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This page gives an overview of the entire site. It is divided into the sections listed in the table below. The table is clickable to allow you to go directly to that section.

About me What you can do
About this site Religion and community cohesion
Contact me Media reviews
Politics The Israel / Palestine Dispute
Islamic finance Success tips
Book reviews Finance
  Muslim Council of Britain Elections


About me

For transparency, on the "About me" page I provide a detailed account about myself.

Personal profile

Some organisations I am involved with

Islamic finance credentials

Corporate governance credentials

A short personal history

Interviews and profile pieces

Why friends call me Amin

Inclusion in published listings

Organisations I support without getting personally involved

Why I wear a Union Jack lapel pin

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About this site

The legal aspects page contains details of the site ownership, terms of use and legal disclaimers. The disclaimers are also at the foot of each page.

The design philosophy page explains the site's goals and the thinking behind its visual appearance.

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Contact me

There are various ways of contacting me set out on the Contact me page.

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Plato said: "Good men who refuse to take part in politics are condemned to be governed by those less worthy than themselves."

This section first summarises my overall political philosophy and then lists my political writings in reverse date order.

My overall political philosopy

My political views have changed over time as explained in the section "My political history" within the "A short personal history" part of my "About Me" page.

From the early 1960's I have shared the vision underlying the "European Project", regardless of which political party I supported. That is why I was heavily engaged in the EU Referendum and have been campaigning since then for the UK to have a second referendum to decide whether it wants to leave on the terms negotiated by the government or to remain in the EU.

My economic views have varied over time, but from from spring 1983 I have been a strong proponent of economic liberalism and free market capitalism.

Conservative Party

I joined the Conservative Party in spring 1983, due to my economic views. Also, at that time the Conservative Party was pro-European while the Labour Party was anti-European. I remained a member until 23 July 2019.

I did not leave the Conservative Party because I stopped believing in economic liberalism. Instead I on the day it chose Mr Boris Johnson as its leader. The page below explains in more detail why I resigned.

Why I resigned from the Conservative Party
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.

Liberal Democrat Party

After a general election was called for 12 December 2019, I joined the Liberal Democrat Party. I could not sit on the sidelines while a general election that would decide the fate of Britain's EU membership was being fought.

I regard the Liberal Democrat policy of revoking the UK's Article 50 notice if a majority Liberal Democrat government is elected as entirely appropriate and democratic.

The page below explains in more detail why I joined.

Why I joined the Liberal Democrat Party
Real world politics is about making choices. The person or party you vote for or join will never be perfect, because all of us are imperfect. On leadership integrity, economic competence, and belief in international cooperation, I prefer the Liberal Democrats to the Conservative Party or the Labour Party.

