Freedom of religion and belief, usually abbreviated as religious freedom, as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a fundamental human right. No country that seriously restricts religious freedom can call itself free, and I would never voluntarily live in such a country. There are many excellent resources on freedom of religion and this page helps readers find some of them.
Few of us can be world-changing figures such as Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. However every one of us can do something, even if it is very little, to make the world better. Doing that will also make you feel better about yourself.
For me, the Holocaust stands out because the Nazis wished to exterminate all Jews, regardless of their age or innocence or loyalty to the German state. The Holocaust is the reason we have the word “genocide” and the post-war Genocide Convention. Holocaust Memorial Day also commemorates the other internationally recognised genocides of Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, etc. I had a 22-minute appearance on the Islam Channel, alongside a Jewish guest to explain why everyone should commemorate the Holocaust.
I have previously explained why "Islamophobia" is not a useful one-word way to refer to anti-Muslim violence, hatred, bigotry and discrimination. A new word with no historical baggage is required instead. I propose using the new word "antimuslimism" and offer a definition modelled on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance antisemitism definition.
I share the story of Maximilian Kolbe. He and other Christians who have lived and died for their faith should inspire all of us, regardless of our individual religious faiths or beliefs. This is the text of my 2018 "Thought for Christmas Day" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester.
I have lived in the UK for over 60 years. I agreed with the headteacher of a school in Macclesfield to talk about how Britain has changed in my lifetime. I recorded it, and you can listen to it while watching the slides which advance automatically. I have also transcribed the question and answer session.
The Commission for Countering Extremism has a remit to tackle all types of extremism. It is led by Sara Khan with whom I broadly agree when it comes to Islamist extremism. She is advised by many people who I hold in high regard. The CCE has issued a call for evidence with a deadline of 31 January 2019. I have responded, and encourage others to do so.
Anti-Muslim hatred is wrong because it denies people their human right to be judged as individuals, and not as part of some allegedly homogeneous religious group. Many use the word "Islamophobia" as if it were an exact match for "Anti-Muslim hatred". It is not. Islamophobia has various definitions, mostly concerning people's attitude to Islam. Sometimes however people criticise Islam as a disguised way of expressing anti-Muslim hatred.
Why does the Holocaust hold a special place in our consciousness? It is not just the numbers killed. It is the Nazis' desire to exterminate all Jews, young and old, everywhere they could. Also the industrialised killing methods the Germans used, and their meticulous documentation of their crimes. That this happened in one of the world's most civilised countries is a continuing lesson for all of us.
Space constraints at Mecca mean that most Muslims will never be able to perform Hajj. If you go on Hajj more than once, you are taking up a slot that would have enabled someone else to perform their only Hajj. In my "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester I asked if that is being selfish.
The Labour Party is struggling to deal with antisemitism, while the Conservative Party faces issues with Islamophobia. Historically, European antisemitism was driven by Christianity. Today Christians are generally much more friendly to both Jews and Muslims than are intolerant secularists. Muslims and Jews are stronger facing these challenges together.
The recent matrimonial case of Akhter v Khan has received significant press coverage. It is potentially a landmark case. The Daily Mail story contended that the law had now recognised Shariah in matrimonial cases. I have read the full text of the judgement, and conclude that the press coverage is inaccurate. In my view the decision is harmful in public policy terms. I also expect it to be overturned if the case is appealed.
People are free to criticise religions, but they should not denigrate their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, sometimes people motivated by anti-Muslim hatred cloak their language under a veneer of criticising Islam. It is hard to lay down general rules to distinguish between honest criticism of a religion and disguised hatred of its adherents. However, in specific instances the two are often quite easy to tell apart. I also discuss the distinctions between speech which is criminal, or socially unacceptable, or politically unacceptable.
Ideas, good and bad, have power to change the world. The Islam and Liberty Network promotes the idea that Islam is compatible with religious freedom, economic freedom, and political freedom. Unfortunately, Muslim majority countries are currently often deficient in all three freedoms which is why the Network's work is vital. I now Chair the Network's Council, and give it £5,000 per year. This work can change the world, and needs your support.
Jesus taught us to "Love your neighbour as yourself." In my 90-seconds "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester I asked whether that is realistically possible. On this page I also look at identical teachings in Judaism and Islam.
Extremist Muslims regularly cite certain texts in the Quran and in Hadith to justify their intolerance and persecution of non-Muslims. However these religious texts have always been present in the Quran and Hadith. Accordingly they existed when Muslims were far more tolerant of other religions than was Christian Europe. If the texts are not the reason for the intolerance, then what is? I addressed this question in my October 2017 presentation at Brigham Young University's annual religious freedom symposium.
When humans emerged from Africa around 200,000 years ago, they were undifferentiated. Spreading into different environments led to different genes conferring survival advantages. That is why Icelanders look different from Australian aborigines. However technology eliminates virtually all of these genetic pressures. With growing travel and intermarriage, eventually all racial appearance differences will disappear. I estimate this will take less than 1,000 years.
People often talk about "Muslims" as if Muslims in Britain were homogeneous. Actually, British Muslims are very diverse ethnically, and this is increasing. British Muslims are also very diverse theologically. I explained this diversity in my 32-minute talk in High Wycombe, and took questions for 45 minutes. On the page you can watch the presentation, and read a partial transcript of the Q&A session.
