Recent UK news has been dominated by another Brexit row over the UK's intention to violate international law. I have explained the issues factually by answering 20 questions about how we got here and what it means. I also give my forecast of what is likely to happen.
The UK's financial services regulators are, quite properly, unable to be sued for failing to regulate properly. At the same time, the law requires there to be a scheme for complaining about regulatory failures, and permits the payment of compensation by the regulators. The regulators are consulting about a rewrite of the complaints scheme. The changes are more than just a rewrite; they worsen the scheme, and I consider the existing scheme itself to be unsatisfactory.
Many well off people still think of themselves as poor, because they only compare themselves to those who are richer. This harms society by making them less generous. It also harms them, by making them feel bad about themselves, damaging their happiness, health and longevity. Even the poorest in our society are far better off than most of the world's population.
Each episode of about one hour covers one US president. It features historians who are an expert about the president concerned. The narrator Lillian Cunningham keeps the delivery very light, without detracting from the information. She always asks "What would it be like to go on a blind date with this president?"
Since the Eisenhower era, US politics has become increasingly polarised. In the legislature Democratic and Republican senators and congressmen are far less likely to vote for policies promoted by the other party. Grassroots Democrats and Republicans feel increasingly hostile towards each other. This book provides a clear explanation of how and why this has happened, grounded in solid data.
Zakat is a charitable donation or tax payment made by Muslims. Many Islamic financial institutions are either required to pay Zakat or choose to do so. The Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions is consulting regarding a proposed Financial Accounting Standard on accounting for Zakat. My page includes the response I have sent in, and my article on the subject, as well as discussing how the word should be spelled in English.
After America's War of Independence, the 13 newly independent states set up a confederacy. This did not work well, and the Constitutional Convention came up with a draft US Constitution as a negotiated compromise. The three authors explain in 85 papers why it should be adopted. Their work is amongst the deepest writing on how representative government should be organised taking account of human nature.
Who you accept as belonging to the same religion as yourself has always been a divisive question. You are free to decide "Who is a Muslim" either narrowly or broadly. However when the state decides who belongs to a religion, the result almost always leads to religious oppression. Pakistan provides a case study with its persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims.
It was never inevitable that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Nor was it inevitable that he would win the general election against the Democratic candidate. Since his shock victory, many explanations have been written which are mainly based on intuition. This book, by three American politics academics, is different. It looks rigorously at the data, and provides the best explanation I have seen of why Trump won, and what the way he won means for America.
The "Islamophobia" definition published by Runnymede in 1997 was the only one for 20 years. Accordingly, despite its serious flaws, it is what most people think of when the word "Islamophobia" is used. The definition published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims in 2018 has been adopted by many organisations, but has failed to displace the Runnymede 1997 definition in the minds of most people. This was demonstrated by the BBC Radio 4 programme "Moral Maze" on 11 March 2020 in which I appeared as a witness.
A 26-minute interview given to a Pakistani interviewer, for an audience mainly in Pakistan. It focuses on the situation of Muslims in Britain and the reasons why OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) countries lag behind in their development. I briefly explain the importance of religious, political and economic freedom, and that Islam supports all three.
There is no substitute for reading the original text if you want to understand something properly. I read the USA's Constitution in my twenties. If you want to understand the world's most important country, you should do the same. I recommend how to go about it.
A new Facebook friend in Pakistan Rizwan Akram asked me for a 30-minute live video interview. After covering my personal history, we moved on to my opinions about the development of Pakistan and the progress of Pakistani origin people in Britain. I explained how Britons of Pakistani background are held back by often importing relatives from Pakistan as spouses. I stressed the importance of religious, political, and economic freedom if Pakistan is to develop.
Value added tax, like income tax and corporation tax, was devised in a conventional finance environment. Accordingly Islamic finance transactions risk giving rise to greater VAT costs than their conventional analogues. My November 2015 report considers the issue from first principles. It then considers how four countries deal with VAT on Islamic finance. It concludes with some recommendations for tax policy makers.
A Biblical quote, Ecclesiastes 9:10, has stayed with me all my life. My upbringing and early career experiences led me to internalise setting very high standards for myself. I think this attitude is vital for career success. It led me to spend over five hours to produce a 29-second Eid video for the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality. I believe the effort was worthwhile.
In August 2019 I compared the results of the Malaysian CIMB Group's conventional and Islamic banks. I was surprised to find that the Islamic bank, although smaller, was the more profitable. I have recently made the same comparison for the conventional and Islamic banks within the Maybank group. I found the same pattern, despite the expectations of someone who wrote to me after the CIMB article.
Writing or speaking to a fixed limit is very difficult and has to be learned with practice. Being concise requires time for serious thinking. The end result can be a much better product. In particular, it forces you to identify the exact points you are seeking to make.
My article explains that because financial services are exempt for VAT purposes, an increase in the VAT rate means higher costs for Islamic financial institutions because they will suffer more non-deductible input tax. However conventional financial institutions will suffer the same way.
Being liked helps your career, and is also good for your physical and mental health. Naturally most of us want to be liked. However sometimes you need to prioritise other things. Deciding person by person whether you care if they like you makes you more effective.
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.
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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.