Other writings on politics

Banks closing accounts for non-financial reasons
Nigel Farage is not unique in having his bank account closed for non-financial reasons. It has happened regularly to Muslim charities and prominent Muslim individuals. It has even happened to a small political organisation, the Campaign for Shared European Values, that I help to run. The anti-money laundering rules, and related practice, are not working well, and need to be revised.
The worldwide toxification of politics and your duty as citizens
I spoke to teenagers at school who will soon be voters. I began by explaining why good government matters, using Pakistan and South Korea as contrasting examples. After explaining the three parts of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) I recommended studying the US Constitution as the best way to understand how government works in the UK, not just the USA. Finally, I set out the students' duty as citizens, starting with things that are easy, and working up to things that are hard.
Should politicians vote according to their religious beliefs?
SNP Leadership candidate Kate Forbes is a committed Christian. Many have attacked her for holding strong religious views. I consider those attack to be wrong. However I also criticise Kate Forbes for wishing to legislate in accordance with her religious beliefs. I appeared on a TRT World's Nexus programme to discuss these issues. My views are set out in detail in my piece "The Proper Boundary of Political Islam."
Britain might join the EU in future. It can never “re-join”
As an EU member since 1 January 1973, the UK had negotiated opt-outs from several aspects of European integration. Since the UK left the EU as a result of the 2016 Brexit Referendum, many pro-Europeans want it to “re-join.” I explain that re-joining is impossible because the EU will not agree to restore the UK's pre-2016 status. I also expect the EU to require evidence of overwhelming UK support for EU membership before agreeing to open any negotiations for the UK to join the EU.
Political donations — all money is not equal
Political parties need money to function. However some money is more valuable than other money. I explained why in my talk at the 15th anniversary celebration of the Liberty Network.
In praise of past inequality
The inequality of pre-modern societies was deeply unfair. However it was that past inequality that made human progress possible. Everything of value from before the industrial revolution owes its existence to past inequality. Without past inequality, all of us living today would be desperately poor. It is past inequality that made our wealthy, modern, world possible.
Celebrating America's political contribution to the world
Views of the USA, and knowledge about it, vary greatly. Even though I did not set foot there until the age of 30, I grew up with a deep knowledge of, and affection for, the USA. I shared this in my "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester as the date was the fourth of July.
Report of the Swaran Singh investigation into the Conservative Party
The long awaited report by Professor Swaran Singh into the Conservative Party's handling of complaints of racism etc. has now been published. I believe the Conservative Party gave Professor Singh very narrow terms of reference in order to minimise reputational damage. The report is robust, and contains excellent recommendations for improving the complaints process and for internal training. Despite the constraints of his terms of reference, Professor Singh has also managed to touch on some of the wider issues the Conservative Party needs to address. I gave a number of media interviews after the report was published.
“Why freedom of speech is vital” — interview given to a school pupil
Many younger people value freedom of speech less than my generation does. That is especially true if they live in a country which is not as free as the UK or USA. I gave a short interview to a Singapore school pupil about why I regard freedom of speech as vital. You can watch the recording. I have also transcribed his questions. This page also reproduces the UK law on the incitement of racial hatred and the incitement of religious hatred, explaining why they differ.
Heritage Podcast interview about my religious and political history
This 39-minute video podcast covered current politics as well as past changes in my religious beliefs and my political beliefs. Some people claim to never change any of their beliefs. Conversely I am open about how mine have changed during my life. I have transcribed the questions to provide an overview of the podcast.
The Conservative and Labour Parties continue to select BME candidates very differently
I look at the House of Commons after the 2019 general election. Conservative MPs predominantly represent rural and small town seats whereas Labour MPs predominantly represent seats in large cities. Accordingly it is no surprise that Conservative held seats are, on average, much "Whiter" than Labour held seats. However when you look at BME MPs, there is a striking pattern. Labour BME MPs mainly represent seats that are noticeably more diverse than the average Labour held seat. Conversely Conservative BME MPs represent seats slightly "Whiter" than the average Conservative held seat. This shows that the Conservative Party is much more willing than Labour to select BME candidates for winnable seats, irrespective of the constituency demographics.
Britain is not a world power with strategic autonomy
Inventing the industrial revolution, combined with the British Empire, made Britain the most powerful country in the world for over a century. Even though the USA overtook the UK in the late 19'th century, Britain remained a world power until well into the 20'th century. Unfortunately Britain has not fully accepted its reduced status in the world. This leads it to suffer from the illusion of having strategic autonomy, and consequently making bad foreign policy decisions. I conclude with the UK's three realistic policy options.
Conservative Party racism inquiry - Hope not hate submission of evidence
The Conservative Party has commissioned an independent inquiry into its handling of complaints of racism and Islamophobia. The organisation Hope not hate has submitted a report to the inquiry with details of 40 cases of anti-Muslim behaviour. The report also contains a page written by me giving my overall perspective on the issues. Hope not hate has also published a survey by YouGov of Conservative Party members' attitudes, many of which are disquieting.
Violating the EU Withdrawal Agreement – disentangling fact and opinion
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.
Read the Constitution of the United States of America
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.
The UK has made a serious mistake by ruling out any extension to the Brexit transition period
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.
Fighting COVID-19 while protecting individual freedom
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.
Where do the UK and its political parties stand now?
"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.
Wealth inequality needs precise definition
I often hear comments such as "X% of the population owns Y% of total wealth." However talking about the entire population is grossly misleading. Most young children are expected to own no wealth. Similarly we should expect young workers to have little wealth compared to older people. I illustrate this with a numerical example.
I want to remain in the EU. How should I vote?
Britain has had a Remain majority since mid-2017. Despite that we risk imminent departure from the EU if the Conservative Party wins the general election. The problem is that Leave voters are united around the Tories, while Remain voters are divided between several parties. The only rational way forward for Remain supporters is to vote tactically. However, how do you decide how to vote in your individual constituency? I review the available tactical voting guidance.
Why we need a better voting system
Under our present voting system, the candidate who receives the most votes gets elected. This works fine when there are only two credible candidates. When there are three credible candidates, our voting system forces me to guess what might happen before I can decide how to vote. It often forces me to vote for my second choice candidate, to stop an even less wanted candidate getting elected. A much better system, which is simple to operate, could easily be implemented while keeping to the UK principle of "One constituency, one MP."
Brexit and the rise of the far-right
The Brexit referendum was associated with a significant rise in hate crimes. On average, supporters and opponents of Brexit have very different profiles with regard to: age, education, authoritarianism, and national identity. I believe these explain why Brexit has been so polarising. In particular people with authoritarian attitudes and who see their identity as primarily English rather than British are more likely to be drawn to the far-right. My 22-minute presentation to Manchester's Challenging Hate Forum.
What can British Muslims expect from Boris Johnson's Conservative Party?
I consider Boris Johnson morally unfit to be Conservative Party Leader, so I resigned from the Party. However I have no reason to believe that Mr Johnson hates Muslims. Worryingly, he displays significant ignorance of Muslim history. His great communications skills combined with such historical ignorance make me think of the consequences of giving a 10-year-old a flame thrower as a present. The results will never be good.
Islam Channel interview about my CMF expulsion and views on Boris Johnson
Carl Arrindell interviewed me for 30 minutes. We discussed how the Conservative Muslim Forum came to expel me after 13 years of membership, and why I consider Boris Johnson unfit to be Prime Minister. This is the first 1-1 interview of this length I have ever given.
How the conduct of the Leave campaign in the EU Referendum has toxified British politics
A short written interview given to a small news website. The editor made it easy for me to decide whether to give the interview. I explain how Brexit has toxified British politics. While "Leavers" included many liberal-minded internationalists, the Leave campaign could only win by appealing to xenophobia.
TRT World programme about Tory Leadership contender Boris Johnson
Many people forgive Tory Leadership contender Boris Johnson for transgressions such as lying that would sink other politicians. Why is this?