I spoke to over 20 students for an hour, followed by an hour of questions and answers. I gave them a comprehensive overview of Islam, focusing on its relationship with Christianity and Judaism. I also tackled terrorism and religious extremism amongst Muslims. Some of the questions indicate a serious lack of knowledge about what the major Christian churches say about the relationship of Christianity and Islam. I recorded the lecture and the slides plus audio can be watched on the page. I have also transcribed some of the questions and my answers and provided the PowerPoint file.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism has been adopted by the UK Government, amongst others. Many, on both sides of the Israel / Palestine dispute, think the definition labels all criticism of Israel as antisemitic. It does not. I wrote an article about the definition on ConservativeHome and have reproduced it on this page. The page also explains the etymological fallacy committed by those who argue Arabs cannot be antisemites. It also explains why "antisemitism" is the preferred spelling.
In Europe, Mormons and Muslims are both religious minorities, often misunderstood in countries where religious belief is declining. However freedom of religion or belief is essential for a free society. In October 2017 I was interviewed live for 30 minutes about the challenges facing European Muslims and how we can build more cohesive European societies. You can watch it on the linked page.
While attending a religious freedom symposium in Provo, Utah, I was interviewed on Brigham Young University Radio. In 16 minutes, I explained what motivates me, and my key messages for young Muslims. The most important one is that the world is not against Muslims, and they can succeed in British or American society. The page contains a link for listening to the interview.
This page contains my first column for the Istanbul Network for Liberty. My key point is that people's religious views matter. Muslim majority cannot be understood, or changed, without understanding and changing how their citizens think about Islam. Their view of Islam may make them very charitable, or make them fatalistic, or make them into bloodthirsty monsters.
The Government has published a database of ethnic minority outcomes, which it intends to keep updated. The data shows significant outcomes differences between ethnic minority groups. While some of the differences will be due to discrimination, I believe other factors are also very important. I appeared on a TV programme to discuss the Government's report.
Most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe, as I do, that our lives are in the hands of God. Unfortunately, some believe that the true statement “You will not die before your time comes” justifies mistreating their body, neglecting their health, and ignoring basic safety precautions. They misunderstand what religion teaches.
My recorded 26 minute talk on what Christianity and Islam have in common, and how they differ. The talk also covers the origins of violent Islamist extremism and how to counter it. It was originally given to about 45 pupils at Flixton Girls' School in Manchester.
I was interviewed for six minutes on freedom of speech. My interviewers found it hard distinguishing between the boundaries of polite behaviour, and legal boundaries enforced by the state. I made it clear that people are free to insult Islam as much as they wish, and supported the right of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish. The full 50 minute programme can be heard on the linked page.
All of us want ourselves and our families to be safe and secure. Wanting this for other Muslims is also understandable. However our duty as Muslims does not stop there. It extends to everyone. Jews suffer far more hostility per person than do Muslims so Muslims must combat antisemitism. I covered this in my five-minute speech at the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester's interfaith iftar.
The Ramadan Tent Project brings together people of all faiths and none to celebrate iftars. I recently attended and spoke at one of the iftars at Manchester University. I was asked to speak about the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. I briefly explained its history, why it was needed, and the key reasons why it has succeeded.
Both extremist Muslims and anti-Muslim bigots often contend that Islam and freedom are incompatible. The book "Islamic Foundations of a Free Society" contains nine essays by various authors. The Henry Jackson Society hosted a panel event, with the speakers being Azhar Aslam (a chapter author), Usama Hasan, and me. The page has a full sound recording and the text of my panel contributions.
After a death, relatives and friends need to grieve properly, to avoid long term mental harm. Collective grief is also vital for communities when struck by horrors such as the Manchester bombing. In a diverse society, the rituals cannot be taken from just one religion. Instead, the community needs to come together in an inclusive way. Manchester has demonstrated this, showing it will not be terrorised or divided.
Muslims born and raised in Britain have gone on to commit the mass murder of their fellow citizens. Parents are primarily responsible for preventing children becoming terrorists. Achieving this requires not teaching them some damaging beliefs, while teaching some positive beliefs. Governments also have a role to play.
Like many cities around the world, Manchester has now suffered terrorist mass murder. The bomber's background indicates that he was motivated by his understanding of Islam. Muslim parents are responsible for their children's upbringing. If your child grows up to be a terrorist, you as a parent have failed. Defeating ISIS requires Muslims and non-Muslims to remain united, celebrating their shared humanity.
Passover reminds all believers in God of His power and His concern for all who worship Him. The Quran give the Passover story in detail. The precise way anyone chooses to remember Passover is up to them.
Security measures, and reporting suspected terrorists, are necessary. However, by themselves they will not end terrorism. We need to avoid bringing up children with attitudes that leave them vulnerable to the appeal of terrorist recruiters. The specific messages required are different for Muslim children and non-Muslim children. Sadly, all too often, both Muslims and non-Muslims fail to accept responsibility for bringing up their children in ways that that will reduce the risk of their being radicalised.
Survey evidence shows that richer white Americans are far more likely to practice a religion than are poorer white Americans. Does being richer make you more religious, or does being religious make you more successful? I explain why I think religion helps you to succeed in life.
Governments are responsible for making their countries fairer, and for countering discrimination. However, regardless of the performance of governments, individuals need to make the best of their lives. My six decades of experience of living in the UK have taught me much about what it takes to succeed without compromising one's personal integrity. This page is aimed at both French and British readers.
Muslim prayers use the Arabic text of the Quran, just as Jewish worship uses the Hebrew text of the Torah. Should British Muslim school pupils seek to also translate the original Arabic of the Quran for themselves? The writings of expert Quran translators explain the difficulty of translating the Quran. Pupils doing their own translating risk misunderstanding the Quran or even more seriously may be misled by their instructor. It is preferable for them to study, compare, and contrast different high quality English translations.
