TalkMatters is a new initiative to support Israeli Jewish and Palestinian people working together for a better world. I have known the founder Jenny Nemko for many years, and was asked to contribute an article. My article explains how the perspectives of Jews and Muslims about Israel and Palestine differ, but are both correct. My new page also includes TalkMatters' launch press release, reproduced with permission.
Britain left the EU on 31 January 2020. During a transition period, all EU arrangements governing trade, data exchange, the European arrest warrant etc. apply unchanged. The transition period expires on 31 December 2020. The Government is allowing the deadline for a mutually agreed extension of the transition period to elapse. I explain why this is a serious mistake by the UK.
Most Islamic finance discussion focuses on banking. However the financial system is about much more than just banking, and insurance is a critical financial service. The Islamic version of insurance is takaful, and this is of growing significance in Muslim majority countries. However the UK retail takaful market has been a complete failure. My article considers possible explanations.
I gave a 19-minute talk to Clare College's Samuel Blythe Society. I covered some issues that are vitally important to my personal finances. How to give cash or shares to charity in the most tax effective way. The terrible tax costs if your SIPP exceeds the lifetime allowance on your 75'th birthday. The very significant tax benefits of leaving at least 10% of your taxable estate to charity.
Chess has been an important part of my life since the age of 9. In 1990 the MDCA asked me to contribute an autobiographical page and a couple of memorable games for its centenary celebration book. I have now published it on this website.
Preliminary data indicates that COVID-19 is impacting Britain's Muslims and Jews more strongly than the wider community. My presentation for The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester looked at the available data and possible explanations. Multi-generational households may be a significant factor.
COVID-19 is the greatest challenge the UK has faced in my lifetime. A key question is how we can tackle it while respecting our personal freedoms. I wrote a short piece about this for Movement46. The key point is that my personal freedom stops at the point where it threatens harm to you. It is reproduced here with additional information about contact tracing technology.
Academics and believers think about religions in very different ways. It is essential not to confuse the two perspectives. Academically, Islam is obviously derived from Judaism and Christianity. For believers, the Quran came directly from God. I explain how much Christianity and Islam have in common. However they differ markedly about some fundamental religious questions, such as the nature of Jesus and the way salvation is attained. My 23-minute talk delivered to a sixth form group in Poynton.
I was very surprised when someone asked me about a UK Islamic bank that I had never heard of before, called Rosette. When I investigated, I concluded that the organisation, whose full name is Rosette Merchant Bank LLP, was not a bank. The reason is that it does not have the key attributes that in my opinion define a bank.
My Jewish Co-Chair and I explained how the Forum was created, why it matters and what it has achieved. As a simple personal example, I had lived in Manchester for over 50 years and never set foot inside a synagogue until we created the Forum. Video of my PowerPoint presentation, audio recording of my Co-Chair's presentation, and of the Q&A session.
Investors are often pressed to divest from companies for ethical reasons, or to avoid their shares for religious reasons. While investors should always follow their ethical and religious beliefs, does such divestment achieve real change? When companies need retail customers, publicity from such divestment can change corporate behaviour. However generally divesting shares does not result in change. My page explains why.
When I was a student, reading the introduction to "The Book of Mormon" led me to ask a question. What if Jesus worked his miracles today? How soon would people doubt their authenticity? Watching "Messiah" on Netflix reminded me of the question, and I used it for my "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester.
"Reform", the magazine of the United Reformed Church, asked me (and also three other people) to summarise the UK political situation in 500 words. I covered the Liberal Democrats, Labour Party, Conservative Party, Northern Ireland and Scotland. All very concisely! The full magazine is only available to subscribers, but I can publish my own contribution.
Stockport Academy asked me to talk about the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I explained why some people think that Christianity and Judaism are closer to each other than either is to Islam. However, when you look at what the religions say about the nature of God, Jesus and salvation, that view is clearly incorrect. Judaism and Islam are much closer to each other than either is to Christianity.
The Israel / Palestine conflict arouses strong emotions in many people. Accordingly, teachers are often reluctant to cover it in school because it risks creating or aggravating conflicts between pupils. However, if schools do not teach it, pupils who care will get their knowledge about the conflict from other sources, many of them dangerous. Parallel Histories has developed an excellent way of teaching this contested history in a way that develops pupils' thinking.
In November 2018, I hosted a dinner for members of my extended family to celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary. A recent question from a reader on my page "Marriage tips for Muslim women (and men)" tied straight into something I said in my speech at the event. That question has led me to share the speech, as it also contains several other things I have learned about marriage by reflecting on my own experience.
This is my article in the 15-year anniversary book published by the magazine "Islamic Finance News." I illustrate some of the tax issues Islamic finance can cause, and explain why they arise. I also look briefly at countries around the world, both Muslim majority and Muslim minority, and explain why the UK has been a global pioneer in the tax and regulatory treatment of Islamic finance.
In a Durham Union Society debate, I spoke against the motion "This House Believes Class Governs Britain?" In reality, the answer is clearly yes, or clearly no, depending on how you read the question. Debating this question reminded me of a wider point. Many (but not all) political divides disappear once you are precise about the meaning of the question.
The editor of the magazine Islamic Finance News asked me what I expected from Mr Johnson's administration with regard to Islamic finance. I wrote a column explaining that leaving the EU will damage Britain's Islamic finance industry alongside the financial services industry generally. However I do not expect any specific action to harm Islamic finance.
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.