On 20 June 2019 the presenter of the NEXUS programme interviewed me, Freddie Gray of The Spectator, and Washington DC based journalist Simon Marks about the merits, or otherwise, of Mr Johnson. The page has the 26-minute TV programme.
My expulsion by the Conservative Muslim Forum
I have been expelled from the Conservative Muslim Forum because this was the only mechanism for the CMF Executive to remove me as Chairman. The Executive was under severe pressure from the Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis to remove me, with a thinly veiled threat that otherwise the CMF might be disaffiliated. I have set out full details of the evidence, the allegations against me, and my response.
How the Conservative Party should fix its Muslim problem
Recently there have been a number of cases of anti-Muslim behaviour within the Conservative Party. The Party's remedial actions have not solved the problem. Fresh cases keep appearing and many British Muslims, and others have no confidence that the Party is addressing the problem adequately. I set out what the Conservative Party needs to do.
Why the Conservative Party has a problem with anti-Muslim bigotry
The Conservative Party lagged behind the Labour Party in coming to terms with the changes to British society caused by immigration. With David Cameron's detoxification programme, the Party made great progress in ridding itself of its historical anti-Muslim reputation. Since the Zac Goldsmith London Mayoral campaign of 2016, the Party has been going backwards with British Muslims. I explain what how the Party needs to change.
Why is there so much voter apathy?
A school pupil emailed me four questions, all about why there is so much voter apathy. I responded with a number of different causes of voter apathy. Sometimes not bothering to vote can be a rational response to the circumstances facing the voter. Different solutions are needed for these multiple causes of voter apathy. The full correspondence is reproduced on the page.
Why freedom of speech is vital
I debated freedom of speech at Exeter University. Denying me freedom to speak obviously restricts one of my most fundamental human rights. However, it also restricts your human rights, by denying you the opportunity to hear me. Freedom of speech is vital for human progress, which would be impossible without the freedom to express disagreement with existing ideas.
The Government should talk to the Muslim Council of Britain
The John Major Government encouraged the formation of the MCB. Apart from some fallings out, the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown generally engaged with it. The Conservative led coalition Government and the current Conservative Government have boycotted the MCB. In my view, although the MCB has many faults, the boycott is counter-productive for the Government. Talking to an organisation is not a reward, it is a means towards achieving the Government's goals.
EU membership has made Britain a better country
EU membership has not only made Britain richer, it has also made it a better country. The campaign organisation Best for Britain asked if I would write 400-500 words on why EU membership is good for Britain's openness, tolerance and global influence. The piece was published as my first ever article on HuffPost UK.
Brexit: What choices should any second referendum offer?
The Government's negotiated EU departure deal is widely unpopular and Parliament may reject it. Parliament may decide on alternative action, or may call for a second referendum on Brexit. To avoid repeating the uncertainty caused by the 2016 EU Referendum, any new referendum should have fully specified legally implementable choices. I explain why this means a "No deal Brexit" cannot be one of the choices.
Why the Conservative Party needs to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice
The think tank Bright Blue promotes liberal Conservatism. It asked me to write a short piece about why the Conservative Party needed to fight Islamophobia. I explained that anti-Muslim prejudice harms not just Muslims, it also harms the UK as a whole. Furthermore, being seen as anti-Muslim makes it much harder for the Conservative Party to win elections. I illustrated this with the example of Ilford North constituency.
The challenges facing ethnic minority elected politicians
The British Home Secretary and the Mayor of London are both of Pakistani origin. Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan come from humble backgrounds but climbed to the very top of UK politics. I appeared on a 26-minute TV programme debating the extent to which they should be seen as representing the minority communities that they came from.
Is Brexit a good thing? Interview by Amir Anzur
I was interviewed for 23 minutes. The goal of the interview was to provide an easy introduction to Brexit for those not familiar with the issues. The page also has links to my earlier writings on the EU and on the euro crisis.
The toxification of politics threatens us all
Boris Johnson recently wrote a Telegraph column which denigrated Muslim women who wear a niqab or burqa. His skill with English makes it clear that he knew exactly what political effect his words would have. Populist politics in many countries around the world threatens liberal values and freedoms which we have come to take for granted. I wrote a Conservative Home column about the risks to the UK.
Why the Conservative Party is the right party for British Muslims
I spoke to about 30 Britons of Pakistani origin. Most of them were Labour Party supporters, with some being Labour Party members and local councillors. I explained why I am a Conservative, how the Conservative Party sees the country, and why British Muslims should support it. My 6-minute talk was recorded, and you can listen to it or read a transcript.
Why do politicians lie to voters?
Voters often complain that politicians lie. The accusation is valid, but blame rests not with the politicians but with the voters, whose behaviour shows that they want politicians to lie to them. I covered this in my 42nd "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester.
Is Britain unwelcoming? Not in my view.
The magazine of the United Reformed Church posed this question of four people, including me. When asked such a question, the response should be "Compared to what?" Any answer is inevitably coloured by one's own life experiences. I have found Britain very welcoming, and my life here has been wonderful. I explain that in 400 words.
Talk to Richmond Conservatives on appealing to Muslim voters
Muslims have historically voted mainly for the Labour Party. Some of the reasons are socioeconomic. However, even allowing for socioeconomic factors, Muslims are still far more likely to vote Labour than Conservative. I explain why, and outline what Conservative campaigners can do to rectify this.
The duty of Parliamentarians regarding Brexit
In the 2016 EU Referendum, the majority voted to leave the EU. Accordingly, the Government is presently negotiating an EU departure agreement. The final agreement must be assessed by Parliament and I explain the legal position. Parliament is free to accept the agreement, or to require the Government to negotiate further, or to instruct the Government to remain within the EU.
UK black and minority ethnic MPs after the 2017 general election
After the 2015 general election, the Labour Party had 23 BME MPs while the Conservative Party had 17. The 2017 general election increased the Labour total significantly to 32 while the Conservative total increased slightly, to 19. The House of Commons is gradually changing to look like the country as a whole. However, the pattern I identified before remains. While the Conservative Party selects candidates on merit, irrespective of ethnicity, the Labour Party generally only selects BME candidates for safe seats when those seats have large number of BME voters.
Presentation: Will our children be poorer than us?
I was invited to speak to the sixth form at Ibstock Place School in Roehampton. I addressed this question, and explained that continuing technological progress will produce a cornucopia of goods and services. The pupils' real challenge will be to find meaning for their lives in a world where most of them do not need to work.
Brexit: What should the Government do after the 2017 general election result?