This 199-page report was written after almost 18 months of work by Dame Louise Casey and her team and contains a wealth of data. Many have criticised the report on the grounds that it mentions British Muslims far more than it mentions other UK religious groups. In my opinion, the extent of the coverage of Muslims is justified by the numbers involved, and because in some parts of the country Muslims are significantly less well integrated than other religious communities.
As a child growing up in a majority Christian country, Christmas was just part of my life. It meant presents and school festivities. We took the same approach with our own children. Many Christians are unaware how much Jesus is mentioned in the Quran, while many Muslims choose to ignore Jesus. I expect that soon amongst believers in the Virgin birth there will be more Muslims than Christians.
This event in Parliament was organised by the Inter Cultural Centre. Chaired by George Howarth MP, the speakers were Commander Mak Chishty, Baroness Armstrong and Dr Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh. As well as a link to a detailed write up of the event, the page has an embedded video of Dr Azmayesh's presentation, the Q&A session, and a short interview with me.
PowerPoint slides plus audio of my 18-minute presentation at the AGM of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. I considered the relative incidence of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, the identities of the perpetrators, and discussed the difficult question of when being anti-Zionist becomes antisemitism.
I have low expectations for Donald Trump's performance as US President. However I believe the fears of many Muslims are overblown. In my view the key message from Trump's election is the need for American (and British) Muslims to be politically engaged at all times, not just in the run-up to elections. In particular Muslims need to build alliances with Jews and Christians, and focus on their rights "as citizens", not "as Muslims."
My talk in Bradford on 2 April 2016 to a mainly Muslim audience. Members of groups suffering hatred often focus only on their own troubles. Accordingly I began by explaining to the audience that in Britain the rate of antisemitic attacks far exceeds that of anti-Muslim attacks. Then I outlined what individual Muslims should be doing to reduce anti-Muslim hatred. There are also actions that Muslim groups should be taking.
Because we have it, Britons take religious freedom for granted. The best definition of religious freedom is in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Religious freedom is of course incompatible with theocracy. However there are limits to religious freedom, and your religious beliefs do not entitle you to harm other people.
France, the USA and the UK are all liberal democracies which have seen significant Muslim immigration. While the UK and the USA face some challenges, overall Muslim integration in both countries has progressed well. However France lags behind. Secularism cannot be the explanation, since the US constitution is as secular as France's. In my view France's relative under-performance arises from refusal to accept that any change, no matter how minimal, is required of the French state.
Citizens obeying the law is insufficient to achieve a cohesive society. We also need citizens to share a common set of basic values. The UK has been attempting for about 10 years to define these values for our society and there is now a short list. However the values need definition in language that courts can apply. Also I consider that calling them "British values" is a mistake.
Many Muslim women receive poor treatment when seeking a religious divorce from a Shariah tribunal. Accordingly, the Government is reviewing how Shariah law operates in the UK. The review has been heavily criticised by some people. I explain why the critics have missed the point.
A society is cohesive if its members belong to groups with many overlaps and linkages. Unfortunately the wrong Government actions can increase separateness. Instead government policy needs to focus on increasing cohesion. However the individual choices each of us makes every day are, if anything, even more important. Choosing to engage with people who differ from you will be more developing for you personally, and will also make society more cohesive.
Terrorism and intended terrorism by Muslims is a serious problem. However many downplay it, forgetting the many would-be terrorists who have been convicted in the UK. Meanwhile, many others deny that radicalisation is a real process. The Government should publish information after terrorism trials which would demonstrate how widespread the terrorism problem is, and the many similarities in the pathways to radicalisation.
Terrorism in Europe by Muslims receives a significant amount of media and political attention. Many people contend that this focus is misplaced. They cite Europol data allegedly showing that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in Europe are nothing to do with Muslims. The Europol reports are being cited accurately. However the reliance being put upon them is entirely wrong, because they contain no data on the seriousness of the incidents reported. The data on fatalities shows that since 2001 the overwhelming majority of deaths in the European Union from terrorism are attributable to Muslims.
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.
Muslims fast because God commands us to. However each of us has their own personal perspective on Ramadan. I used my 90 second "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester to explain that for me Ramadan is primarily an opportunity to reduce my external activities to spend more time on reading and reflection.
Identifying and arresting terrorists is of course vital for our security. However, preventing people becoming terrorists is just as important. Ever since the "Prevent" programme was initiated, many within UK society have demonised it. On 8 May 2016 I took part in a debate about Prevent. An audience member recorded the debate and posted it on Facebook. Accordingly I have embedded it on my website page. During the debate I stressed that the first victim of radicalisation is the person who is radicalised and who may throw his or her life away. The Prevent programme, and specifically the Channel programme, is about helping such people, not about criminalising them.
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 Islam. My approach was to first explain the basic sources of Islam before going on to show how some key principles of Islam, clearly stated in the Quran, support religious freedom. 40 min audio recording with self-advancing PowerPoint slides.
Terrorists who are Muslims hold a relatively consistent set of religious beliefs which are shared by other Muslims not currently engaged in violence. Holding extreme views by itself damages peoples' lives, as well as increasing the risk of people going on to become terrorists. Government policies can reduce such religious extremism without infringing the freedom of religion. Some concrete proposals are set out.
