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Talk: Christianity and Islam + Violent Islamist Extremism

What Christianity and Islam have in common, and where they differ. Also the origins of violent Islamist extremism and how to counter it.

Delivered 13 July 2017. Posted 22 July 2017. Q&A session added 5 January 2020.

I regularly speak to schools on behalf of the charity Speakers for Schools.

At Flixton Girls' School in Manchester, I was specifically asked to talk about the relationship between Christianity and Islam. As it was less than two months since the Manchester Arena bombing, I considered that any talk to schoolchildren about Islam also needed to address violent Islamist extremism since it would be at the front of the pupils' minds.

I recorded the lecture, and it can now be watched below as a self-advancing PowerPoint presentation.


Presentation outline

  1. Christianity and Islam
  2. Violent Islamist extremism
  3. Bibliography
  4. Q&A



There are four books mentioned in the bibliography.

Two of the are already reviewed on this website:

“In The Shadow Of The Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World” by Tom Holland

"Islam – Past Present and Future" by Hans Kung

I intend to write reviews of the other two, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan and “Salafi-Jihadism: The History of an Idea” by Shiraz Maher as soon as I can.

Video of presentation: "Christianity and Islam / Violent Islamist Extremism"

Near the beginning, I mention that the relgious analysis is based on my page Triangulating the Abrahamic faiths – measuring the closeness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This looks at the relationship between the three faiths in much more detail than one can in a short talk.


How the presentation was recorded

My first presentation recording was done on the spur of the moment, just putting my iPhone 6 on the table and relying on its built in microphone. See my page Lecture: One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom.

Once I found recording presentations worthwhile, I purchased a high quality Sennheiser digital lapel microphone which plugs into the data socket of my iPhone 6. That produces a much better recording.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However, I am not publishing the full audio recording for two main reasons:

  1. While the sound quality of my responses is very clear, the questioners were some distance from the microphone. Accordingly, in many cases their questions are almost inaudible.
  2. I respect the privacy of those asking the questions. I do not have their written consent to publish their recordings. In many cases, I do not even know who they were, so cannot seek permission.

Instead, I have listened to the Q&A session and, where I regard the questions as being worth sharing, have written down a condensed version of the questions. I have then published the audio of my answers.

As you can see the pupils’ questions ranged much wider than just the subject of the presentation.

1. You started life in a poor family. What made you want to succeed in life?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

2. Do you believe that all of the religions you have been through today are treated equally by everyone?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

3. You talked about the importance of preventing young people from becoming radicalised, and put most emphasis on the responsibility of parents. Surely more weight should be given to the role of the media in radicalising people with the news that is fed to them?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

I also cover this on my website page "Muslim parents have primary responsibility for preventing their children being radicalised" which contains an article I wrote for an Indian newspaper shortly after the Manchester Arena Bombing.

4. Do you believe in God? If so, why does he let bad things happen to us?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

5. Is the answer to the problem of evil that God puts on the Earth, and gives us the freedom to choose to do right things or wrong things?

I tell the pupils about the Book of Job in the Old Testament.

Recording of my 30-second answer

6. Recently there have been a number of hate crime attacks against Muslims. Has the Government taken enough action on this?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

7. A question was asked about a young Muslim boy who was stabbed to death at Burnage High School in Manchester many years ago.

This was a question about the murder of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah in 1986.

Recording of my 20-second answer

8. Had the above killing influenced me towards my work on community cohesion?

Recording of my 30-second answer

9. Some people argue that if they cannot change the government of their country by democratic means, then they are justified in engaging in terrorist actions. What is your opinion?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

10. Given your deprived background, what was your motivation in applying to Cambridge University and why Clare College?

In my reply I mention my Clare College Alumnus of the Year Speech. I also mention how the receptionist at the Carlton Club once assumed that I had come to pick up the mail!

Recording of my 4-minute answer

11. You tell us to go to the best university we can get into. But isn’t the current government making social mobility more difficult? Specifically by raising tuition fees, and even by policies such as the abolition of free school meals for poorer children?

As well as answering the point about tuition fees, I explained in detail how Cambridge and Oxford do not discriminate against applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, including my own experience. My reply mentions the Laura Spence affair.

Recording of my 3-minute answer

12. Where has your Moss Side accent gone?

I explained the impact of listening to BBC Radio 4 each day. See also my website page "Success tip: The importance of speaking proper English."

Recording of my 1-minute answer

13. Have you ever felt discriminated against?

Recording of my 30-second answer


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