After the 2017 general election the Conservative Party no longer has a majority in the House of Commons. I consider that the Government needs to come up with a UK negotiating strategy that is agreed with the key interested parties, namely the other political parties, the devolved administrations, and the Mayor of London. While this may seem difficult, the EU has managed to devise a negotiating strategy agreed by the other 27 members states. Finally, Parliament should ask whether the final negotiated EU departure agreement is better or worse than remaining within the EU. If it is worse, Parliament should instruct the Government to seek to keep the UK within the EU.
The Government should ask the European Court of Justice whether an Article 50 notice is revocable
To leave the EU, the UK needs to give notice under Article 50 of the EU Treaty. The text of Article 50 contains no provision for unilateral revocation of the notice. Many experts on international law consider that under general international law principles an Article 50 notice can be revoked unilaterally but this cannot be relied upon. Given the significance of the issues, the Government should ask the ECJ as ultimate interpreter of the EU Treaty about revocability. Otherwise the UK faces serious risks. In my view this should take priority over the desire to serve an early notice.
Video: My testimony to Bright Blue's Conservatism and Human Rights Commission
Bright Blue is a Conservative leaning think tank which is looking in detail at Conservatism and Human Rights. The Commissioners have been holding evidence sessions on a range of subject areas. I gave evidence on the race and religion aspects of human rights. This can be seen on video.
The problem with referendums
Referendums have often been abused by dictators and demagogues. That may be why the USA constitution has no provision for them, and the UK never held one until 1975. Referendums often ask voters to vote for "a pig in a poke." Even when the alternatives are properly specified, people often cast their ballots for reasons nothing to do with the referendum question.
Talk: Muslim voters and the Conservative Party
A recording of my 20 minute talk to the Oxford University Conservative Association. I explain the demographics of Britain's Muslims, and how it differs from the demographic profile of non-Muslims. The talk then covers voting patterns and how they are changing. Finally, I show the differences in how the Conservative and Labour Parties select candidates for safe seats, and what this reveals about their philosophies.
Why are Finns richer than Iranians? Consider the environment for the Middle Class
There are clear reasons why some countries are richer than others. Some countries are rich because they have extensive natural resources, and a small population to share the sale proceeds amongst. Others are impoverished by war damage. However the effects of such damage are temporary. The main reasons some countries are richer than others relate to their internal governance and the legal and business environment. A comparison of Finland and Iran demonstrates dramatic differences, with the aid of comparative data from countries such as South Korea and Pakistan.
The implications for American Muslims of Donald Trump's election as President
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."
Political correctness harms us by stifling political debate
Our desire not to deliberately upset people has morphed into "political correctness" which prohibits some issues from discussion. My speech at the Durham Union Society gives two notable examples. Prohibiting some issues from discussion harms society by leading to bad decisions.
Who would suffer most from UK / EU trade restrictions?
In the EU Referendum, voters chose for the UK to leave the EU. However the nature of the UK's future trade relationship with the EU needs to be determined. More trade restrictions are always worse than fewer restrictions. The article considers the most extreme restrictions possible and shows how the UK would suffer far more from these than would the rest of the EU.
Network for a Free Society - How ideas can change the world
More than anything else, the world is shaped by our ideas and the way we think. That is why I direct my charitable donations towards organisations that generate and spread good ideas. Poor countries are poor because they are badly governed and because they pursue bad economic policies. Network for a Free Society sets out to address this deficit directly, by distributing good ideas around the world. I was struck by their 2016 Annual Report and have shared it on this page.
Why I have voted Remain in the EU Referendum
The Conservative Home website has relatively strict limits on the length of articles. Accordingly when I wrote a piece explaining my position on the EU Referendum, I concentrated on the three key issues. They are security, prosperity, and Britain's influence in the world. I also concentrated on being positive.
The EU Referendum – my perspective on the issues
The EU Referendum is the most important decision the British people have faced for a generation. Whether the UK remains in or leaves the EU will affect many aspects of our national life. Like many, I have become frustrated by the poor quality of the discussion in the arguments about the referendum. Accordingly, I have created this page to discuss the key topics in detail. I am writing from my Remain perspective, but welcome contrary views from Leave supporters.
Zac Goldsmith's deplorable campaign for Mayor of London
During the recent election campaign for Mayor of London, many Muslims, as well as many non-Muslims, considered Zac Goldsmith's campaign for Mayor of London to be highly inappropriate. Quite a few people complained to me during the campaign. I shared their concerns, but considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the campaign was underway. Now that the campaign is over have published my concerns to explain why I consider the campaign to have been deplorable.
Why the UK should remain in the EU - my speech in Forest Gate
I was asked to speak for 10 minutes to a primarily Muslim audience on why the UK should remain in the European Union. I focused on the importance of the EU to our economy. In particular I explained from first principles what the single market is about, and how it makes us richer, using the car industry and financial services as examples. I also pointed out how the most vociferous opponents of the EU are also often also anti-Muslim.
TV discussion: Being concerned about immigration is not racist
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stated during an interview that it was wrong to label people concerned about immigration as racists. The Islam Channel considered these comments controversial and organised a three person discussion for 17 minutes on their current affairs programme. I supported Justin Welby's views.
UK political party differences in selecting BME Parliamentary candidates
I know many Conservative BME MPs who represent very "white" constituencies. This led me to look at the data for all BME MPs in England & Wales after the 2015 general election, using the 2011 census information for Parliamentary constituencies. The exercise reveals that the Conservative Party selects candidates on merit, often selecting BME candidates for very "white" seats. However the Labour Party appears to primarily select BME candidates for constituencies with a relatively high BME population ratio. My page also has an Excel file and PDF file showing the BME ratio for every constituency in England & Wales and which party won the seat.
Take the moralising out of prostitution policy
Religious beliefs cannot be the basis of state policy, since no person has to accept anyone else's religious views. The issue of prostitution, where religious people (including me) have strong moral views sharply illustrates the point. Fiona Bruce MP has proposed criminalising the purchase of sex which I consider would cause more harm than good. Instead I propose legalised and properly regulated brothels.
Iran’s Economy – Which Way Forward?
This article, published in an Iranian magazine, assesses the present state of Iran's economy and looks at how it should develop. Iran's economy was severely damaged by the Iran / Iraq war, and by sanctions related to the nuclear dispute. The resolution of the nuclear dispute is a major opportunity. Iran is presently a middle income country, with very high levels of corruption, and its future development depends on addressing some key issues where the article makes some specific recommendations. The most difficult challenge will be increasing personal freedom, which in the long run is economically essential.
The world is getting better, not worse
Worldwide, on average people are richer, better educated, and live longer and healthier lives. So why do so many people think that things are getting worse?