Having a "Prayer for the Nation" presupposes that we know what a nation is. There are some simple requirements for becoming one nation. I used this as my "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester. Very briefly, we become a nation from our sense of shared history, from thinking of all citizens as part of our extended family, and from only using the word "Us" to refer to all Britons.
Christians and Jews in Britain regularly pray for the well-being of our nation. British Muslims have not yet developed this custom. However a group of British Muslims have written a Muslim Prayer for the Nation, and given permission for it to be reproduced freely.
Ideas, good and bad, have a major impact on the world. 4 ½ years ago, in 2011 Curriculum for Cohesion set out to improve the education of young Muslims in Britain but we soon realised that its work is needed by all pupils, regardless of their religion. We have already changed the History education of millions of pupils in English schools. The project has also broadened beyond education in schools. However it needs more donors.
Muslim women are often disadvantaged when their marriages break up. For several years, Baroness Cox has been promoting her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill. Despite its neutral title, it is aimed only at Muslims. I consider that it is misconceived because my detailed review of the Bill concluded that it will fail to achieve its intended goals. However it will damage community cohesion. I have now written a short explanation of why the Bill is flawed. Readers living in the UK should write to their Member of Parliament before the House of Commons debate due on 11 March 2016.
Any translation of a book into another language needs great care, as it risks distorting its message. That is particularly true with religious texts. I regard what 2:62 says about Jews, Christians and Sabeans as a particularly important message from the Quran and was recently shocked to find a particular Quran translation putting the verse into the past tense, which dramatically changes its meaning. I have now compared how six Quran translations deal with 2:62. The two translations from Saudi Arabia convey a very different message than do the other four and appear intended to spread exclusivist religious views amongst Muslim readers.
Religious and empirical questions are answered by different methods. Accordingly confusing them is a serious mistake. Whether God says that money should only be gold or silver is a religious question. Whether the economy would function better by replacing fiat money with gold or silver is an empirical question. The empirical answer is clear. All advanced economies use fiat money because they run better than they did with gold as money.
Mono-religious countries often have difficulty coping with incomers who have different religions. Long experience after the Reformation has taught the UK how to deal with religious diversity. New citizens in the UK, whether born here or immigrants, need to absorb this. Individuals need both freedom from oppression by believers in other religions, and also freedom from oppression by their co-religionists. Interfaith dialogue is essential; it is about mutual learning, and not about conversion or about winning arguments. Ordinary citizens should engage in such dialogue; it should not be left to intellectuals or "religious leaders." My article for the Council of Christians and Jews.
I regularly receive requests for advice, especially about careers. This recent enquiry was from a schoolboy who was under the impression that Islam prohibited Muslims from being actuaries. In response I gave him examples of actuarial practice within Islamic finance. More generally, I stressed the essential requirement to take one's own decisions on religious matters.
I was approached by the Clarion Project for an email interview on "What Should Muslim Groups Do to Fight Extremism." The Clarion Project has published my interview responses verbatim. In them I explain how a desire to please too many constituencies and poor analysis make some Muslim organisations less effective at countering extremism. I was also asked what I liked about being a Muslim and what makes me proud of my faith.
Whenever Muslims commit terrorism, Muslim organisations issue statements condemning it. However in most cases, the statements deny any religious motivation, even when the terrorists state their motivation explicitly. Also the statements rarely contain any positive recommendations for action by Muslims. I regard such an approach as wholly inadequate.
Full 1 hour 48 min video of six person panel discussion before a mainly Muslim audience organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA). The speakers came with a range of views, revealed by their comments. My comments are also transcribed on the page. I consider that how one understands Islam can be the cause of extremism or the solution to it.
There are serious problems affecting Muslim women who are sometimes denied religious divorces, and also women who enter into a religious marriage with no civil marriage. For several years Baroness Cox has been promoting a Bill apparently intended to address those problems. I review the Bill clause by clause and conclude that the Bill will do little to help with the problems but risks damaging community cohesion.
My experience has been that British Jews are far more interested in talking with Muslims than Muslims are with Jews. A close look at the two groups explains why there is such a difference. Gratifyingly the difference is eroding as British Muslims are changing with the passage of time. This trend towards greater Muslim interfaith engagement is likely to continue.
Many Muslims deny the existence of non-violent extremism. The Ummah Channel's "Face the Facts" programme discussed it for 49 minutes. My fellow panellist and the presenter both appear to believe that non-violent extremism does not exist while I robustly supported David Cameron's position as set out in his 20 July speech. The programme can be watched on the linked page.
Prime Minister David Cameron has consistently expressed concern about non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism. His most recent speech on this was given in Birmingham on 20 July 2015. While many Muslims have criticised his speech, in my opinion the Prime Minister is right. Non-violent extremism ruins the lives of those who fall into it, even if they do not progress to violent extremism.
10 years have gone by since the bombings. They were a terrible tragedy to which Londoners responded with heroism and unity. I have always believed that the bombers' (flawed) religious beliefs were of critical importance since without those beliefs they would not have committed their crimes. Sadly too many Muslims still fail to understand this.
A 14 minute programme on the Islam Channel. It had been set up as a discussion of the linguistic analysis of the word "radicalisation". I regarded this as sophistry and a diversion from thinking about the causes of radicalisation and what to do about it.
PM David Cameron criticised passive toleration of extremism in his speech on security in Bratislava. Many Muslims have criticised the speech but I agree with what Cameron said. In my view silence when people are spouting extremism is not acceptable; they need to be challenged. Also I consider that parents have primary responsibility for preventing their children being radicalised.
