reasons.
The Government is undertaking a major review of corporate governance and auditing. This could lead to the biggest changes in this field for a generation. I gave a short talk to the CRSA forum with my perspective on the issues. I believe that the proposals do not go far enough. I recommend that power to appoint the auditor should be taken away from major companies and given to an independent regulator.
Short selling is an important part of modern securities markets. Shariah scholars consider short selling to be religiously prohibited. I disagree with their religious analysis for the reasons explained on the page. Ultimately each Muslim must decide the religious question from themselves, as they are individually answerable to God. I have never engaged in short selling because I consider the risks outweigh the potential gains.
I spoke about anti-Muslim hatred at an event for the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. Some forms of bad behaviour can be, and are, legislated against. However other bad behaviour requires changing people's attitudes. Each Muslim is an ambassador for Islam, whether or not they want to be one. My video presentation also distinguishes between "old" and "new" anti-Muslim hatred.
BBC Radio Manchester asked me to replace my planned "Thought for the Week" with one about Prince Philip, given his very recent death. I focused it around the life choice he made when he decided to marry Princess Elizabeth of Britain.
To draw up a realistic balance sheet, companies need to discount their long term liabilities to present value. Generally accepted accounting practice is to discount liabilities at risk free rates derived from the prices of government bonds. Instead IFRS 17 allows insurance companies to discount illiquid long term liabilities using theoretical rates that would be earned on illiquid risk free assets, even though such assets do not exist. This allows an undesirable degree of flexibility to insurance companies, and the theoretical discount rates used are impossible to verify. Discounting at these higher theoretical rates can have a very significant effect on the reported shareholders' funds. At the very least, insurance companies should be required to quantify the impact of discounting at these higher theoretical rates. I explained this in an article for "The Private Investor" which is reproduced on the page.
Many younger people value freedom of speech less than my generation does. That is especially true if they live in a country which is not as free as the UK or USA. I gave a short interview to a Singapore school pupil about why I regard freedom of speech as vital. You can watch the recording. I have also transcribed his questions. This page also reproduces the UK law on the incitement of racial hatred and the incitement of religious hatred, explaining why they differ.
Freedom of speech is vital and needs protecting. At the same time, society needs to guard against hate speech that promotes attacks on individuals. Drawing the boundary is particularly difficult when it comes to religion. Where does freedom to criticise religion cross the line and become an attack on people who follow that religion? I spoke at a Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats fringe meeting during the September 2020 Lib Dem Conference which addressed this question. You can watch the recording on the page.
This 39-minute video podcast covered current politics as well as past changes in my religious beliefs and my political beliefs. Some people claim to never change any of their beliefs. Conversely I am open about how mine have changed during my life. I have transcribed the questions to provide an overview of the podcast.
I have known Michael Davies since 2015, before he founded the Parallel Histories project. Parallel Histories has a methodology for covering very contested histories (e.g. Palestine, Northern Ireland) for maximum educational value. He recently asked if I could be interviewed by one of his team. The interview turned out to be very wide ranging. I have now published it on YouTube and on my website. I have transcribed the questions to provide an overview of the podcast.
Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad changed the world more than anyone, but only because people chose to follow them. If dissatisfied with the world, you need to take action within your resources, and find others to collaborate with.
Many countries, including the UK, tax capital gains at a lower rate than income. Private equity houses have special participation rights in the profits (above a hurdle rate) of the private equity funds they run. This is called "carried interest." Executives at private equity houses are rewarded for their work partly by salary and partly by a share in the firm's rights to "carried interest." This means they pay less tax than if they received cash bonuses.
Scientific knowledge of the body and its molecular processes is advancing very rapidly. The author is at the forefront of this research at Harvard University's Medical School. He explains our current understanding of ageing, and how it might be delayed or even reversed. Reading the book has made me change my lifestyle. Reading it, and acting upon the new knowledge, could extend your life.
My January 2021 Islamic Finance News column was inspired by the turn of the year. I found myself thinking about where Islamic finance needs to go. I focused on the fact that Islamic finance still cannot satisfy many of the financial needs that conventional finance does. While innovation is happening, much more is needed.
His role at Yale University's endowment fund shows how well Charles Ellis understands investing over the long term. In this book, he gives clear guidance that can be implemented by anyone. He focuses on understanding yourself and your objectives. Everyone should read this book before committing themselves to any investments.
Top 20 pages
The pages I most recommend listed in alphabetical order.
If you want to understand the Quran and are not an expert in Classical Arabic, you need a translation. Where do you start? I recommend some translations, as well as commenting on some other translations.
This conflict has endured for over 60 years. It matters because of the status of Jerusalem and because many see the conflict as a religious one. Achieving peace requires difficult concessions from both parties but a two state agreement is the only realistically acceptable solution. It is essential for Israel to avoid policies that would make a two state solution impossible.