Why I would not renew Trident
The UK's Trident independent nuclear deterrent is ageing and needs to be replaced or scrapped. The main argument put forward for replacement is that the UK cannot rely upon the US "nuclear umbrella". However this argument applies with even greater force to many other US allies. If they all sought nuclear weapons, paradoxically the world would become more dangerous, not less. Therefore I would not renew Trident, preferring to spend the money on conventional weapons.
ISIS, ISIL or Daesh? What’s in a name?
The terrorist group controlling large parts of Syria and Iraq calls itself "Islamic State." However it is neither Islamic nor a State. There are various acronyms governments use to refer to the group and of these I conclude that ISIL is the most appropriate in English. I also recommend not using the name ISIL's leader has adopted.
Is the world getting worse or better?
Many commentators contend that global poverty is increasing. However such contentions are simply incorrect. On average people around the world are far better off than they have ever been. The danger of seeing the world incorrectly is that you will prescribe the wrong policies and in turn they will make people worse off.
What is a responsible tax policy?
Tax avoidance gets much media coverage, and is often confused with tax evasion. I explain the difference between them. I have contributed to the discussions at the project "Responsible Tax for the Common Good" and as part of that, I have written down an illustrative corporate tax policy which encapsulates my views.
Group letter wrongly attacking the UK Government's Prevent strategy
Prevent is part of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy. 280 people, including many eminent academics, signed a group letter criticising Prevent in very strong terms. I regard the letter as badly drafted and lacking in logic. It is so bad that the academics would have been far better off composing their own individual letters.
My interview with Madrid newspaper "ABC" about integration and radicalisation
ABC is a leading Spanish newspaper to which I gave a written interview about Muslim integration and radicalisation. While the interview has been published in Spanish, I have set out the original English questions and answers on this website page. I explain why I think some young people are attracted by ISIS and how it can be prevented.
How to help Burma's Rohingya Muslims
I attended a small event to discuss how to help them Burma's Rohingya Muslims. As well as violence they face significant legal discrimination and are denied citizenship. There are some simple actions that each of us can take.
Voting and abstention are both choices with consequences
Many people refuse to vote, either for religious reasons, or simply because they find the candidates unappealing. They forget that abstaining is also a choice, and has its own consequences. When making every decision, you should also evaluate the consequences of taking no action.
TV discussion on the UK Government's Counter-Extremism proposals
I took part in a 19 minute discussion on the Islam Channel on the day the Government announced that it was proceeding with a number of proposals to counter non-violent extremism. The programme presenter and the other two panel participants appear to reject the existence of radicalisation and non-violent extremism. I think that is the most fundamental divide. Not what to do about non-violent extremism, but whether you acknowledge that there is such a problem.
Have British Conservative governments attacked Muslims overseas?
"Why as a devout Muslim do you support a political party which in government has attacked Muslims overseas?" The sixth form at Lancaster Royal Grammar School asked me that challenging question. In response, I explained that a look at history shows that the question is based on a false premise. The reality is that Conservative governments have not attacked Muslims overseas and have no anti-Muslim agenda.
A simple explanation of why your vote matters
I appear on a 1 minute video from the Muslim Council of Britain encouraging Muslims to vote. The messages are applicable to all citizens. My message is very simple. "A very simple thing happens if you don't vote. Other people get what they want, and you don't get what you want."
Why citizens need to vote - the quality of government really matters
When speaking at a fundraising event for Jason McCartney MP I challenged three myths about politics. These were: (1) politicians are only in it for themselves; (2) it doesn’t matter who runs the country, they are all just as bad as each other; and (3) it makes no difference whether or not you vote. To show how having good or incompetent government makes a massive difference to the lives of citizens, I contrasted the long term performance of two pairs of countries: Poland v Greece (1991-2013) and South Korea v Pakistan (1950-2013).
My instant political reaction to the UK Budget speech
The website Conservative Home asked me to be part of a panel of 10 Conservatives who would each summarise their reaction to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Budget speech in 300 words. These needed to be supplied within 60 minutes of the Chancellor stopping speaking. As Conservative Home is mainly read by Party activists, I decided to focus on the politics of the speech.
When justice and reconciliation conflict
Justice and reconciliation are fundamental religious and human values. Sometimes there is no conflict between them but in other situations there can be a fundamental conflict between dispensing justice and achieving reconciliation. Failure to acknowledge this conflict, or attempting to "fudge" it, is a serious mistake. I look at this in the context of Northern Ireland.
My reactions to the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo
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.
The European Convention on Human Rights – Should the UK stay or leave?
The UK Government set up a Commission to consider a Bill of Rights. Underlying this is the issue of the UK's continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights. After reading the report and considering the arguments for withdrawal, I conclude that the UK should remain a party to the ECHR.
How do British Muslims see the UK Government?
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-2015 is written in neutral language. However its main concern is clearly the risk of terrorism being committed by British Muslims. Some Muslims consider that the Government has an anti-Muslim agenda. I disagree completely and see the Government as behaving in a religiously neutral manner.
How to downsize the House of Lords
The House of Lords is a peculiarly British institution. While it works relatively well, most people consider there are too many members. I outline a radical plan for reducing its size by removing those members their fellow peers consider to be the least effective. My plan also lays out a clear policy for the party political balance in the House of Lords
TV discussion: is the UK pursuing an anti-EU agenda?
I took part in a 16 minute discussion of the UK Government's concerns about EU migration and what it is seeking to achieve. In my view opinions around this issue are excessively polarised, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the debate.
TV discussion: looking forward to the Scottish independence referendum
This 12 minute discussion took place two days before the Scottish independence on 18 September 2014. Accordingly it is now only of archival interest.
TV discussion: the struggle against so-called Islamic State
This nine minute discussion shows how differently the presenter, the other panellist and I saw the decision of the US, UK and other allies to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
TV discussion: Britain raises terrorism threat assessment to “severe”
Many British Muslims are now fighting in Syria and Iraq for a range of organisations and the Government considers their return a threat. However others downplay this risk. I took part in a TV discussion on the general threat assessment as well as the risks the returnees might pose.
The role of Islamic finance in Britain's international competitiveness
Government action can increase or reduce the country's international competitiveness. In practice this happens with the cumulative effect of many small decisions. The UK Government's encouragement of Islamic finance illustrates this point very well.
Achieving political change takes both vision and patience