This piece was written for a Christian and Jewish audience. Amongst other things it explains why the month of Ramadan is holy, and why the date moves through the (solar) calendar. I explain how I decide when to fast or to not fast.
At Hazel Grove High School, I was asked to speak about the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. I covered my personal contacts with Jews before going on to explain why the Forum was set up, and why I believe it has succeeded.
I was given 500 words to answer this question. The word "multiculturalism" means different things to different people. In my view the UK has successfully built a society which accommodates people from many different cultural backgrounds by focusing on equal individual rights, while avoiding the trap of "group rights."
Religions are often reduced to lists of beliefs and practices. While valid, this approach misses something fundamental. The most important thing about a religion is how it affects your view of the world and the meaning of life. For me the most important aspect of Islam is personal accountability to God.
I am interviewed as part of an 11 minute video produced by Great Sankey High School. I stress that being part of British society requires accepting values such as democracy, the rule of law and tolerance, while recognising that such values are not exclusive to Britain.
On 23 March 2015 Home Secretary Theresa May made a major speech on extremism proposing a number of measures to counter non-violent "Islamist extremism." I broadly support the proposed measures, and wrote a Conservative Home article saying so. However the text of the speech on the Home Office website has since been abridged and virtually all of the concrete proposals have disappeared. It appears that the proposals are contested within the present Government.
I support the New Israel Fund. After it was attacked by some Israeli politicians, I gave it my public support by signing a petition and tweeting about it. This led to the American political activist Pamela Geller attacking me on her website. She also attacked some illustrious Americans at the same time. Her attack does not merit any response.
The difference between religious and civil marriage often causes problems. Many Muslim women have problems getting a religious divorce after their civil divorce. Others have a religious marriage without a civil marriage, finding themselves without legal rights if the relationship breaks down. I outline possible ways forward on both issues.
My February 2015 petition on halal slaughter received great community support. One example was a long programme on the satellite channel Iqra TV. As well as me, the programme included a number of other people who are knowledgeable on halal food. It has recently become available on YouTube so I have created a website page where it can be watched.
The term "racism" is often used to refer to religiously based prejudice or hatred. That is wrong, since religious groups are generally not biologically defined. Instead the neologism "religionism" is a more accurate term. Using language precisely matters, since the sloppy use of language inevitably leads to sloppy thinking.
ComRes surveyed 1,000 British Muslims for the BBC. Some of the attitudes revealed are encouraging, while others are deeply troubling. I gave the Jewish Chronicle a 25 minute interview about the survey. The short published article that resulted risks giving a mistaken impression of my views regarding the survey responses so I have set them out in detail.
UK law requires food animals to be stunned before slaughter but there is an exemption for religious slaughter. However the British Veterinary Association are determined to have the religious exemption abolished. Accordingly with the encouragement of my Jewish colleagues, I have created a petition to protect religious slaughter. British Jews and Muslims have vigorously supported the petition, which achieved in 9 days the 100,000 signatures required for a petition to be considered for debate by Parliament.
Some Muslims regard all hadith in the major hadith collections as indisputably correct. However Hadith scholars have always recognised that hadith vary in reliability. The simplest way to refute the naive belief that all hadith in Bukhari's and Muslim's collections are correct is to list some hadith which contradict each other.
For some time the Community Security Trust has published an annual report on antisemitic incidents. The level fluctuates, but whenever there are "trigger events" (usually in Israel and Palestine) antisemitic incidents in the UK increase significantly. No data is available regarding perpetrators' religious beliefs, but the available data regarding ethnicity indicates that individuals who are likely to be Muslims are over-represented amongst the perpetrators. The CST stated that 2014 was a record year for antisemitic incidents. However the CST's historical data is not consistently prepared, and in my view the claim of a record year is unsupported.
The Department of Communities and Local Government wrote to about 1,100 mosques about the need to combat radicalisation. However the Muslim Council of Britain severely criticised this letter. With a line by line analysis of the MCB's complaints, I explain how I believe the MCB misunderstood the DCLG letter. I also illustrate my own approach when asked to comment on controversial documents.
Muslims' attitudes to printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) vary. However most Muslims were horrified by the killings in Paris at Charlie Hebdo. Most Muslims also regarded the killings of Jews at the kosher supermarket as completely wrong. I wrote an article about this published in the Jewish Chronicle.
An individual's memories give him his identity. Similarly a nation is held together by its collective memories of the past. That makes history a vital subject to study at school, and afterwards. If a people forget their history, or never learn it, they stop being one nation and become just a random collection of individuals who happen to live in the same country.
Muslim organisations were right to condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo's staff. However condemnation by itself is not enough. The policy implications must also be considered. Some contend that the killers could not be real Muslims, while others contend that the killers' religion is irrelevant. I disagree with both contentions.
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.
Hadith are oral accounts of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Their authentication has traditionally relied almost entirely upon assessing the chain of narrators. However the author considers more emphasis needs to be given to assessing the text of the Hadith. The book is very clearly written, short, and easy to read and I recommend it highly.
There are several sources of anti-Muslim prejudice, including the behaviour of many Muslims and their choices regarding language. Muslim organisations often also display poor media skills. Muslims need to work with allies in countering prejudice which is bad for all of society.
How to understand religion in an multi-faith world is a pressing issue. Curriculum for Cohesion brings together academic, teachers, employers and lawyers to achieve this for the use of teachers, lecturers and the judiciary with a focus on Islam. I helped to get the project off the ground and am a patron and the chair of donors. I spoke at the 2014 annual dinner.
