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Islam & Secular Democracy — What many Muslims believe. Why. How to change it.

Many Muslims consider Islam to be incompatible with secular democracy. I explain the source of this belief, and how to change it.


Presented 10 September 2022. Posted 5 April 2023.

On Saturday 10 September 2022, the Neem Tree Forum and the National Secular Society ("NSS") organised a joint event in Birmingham on “Islam & Secular Democracy” at which I spoke.

Below are:

  1. A video of my 10-minute presentation.
  2. The answers I gave in the question and answer session.
  3. A full list of speakers.
  4. The event publicity poster.

The event was live-streamed on Facebook, but I have not been able to find a recording. If I do, I will add a link.

I spoke for the Neem Tree Forum in 2019 when I gave the talk "My 27-minute presentation on the Israel / Palestine dispute."

Video of my presentation


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 lightning port of my iPhone. That produces a much better recording.

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

My microphone also recorded the question and answer session. However, I am not publishing the full audio recording for several 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.
  3. I also do not have permission to publish the audio of the other speakers when they answered the question.

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 just my own answers.

The way Islam is practiced is likely to have a significant impact on British public life. The type of Islam that seems predominant is the traditionalist form, such as Wahhabism, with more than 50% of mosques being Deobandi, rather than the critical thinking form put forward by the speakers. How do we address this?

Recording of my 90-second answer

How should Muslims engage with the text of the Quran? In Arabic or in English?

During my answer I mention my article “Teaching Muslims religious intolerance.”

Recording of my 3-minute answer

Could you explain why you don’t like the definition of Islamophobia put forward by the APPG on British Muslims which has won widespread acceptance?

During my answer, I mention my page "The word Islamophobia should be abandoned."

Recording of my 2-minute answer

I don’t think Islam is compatible with secular democracy, and am very concerned about Islamic separatism. Would the panel endorse French President Macron’s approach to dealing with Islamic separatism?

During my answer I mentioned my page "President Macron and French Muslims — right goals, wrong implementation" and explain why French Laïcité compares badly with secularism in the USA.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

When are we going to learn the lessons from sectarianism in Northern Ireland and shut down all faith schools in England?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

Full list of speakers

The event was introduced by Stephen Evans, CEO of the NSS.

The speakers were:

  1. Yasmin Rehman — CEO of JUNO Women's Aid and a former NSS council member
  2. Dr Taj Hargey — Provost of the Oxford Institute for British Islam
  3. Me
  4. Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain — Director, Senior Lecturer and Founder, Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham

The event publicity poster


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