Achieving major changes in society is possible but often take a long time. Many fail to realise this, causing them to become apathetic when they fail to achieve the desired changes immediately.
How Conservatives can neutralise the Palestine question
Britons from an immigrant background care far more about foreign issues than do white Britons. In particular, most British Muslims are very concerned about the Israel / Palestine dispute. As well as explaining the importance of the subject, I outline one presentational point for Conservative politicians and raise one policy question.
TV discussion: the so called "Islamic State" and Britons
ISIS has been condemned by the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars, but still appeals to some young Muslims. I took part in a 15 minute discussion on the Islam Channel to share my thoughts about ISIS.
TV discussion: Will the rise of the far-right influence government policy?
Even without winning any seats, far right parties matter if they cause other parties to change policy. I dispute whether this has occurred in the UK. The programme also discussed David Cameron's speech to the Munich Security Conference in February 2011, and the meaning of British values.
When should governments intervene in private sector mergers?
Commercial companies are owned by their shareholders who are free to buy and sell individual shares or entire companies. Where a company is being taken over, when are governments entitled to intervene? The Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca provides a case study.
TV discussion about UK charities and terrorism
Many UK charities are providing relief to people suffering from the Syrian conflict. The Chair of the Charity Commission has expressed concern about charitable funds being diverted to fund the conflict. There is also a wider issue about whether charities might be abused by terrorists or extremists. I participated in a two part Islam Channel programme discussing the issues.
Why won't Muslims vote for the Conservative Party?
The values of British Muslims align with the Conservative Party's values. Despite that, most British Muslims vote Labour. There are many distinct reasons for this. One is the inadvertent use of language which creates a divide between Muslim voters and the Conservative Party. I focused on this in a short speech I gave at the Conservative Muslim Forum's fringe meeting at the Welsh Conservative Party's Spring Conference.
The principles of job creation
Some countries are much better than others at creating private sector jobs. The principles behind job creation are straightforward, but many countries fail to implement them for a variety of political reasons.
TV Discussion: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel on campus
A students union's recent vote to boycott Israel led to this TV discussion. I stressed the need to distinguish between boycotting Israel and boycotting West Bank settlements which are illegal. Furthermore would an academic boycott also extend to Israeli Arab academics?
TV Discussion: Extremism in universities and the organisation "Student Rights"
Many argue whether there is any problem of unacceptable speakers on university campuses. I believe the issue is real and consider the government could help universities by publishing a register of hate preachers. However I do not consider "Student Rights" is a credible arbiter.
TV discussion: Where next for the fleet of British Drones leaving Afghanistan?
Armed drone aeroplanes are used by a growing number of countries but their use against terrorists is often controversial. I appeared in a 19 minute discussion about them on the Islam Channel. Despite the title, most of the discussion was about US drone strikes, their legality and casualties.
TV discussion: Does Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 need reform?
All security measures need to balance individual freedom with the protection of society from those who wish to do us harm. I participated in a TV discussion looking at the policy issues around TA 2000 Sch 7, which allows someone passing through a port or an airport to be detained for up to nine hours for interrogation.
A niqab and burqa ban in Britain?
Some European governments have banned wearing a niqab or a burqa in public. While the UK Government opposes such a ban, a backbench MP is promoting a Private Member's Bill to enact one. Although the Bill is very unlikely to be passed by Parliament, it is damaging Muslims' perceptions of the Conservative Party.
TV discussion about the Maajid Nawaz cartoon issue
The Maajid Nawaz "Jesus and Mo" cartoon tweet furore raises many questions. While I see it as primarily a free speech issue, it also raises questions about how political parties engage with Muslim voters. This panel discussion explores the issues quite well.
Maajid Nawaz and cartoon politics
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz has received death threats after tweeting a cartoon. An explanation of the background, the religious issues and the policy implications. The furore show why the UK should never again have a blasphemy law.
Richer than Pharaoh?
Wealth is usually measured in money. However what money can buy changes dramatically over time due to technical and cultural progress. Accordingly a middle class person today has far more available to him than Pharaoh ever did.
TV discussion of Dominic Grieve MP's comments about electoral corruption
Dominic Grieve gave a wide-ranging interview to the Daily Telegraph in which he expressed concern about electoral corruption. In response to questioning he identified the Pakistani community as a particular concern. I appeared on a TV discussion about the remarks. While they could have been better expressed, I do not believe he sought to demonise Britons of Pakistani origin.
A strategy for dealing with Hizb ut Tahrir
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.
Immigration is not a racial issue today
Historically, "immigrant" has regularly been used as a code word for "non-white". Consequently attempts to restrict immigration have often been seen as disguised racism. However the major influx of white East European immigrants after 2004 has broken this link in the minds of many people, including ethnic minorities. That can transform the politics associated with the immigration issue.
Do councils make excessive use of bailiffs?
The Money Advice Trust recently published a report that showed councils used bailiffs 1.8 million times in 12 months. I took part in a TV discussion asking if it is fair, and whether it disproportionately impacts upon Muslims.
Reflections on the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher
Mrs Thatcher's death in April 2013 was a major national event. While many, including me, regarded her as the nation's saviour, others detested her. I discuss the polarisation of views. I only saw Mrs Thatcher three times, and sent in my reminiscences for a story published in the PwC former partners' magazine about partners' encounters with her.
TV discussion on the UK's system for taxing international companies
Since the Public Accounts Committee held hearings into Starbucks, Amazon and Google, tax avoidance by international companies has had much media coverage. However the issues are complex and often misunderstood. I recently took part in a short TV discussion which provides a simple introduction to some of the issues.
Calling terrorists jihadis helps them
The vocabulary we use has a major impact on the world. Many terrorists who are Muslims claim to be conducting jihad. However accepting their vocabulary flatters them and also feeds a narrative of "The West attacking Islam."
Is there now a consensus that immigration is a problem?
In Britain, immigration has traditionally been used as a code word for racial bigotry. Is that still the case today? I took part in a TV programme discussing whether everyone now agrees that immigration is a problem, and what kinds of people we want to allow into our country.
A Government register of hate preachers
Some public statements, for example incitement to murder, are illegal. However much that is legal is still unacceptable. An example is Holocaust denial, legal in the UK but totally deplorable. Owners of property can stop people speaking there but how do they know who to ban from their premises? Due to the risk of libel actions, only the Government could maintain a list of such people.
Does the British Royal Family get too much media attention?
The pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge led to a media frenzy. In this TV discussion I explain that there are simple reasons why some British newspapers have so much royal coverage. The panel also discussed some more wide-ranging questions about the royal family and the British public.