Most of us are brought up to identify strongly with our family group, ethnic group and religious group. However God requires us to be just, even if we have to testify against ourselves or our kin. When there is conflict, we come under enormous pressure to "stand up for our side." That should be resisted.
The traditional view is that Aishah was married to the Prophet (pbuh) when she was nine. Some Muslims therefore regard child marriage as commendable. Meanwhile non-Muslims cite her age of marriage to denigrate Islam and the Prophet. This 24 page booklet looks at the evidence and concludes that Aishah was most likely 19 when she married.
When Muslims become terrorists, some pundits put all the blame on incorrect religious understanding while others point only towards British foreign policy as the cause. I demonstrate why both sets of views are wrong.
Religion has always featured heavily in British public life but growing religious diversity makes that increasingly controversial. The Woolf Institute has set up a Commission to look at the issues. As the subject is of great personal interest to me, I have made a submission and published it on this website.
When Muslim radicalisation is discussed, the "Conveyor Belt" theory is often mentioned. It is an "Aunt Sally"; an obviously false theory mentioned only to be knocked down, as a debating tactic. However radicalisation is a real phenomenon, and I think the right comparison is with a funnel.
The alleged "Trojan Horse" plot to Islamise schools in Birmingham led to a number of emergency Ofsted inspections. Reports on 21 Birmingham schools were published on 9 June 2014. Five schools were rated so poorly that it was recommended they be placed in "Special Measures." I comment on those reports, and the subsequent reports from Birmingham City Council and the Department for Education.
This spring the alleged "Trojan Horse" plot to Islamise schools in Birmingham had massive media coverage. The letter setting out the plot is widely regarded as a fake. However many parents have complained about excessive religiosity at the schools concerned. In this piece I explain the background.
Kung is one of the world's leading Roman Catholic theologians. This book is part of a trilogy on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While Kung writes as a deeply committed Christian, he provides a genuinely sympathetic and detailed coverage of the origins of Islam, its history and its present day challenges. The book is comprehensive and authoritative, but still very easy to read.
English law gives people wide freedom to decide how their estate is left under their will. As many Muslims believe that Islam prescribes how their estate should be left on death the Law Society has published a practice note to assist solicitors advising such clients. However the practice note has been attacked in the media and by some politicians. This led me to reflect on the causes of anti-Shariah prejudice in Britain.
When Israel is criticised, its defenders often contend that the critics are motivated by antisemitism. The accusation is made even when the critics are Jews. I encountered the argument that anti-Zionism is always antisemitic for the first time a few years ago. However once you define your terms carefully, the question ceases to be controversial.
To some, the glass is neither half full, nor half empty, but always empty. However incorrectly assessing the current situation makes it impossible to formulate a good strategy. It causes many Muslim advocacy organisations to focus on the wrong problems, and to fail to identify potential allies. The result is that many such organisations are relatively ineffectual due to following poor strategies.
The Quran is the primary source of authority in Islam. The second source is Hadith. Hadith are oral accounts of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This book explains how they were collected and verified. It is very easy to read and should be accessible to everyone who wants to learn more about hadith.
Hizb ut Tahrir seeks to establish an Islamic State that "executes the systems of Islam" and opposes participation in democratic politics. The organisation has led many impressionable young British Muslims such as Ed Husain, Maajid Nawaz and others astray. While I oppose banning it, I believe the false history its ideology is based upon should be combated by teaching a truer Muslim history.
This was a wide-ranging 54 minute discussion with a moderator and three panellists, including the two Co-Chairs of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. Good coverage of how the MJ Forum came about and what it has achieved.
Young people are often idealistic and want to help other people. They need to remember that your ability to help other people is much greater if you are successful and rich yourself. Nobody should feel guilty about concentrating on their own personal success and wellbeing.
Anti-Muslim attacks have increased since Drummer Lee Rigby's murder on 22 May 2013. This TV discussion asks whether the scale has been underestimated, with up to date information from Tell MAMA regarding the trend. It also discusses the role of the media, and the policy implications for politicians and the Muslim community.
Historically most people left few written records. However the use of electronic media today generates vast amounts of writing that will be preserved indefinitely. This repository will be of immense value to future historians.
Curriculum for Cohesion is an education project to help all English school pupils which has a glittering array of supporters. I am passionate about it because education transformed my life. I had a chance to explain this in my speech at the recent annual dinner.
The CST monitors anti-Jewish incidents and Tell MAMA does the same for anti-Muslim incidents. Both organisations report a similar mix between online incidents, verbal abuse and serious violence. It was no surprise that anti-Muslim incidents spiked after the Woolwich murder. However this has led to some commentators downplaying the seriousness of Tell MAMA's findings, and seeking to discredit the organisation.
The Woolwich murder has given an excuse to anti-Muslim bigots to demonise and attack Muslims. The leadership of the Jewish community, which has memories of suffering similar hostility, has condemned such bigotry. British Muslims and Jews share many common interests and below the level of national umbrella bodies, there is growing evidence of Muslim Jewish co-operation in Britain.
The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on 22 May 2013 was a terrible crime. Sadly but predictably, anti-Muslim bigots have used it as an excuse to demonise and attack Muslims. I took part in a one hour phone in programme on the Islam Channel shown live on 30 May 2013, receiving reactions mainly but not entirely from British Muslims.