Blasphemy features prominently in the news from time to time. Many believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence everywhere, as it already is in some countries. In the UK the blasphemy law only ever applied to Christianity, and has been abolished. I believe it should remain abolished. In my view Islam does not prescribe any penalty in this world for blasphemy.
Like many other Muslims, I am fed up with hearing the refrain "Why do Muslims not speak up and condemn the terrible things that are done in the name of Islam?" The reality is that Muslims have condemned terrorism time and again. However quite often the media gives very little coverage to the condemnations. They may get a slight mention, and then they are forgotten. Accordingly I have created this page and will add to it from time to time condemnations that I regard as particularly significant.
Being overweight has health risks and also makes career success harder. After receiving unwelcome news in my annual medical, over the year to July 2014 I reduced my weight simply by counting calories. It was much easier than I expected. You can read how to do it, or watch my 28 minute PowerPoint presentation with audio.
My 51 minute lecture with slides given at Finchley Progressive Synagogue. It covers both the common interests of British Jews and Muslims and the causes of tension and division. I explain in detail how the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester was designed to sidestep the problems, and why it has succeeded over the last 11 years.
In April 2016 I gave the second Annual Religious Freedom Lecture of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society UK and Ireland Chapter. The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 18 sets the global standard for freedom of thought, conscience and religion and it has my full support. I used the lecture to explain how the Declaration is consistent with the Quran. My approach was to first explain the basic sources of Islam before going on to show how some key principles of Islam, which are clearly stated in the Quran, support religious freedom. 40 min audio recording with self-advancing PowerPoint slides.
Having a successful marriage requires taking it seriously, and making the right decisions, both before and after the wedding. While my wife and I have been happily married for many years, I have also observed many other people in unhappy marriages. Hence I have written 10 specific pieces of advice aimed at Muslim women. 8 of those are also relevant to Muslim men.
In this 22 minute acceptance speech I explained why I regard my life as so blessed, and why I do what I do in retirement. I also gave the students five pieces of advice, and encouraged them to give to the College.
Marrying your first cousin increases the risk of your children having a serious genetic disorder. As well as discussing the risks, I link a number of scientific papers, so that readers are not left in any doubt regarding the facts.
I am the principal author of this report published by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority and the International Tax and Investment Center. It looks at the taxation of four common Islamic finance structures: commodity murabaha, sukuk, salaam and istisna in eight MENA region countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and also in the Qatar Financial Centre. The report recommends how these countries should adapt their tax systems to facilitate Islamic finance.
The author has been an expert witness on Islamic theology in over 20 terrorism trials. He is also an expert on critical realism, and the founder of Islamic critical realism. The book addresses a question that is vital for both politics and security. It provides the clearest thinking about these distinctions that I have seen anywhere.
Imprecise use of words always leads to sloppy thinking. Historically, English has used the words sex and gender as if they were interchangeable. However, precision is particularly important when discussing controversial subjects such as gender change. I explain the distinction between sex and gender and recommend always being precise with our vocabulary. Sex is immutably fixed by our DNA. Gender is a behaviour and can change.
An explanation of my view that the euro was created to increase the cross-border integration of european business and an analysis of what has gone wrong and what needs to be done. I forecast that all current members, even Greece, will remain within the eurozone.
Many Muslims want a single word to cover a range of anti-Muslim behaviours. In 1997, Runnymede promoted a definition of Islamophobia that was severely flawed, because it conflated certain attitudes to Islam and anti-Muslim behaviour. There have been many attempts since then to produce an improved definition of Islamophobia. Quite apart from their individual problems, no revised definition can erase the presence in the public square of Runnymede's awful 1997 definition. Accordingly, the word Islamophobia cannot be rescued, and should be abandoned. Attempts to salvage it harm Muslims by distracting attention from real anti-Muslim behaviours.
Most people see only their own CV. I have seen many, most of them written in ways that would get them rejected by a recruiter. I have illustrated the failings with a real life "before" and "after" example.
I have resigned from the Conservative Party after 36 years of continuous membership. This has nothing to do with policies. The Party has chosen as its new Leader Boris Johnson who I regard him as morally unfit to be Party Leader or Prime Minister because in my view he does not care about the distinction between truth and falsehood. I also consider he does not care about the harm he causes others, as long as his personal ambitions are advanced. Accordingly I could never campaign for the Conservative Party while he is its Leader.
There is a lot more on the site; use the menu above or the one page view.
What you do matters
We cannot change others except by persuasion. However, each of us can change ourselves, lead by example and take personal action. That changes the world.
Curriculum for Cohesion is an inter-disciplinary research project that is developing a method for understanding the nature of religion in a multi-faith world, with a focus on Islam, to inform the practice of teachers, lecturers, prison officers and the judiciary.
I am a patron. It is probably the most important charitable activity of my life.