In praise of ethnic monitoring
Almost everyone believes that employers should not discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities. However many complain about the tools needed to ensure that wrongful discrimination is not happening. I explain how ethnic monitoring works, and why it is beneficial based upon my own experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Are the UK Government's employment figures misleading?
Britain's jobs performance has been good despite a weak economy. However are the employment figures distorted? I appear on a 24 minute TV programme in which the panel discussed this question and also ranged more widely over the UK economy.
Should Britain worry about immigration from Romania and Bulgaria?
Later in 2013, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will be free to travel to all EU countries. Many commentators and politicians are concerned that large numbers will come to Britain, as happened with Poles after they were given the right to work here. In this TV discussion I point out the benefits from the free movement of labour within the European Union.
The British Conservative Party's Appeal to Religious and Ethnic Minorities
The Conservative Party attracts less support from ethnic minority voters than it does from white voters. In this 23 minute programme on the Islam Channel a professor of politics, a left wing columnist and I discuss why that might be. During the discussion I explain why I consider that immigration has ceased to be a racial issue.
How much should we pay Members of Parliament?
MPs' pay has been politically controversial for many years. MPs used to set their salary themselves. Responsibility for setting MPs pay now rests with an external body, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. IPSA is consulting on the appropriate pay level. I have proposed £200,000 per year. My reason is that to perform their role effectively, MPs need to be as talented as the senior people they have to deal with. Talented individuals should not be deterred from becoming MPs by financial considerations.
Response to criticism from Hasan Afzal
In June 2012, Mr Afzal criticised me alongside Lord Sheikh and the Conservative Muslim Forum. While I normally ignore criticism, I have decided to clarify some statements Mr Afzal made to avoid any implication that I accept the interpretation Mr Afzal's piece puts on the facts.
Why Muslims should join the Conservative Party
I spoke for two minutes at the Conservative Muslim Forum Eid reception. I explained how the Conservative Party's values align with my values as a Muslim, and why I regard the two main objections Muslims raise against joining the Party as invalid.
The corporate duty to avoid tax
Directors of a publicly held company have a duty to protect the company's assets. That responsibility includes ensuring the company does not pay more tax than the law requires. Accordingly, except where it might otherwise damage the business, the directors of the company have a duty to ensure that it avoids tax where it can.
How much tax is enough?
All citizens with resources should pay tax to the state. The general view is that your tax liability should increase without limit as your income rises. I am not convinced this is fair. A cap on people's income tax liability would encourage wealthy people to remain in the UK, and wealthy foreigners to come here. That should boost total tax revenues and boost the economy.
Making the UK a land fit for billionaires
People not domiciled in the UK receive some favourable tax treatments not given to UK domiciled persons. This has caused many foreign domiciled billionaires to move to the UK. Their being here benefits our economy. I propose extending the same tax treatment to UK domiciled people, to discourage UK origin billionaires from emigrating. This should increase total tax revenues.
Paying tax is not a moral issue
Many media stories about tax avoidance contend that is immoral. In my view the complaints about tax avoidance are tendentious. Governments make tax law and citizens are obliged to pay tax in accordance with the law. That is the end of the matter.
The Conservative Party's need to exorcise Enoch Powell's ghost
The Conservative Party needs more support from ethnic minorities. In focus groups, many people still mention the former Conservative MP Enoch Powell as a reason for not voting Conservative. The Party's leader David Cameron needs to speak out to condemn Enoch Powell in the strongest possible terms to emphasise how the Conservative Party has changed.
Voting unites the country
Politics often creates strong emotions and is seen as disuniting people. However voting is a great national communal act and we need to remember that all politicians are loyal to their country.
The UK Government's consultation on equal civil marriage
The Government is consulting on replacing civil partnerships for same-sex couples with civil marriage. Many religious groups have objected to the change and so have I. The consultation closes on 14 June 2012.
The arithmetic of giving to charity
The proposal in the March 2012 UK Budget to limit tax relief for charitable giving has caused great controversy. Much of the debate has misrepresented the issues which I explain with some simple numbers.
TV discussion on Britain and Christian values
In a speech on the King James Bible, Prime Minister David Cameron explained his view of Britain as a Christian country and the importance of Christian values. The Islam Channel had a programme where I discussed this with Dr Jonathan Chaplin - Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics.
The Conservative Party, racial equality and national identity
My essay in the Demos publication "Are we there yet? A collection on race and Conservatism" edited by Max Wind-Cowie. I discuss the nature of race and the meaning of national identity, and how the Conservative Party has changed under David Cameron.
Why the state should exit the marriage business
Using the same word, "marriage" to describe a legal relationship and a relationship that is primarily religious causes confusion. The state should recognise only civil partnerships, leaving marriage to individuals depending on their beliefs.
Winning Muslim votes for the Conservative Party
A one-page article I wrote for "Reformer", the house magazine of the Tory Reform Group, on how the Party can win more Muslim votes.
The difference between "multiculturalism" and "state multiculturalism"
David Cameron has criticises "state multiculturalism" on at least two occasions. Unfortunately many misunderstand that as criticism of multiculturalism. I have tried to explain the difference.
The proper boundary of "Political Islam"
Political Islam causes concerns in many countries. When is it legitimate for a politician to be inspired by religion and when is it not?
Why I will vote YES in the Alternative Vote referendum
First past the post (FPTP) does not work properly once you have more than two credible candidates. The referendum is possibly the most important decision our country will make in a generation.
The benefits and costs of joining a political party
Every time I think about it I am surprised by how few British citizens are members of a political party. In this piece, I explain how much influence joining a party gives you, even if you don't have time to get actively involved.
BNP video: "British Conservatives Support Hard-Line Islam"
This video appears to have been posted on YouTube on 23 February 2010, but I only became aware of recently when a friend brought it to my attention. I was quite pleased to find the BNP attacking me by name, and regard it as a badge of honour.
Is there a Muslim bloc vote and how do Muslims vote?
With the General Election only eight days away, I wrote a couple of comments on the Guardian's comment is free website. This page contains those comments, along with links to the main articles I was responding to.
A review of the BNP's 2010 Election manifesto
I decided to read the BNP's 2010 Election Manifesto, and to write a short review from a Muslim perspective.
Powerful or powerless?
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.
Why Muslims need to join the Conservative Muslim Forum
I am a member of the Conservative Muslim Forum. In the summer of 2009, I helped to write the leaflet "Why Muslims need to join the Conservative Muslim Forum," the text of which was signed off by the Conservative Party's internal team as with all other Party materials.