All religions have rituals for specific occasions. While rituals are easily mocked, in reality they help people to share joy and to cope with tragedy. I was moved to write this piece after hearing a bereaved mother explaining on the radio how her friends avoided meeting her in the street. They didn't know how to talk to her about her terrible loss, and did not realise how their avoidance was hurting her. All she wanted from her friends was a hug and an affirmation that they cared.
God giving the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai is a key event for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While is easy to mock those Israelites who lost faith in Moses and began worshipping the golden calf, in reality many people find it easier to follow others instead of doing what is right.
For some time, I have believed that the word "Islamism" has ceased to mean anything useful. Worse still, most Muslims see and hear only the first five letters, and see an attack on "Islamism" as an attack on Islam. More recently the US advocacy organisation CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) challenged its inclusion in the AP (Associated Press) 2012 Style Guide. AP has now amended the definition in it style guide to make it more specific.
David Berkley and I have spoken together about Muslim Jewish issues on many occasions. We were asked to give an interfaith lecture in Leeds and shared what we had learned from seven years of dialogue in Manchester, and the personal journeys that each of us have been on.
Muslims are now about 5% of the British population, and 23% of the world's population. If non-Muslims are going to work and trade with Muslims, they need to understand them, which requires understanding their religion. However this point applies even more strongly, in reverse, to British Muslims. 95% of Britons, and 77% of humanity, are non-Muslim, and British Muslims need to understand the religious views of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists etc. as well as those who have no religion. Learning properly about other religions does not weaken your own faith.
This book sets out to give a historical account of the rise of Islam. This requires evidence in the form of manuscripts, coins, buildings, inscriptions and other tangible remains which the author emphasises are sparse. The earliest written Muslim histories date from a later period. The author first covers the prior history of the Eastern Roman and Persian Empires so that he can put Islam into the historical context of the Middle East. He then addresses the available historical evidence. In his view the Quran originated when Muslims believe, and Muhammad (pbuh) was in Medina. However he considers that Islam did not originate in Mecca but instead between Medina and Palestine.
Many religious people reject the theory of evolution. However it has almost universal acceptance amongst scientists. Like all scientific theories, it ignores the possibility of divine intervention. If the Bible and Quran are read literally, they contradict evolution. However as well as giving us these religious texts, God has also given us the evidence from life today and from the fossil record. Accordingly each individual needs to decide for themself how to read religious texts in a manner that does not conflict with the evidence we see from the world that God has created.
Sir Martin Gilbert is an eminent historian and Winston Churchill's official biographer. He covers the period from the beginning of Islam to the end of the 20'th century. Under Muslim rulers, special rules applied to Jews (and Christians). Overall, Jews were better treated than Jews in Christian Europe, but periods of tolerance were interspersed with periods of persecution. In the 20'th century, the rise of Zionism led to increasing persecution of Jews by Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, culminating in the expulsion of their Jewish populations.
Edip Yuksel is a prominent Quranist, believer in Islamic reform, and the leading proponent of the 19 theory. He recently debated in London with another Quranist, Farouk Peru. Their main area of disagreement was the 19 theory. I found myself chairing the event, which was recorded. I have recently learned that the videos are on YouTube. My website page gives some background to the event and also embeds the videos.
Unhappiness is sometimes due to personal tragedy, ill health or extreme poverty. However many people who should be happy are not. Often this comes from inability to decide what they really want. Strong personal principles and rules for living stop you making bad decisions and lead to you being happier. It does not matter whether these principles come from a religion or from elsewhere.
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.
Humans are used to things being limited. That makes infinity hard to think about. However God has unlimited love, and can give an unlimited amount of love and attention to each of us. I share a numerical analogy which has helped me to think about this.
Science is not a body of knowledge; it is a set of procedural rules for seeking to understand the real world. These procedural rules have no place for revealed knowledge. Also, knowing that God is the ultimate cause of everthing which happens does not help us to understand real world phenomena better. Conversely science cannot disprove religious belief. The apparent conflict between science and religion arises from protagonists failing to understand that science and religion are different ways of seeking to understand the world.
Many Muslims use the word "Islamophobia" as if it meant "hatred of Muslims." However it does not; the word Islamophobia has a distinct established meaning. Accordingly, when Muslims complain about Islamophobia when they intend to complain about anti-Muslim hatred, they are making a mistake. Complaining about Islamophobia makes it easy for people who really do hate Muslims to claim the moral high ground of defending freedom of speech. Instead, Muslims need to be focused and complain about what matters, which is anti-Muslim violence and anti-Muslim hatred.
This "Thought for the week" broadcast was based upon a discussion that took place when I was speaking at the annual conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews on "Muslim Jewish relations in an increasingly secular Europe". As well as the text of my radio broadcast, the page includes the abstract for the conference workshop and the slides used for the presentation which focused on how Muslims and Jews can co-operate on issues that affect both communities.
A short and very readable introduction to the way Islamic Law is derived from its sources. The author The author believes that we need to interpret the Quran afresh for the modern world, rather than feeling bound by traditional interpretations.
This quotation appears in the Quran and in the Talmud.Two years ago meet a kindertransport child made this quotation vividly real for me. Accordingly I based my second "Thought for the week" radio broadcast around it.
Animal welfare campaigners regularly allege that shechita and halal slaughter are cruel. I briefly review scientific evidence which contradicts the cruelty claim, and discuss the religious freedom issues.
Muslim children perform worse in school than any other religious group. Many young non-Muslim Britons grow up hostile towards Islam. I am supporting an appeal for a project which can address both issues.
Many people use the term "Shariah" as if it were interchangeable with "Islamic law." However Shariah which means "the path to salvation" is much more than that. It encapsulates all of the doctrines of Islam.
This book is probably the leading work on the subject in English. In 500 very readable pages, the author explains how Islamic law is developed from the original sources of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). It helps one to understand the diversity and depth of Islamic thought.
This book comprises 14 independent chapters written by academic experts on the Quran, both Muslim and non-Muslim. It is an excellent short introduction to the study of the Quran, and is very easy to read.
Muhammad Asad was born as Leopold Weiss in Poland, but became one of the most famous Muslims of the twentieth century. This autobiography covers his first 32 years. It paints a vivid picture of his early life, recreates the Middle East of the 1920's, explains what brought him to Islam, and reflects upon the radical message of the Prophet (pbuh).
Preventing people becoming terrorists is as important as arresting terrorists. While Muslim organisations have been queing up to criticise the revised Prevent strategy announced by the Government on 7 June 2011, I believe they are wrong to do so.
In this short paper, Dr Hayward reviews what the Quran says about when Muslims are permitted to fight and the rules which apply. He shows that these rules are almost identical to the Christian "Just War" concept.
The Prime Minister's speech in Munich on 5 February 2011 and Baroness Neville-Jones's speech in Washington DC on 1 April 2011 outline the Government's new approach to preventing violent extremism. This page summarises the speeches and outlines what individual British Muslims can do to help.
Usama Hasan has been threatened with death for sharing his views about evolution and whether hair covering is mandatory for Muslim women. Such threats seek to close down freedom of thought and discussion, and must be resisted by all right-thinking Muslims.
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.
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 is my favourite book on Islamic finance and provides the reader with a sound grounding in the Quranic and Hadith sources before going on to analyse futures and options. It is the book I always recommend to people who are new to Islamic finance.
There were been demonstrations in London about Israel's attack on 31 May 2010 on the flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza. I have never been on a demonstration, and prefer to work by other means. In that regard, I wrote an open letter to the Israeli ambassador in London
I originally wrote about this on my Telegraph blog as listed below. I decided to write about it again on the Pickled Politics website, as a point often has to be made repeatedly before it gets accepted.
Not many people are aware that it was Muslims who are to blame for inventing algebra. While for some this just brings back painful memories of school, algebra is of course indispensible in the modern world.
I can think of no institution that is more central to modern civilisation than a unversity. Most people, Muslims and non-Muslims, don't know that universities were invented by Muslims. Accordingly, I have written a short history tracing back to the oldest university in the world.
I was asked to contribute a piece to the newly launched MCB Youth Committee blog. I chose to write about the critical importance of political participation, which I regard as essential to the future of the Muslim community in the UK.
Andrew Gilligan’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Britain’s Islamic Republic” on 1 March 2010 caused significant concerns amongst the Muslim community. It reminded me very much of the anti-communist witch hunts led by Senator Joe McCarthy.
I was annoyed by a Sunday Telegraph article “Sir Ian Blair’s deal with Islamic radical” which implied that Sir Ian Blair had cooked up some kind of secret deal with Azad Ali, when the reality was a formal cooperation agreement between the Metropolitan Police and the Muslim Safety Forum. Repeating my approach of "taking the fight to the enemy" I began a blog on the My Telegraph website.
After regularly complaining about the MCB's absence from the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration, after the 2010 event the Jewish Chronicle complained that the MCB representative was not important enough. My annoyance is evident from the title.
Like most Muslims, I was very annoyed by the submission that the Board of Deputies made recommending this. I decided to "take the fight to the enemy" by creating a blog on the website of the Jewish Chronicle.
In one form or another, this question often crops up at conferences on Islamic finance. In my view, the answer depends upon the personal religious views of each Muslim, and I have therefore not sought to address it in any of my published writings on Islamic finance. However, the receipt by the MCB of an open letter required me to address it when composing the response.
Holocaust denial amongst Muslims makes me very angry. Accordingly, when the editor of the Jewish Chronicle asked if he could convert my City Circle blog about visiting Auschwitz into a newspaper article and change the title, I agreed readily. It was my first piece in the Jewish Chronicle.
The early history of Christianity is not well known by most Muslims, or indeed by most Christians. This book explains who doctrines such as the Trinity and salvation by the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on the cross entered the early Christian church. Most Christians are also unaware of how much coverage Jesus gets in the Quran.
British Muslims often complain about the influence of the Israel lobby in the USA and the UK. However, for me the key message is that instead of complaining, we need to learn from their commitment to political engagement.
This was written the day after Israel started bombing Gaza at the end of 2008, before the ground invasion in January 2009. I was outraged, but decided to focus on the future and the urgent need for a permanent peace.
I was asked to set down my thoughts on interfaith dialogue and how it should be conducted, if at all. Having done so, I thought it might be worth sharing with a wider audience and published them on the City Circle website.
The Centre for Social Cohesion published a report alleging high levels of extremism within student Islamic societies. After reading the report closely, I concluded that its methodology was fundamentall flawed.
This was sparked by a speech David Cameron made. I suddenly realised how using better words results in clearer thinking. As an example, once "forced marriage" entered common usage, I no longer needed to explain that having an "arranged marriage" involved free choice.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams managed to create a firestorm of protest about the supposed introduction of Shariah law into Britain. In reality, people were simply not reading his speech properly. However, they had some excuse from the complexity of his writing, which I analysed.
Muslims regularly look back to the "golden age" when the Islamic civilisation created by the Arabs was the leading civilisation in the world. However, I believe that many fail to understand what made that civilisation successful.