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Islamic finance

I am a regular writer and presenter on Islamic finance. This page starts with my short glossary. The other works are listed with the newest at the top.


Glossary of Islamic finance terms
There are many Islamic finance glossaries available on the internet. I have create another due to some specific objectives about spelling and to give more detailed explanations than the typical glossary. The glossary will grow slowly as I add words to it. If there is a word you would like me to include, please let me know.

Other works

Overpaying for Shariah compliant fund management
I looked at some of the Shariah compliant equity funds available in the UK. What struck me is how expensive some of them are.
First steps in Shariah compliant equity investing
Most people, irrespective of their religious views, would benefit from putting their long-term savings into equity investments. However there are some basics which need to be understood before starting out.
In praise of fractional reserve banking
Fractional reserve banking enables banks to create money out of nowhere, as if by magic. That applies for both conventional banks and Islamic banks. It has long been attacked from both the far left and the far right of the political spectrum. However fractional reserve banking helps the economy to grow, which is why almost all countries practice it.
A brief look at Islamic fintech Kestrl
Kestrl is part of London's fintech sector. I had never heard of it until July 2023 when I found myself sitting opposite the CEO Areeb Siddiqui at an Islamic finance dinner. I decided to take a look at its iPhone app.
Islamic finance would not help Australia's housing crisis
It would not increase housing supply, but might increase prices by increasing total housing demand. My article was written after a TEDxSydney talk by an Australian academic proposing Islamic finance as a possible solution to Australia's housing crisis.
Measuring what people actually do, compared with what they say they do
Social desirability bias is a serious problem for survey research about sensitive subjects. Even when promised anonymity, people often give the survey answer "society expects them to give" rather than reporting their beliefs or actions truthfully. This research measured poor Pakistanis actual use of conventional finance, overcoming the social desirability bias problem by using a "list experiment."
American Finance House Lariba — another US Islamic finance provider
Lariba is not a bank itself, but is close linked with Bank of Whittier NA which states that it also operates on a riba-free basis.
Another US Islamic banking provider — Devon Bank
I continue my review of the USA's Islamic banking scene by looking at Devon Bank. This is a small, but very profitable, US conventional bank which operates an Islamic window.
University Islamic Financial — the USA's first Islamic bank
The USA has a small but growing Muslim population. Accordingly I decided to take a look at the USA's oldest established Islamic bank. Although long established, it is much smaller than even the smallest of the UK's Islamic banks.
Why buying shares and gambling are fundamentally different
Every so often, family members and friends make the comment that buying shares is a form of gambling. This is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. Life, and investing, involve unavoidable uncertainties. However gambling involves the artificial creation of unnecessary uncertainty.
How you do something usually changes its tax treatment
If the bank and the amount financed are not changing, a Shariah compliant diminishing musharaka transaction can be reorganised without triggering a tax liability. However in the case discussed in this article, the bank wanted to carry out the transaction a different way which led to a significant tax cost.
Islamic equity investing costs more than conventional investing
Islamic finance normally costs more than conventional finance, because it is a niche industry. Conventional finance has economies of scale and simpler transactions than Islamic finance. For this article I looked at the cost differential for managed equity funds. To ensure that I was comparing "like for like" as far as possible, I chose two relatively similar exchange traded funds from the same fund provider.
A quick look at Germany's first Islamic bank — KT Bank AG
This is a subsidiary of Kuveyt Türk Participation Bank Inc of Türkiye. I look at the results of its first seven years, finding that it has made significant losses while establishing its business in Germany.
A comparison of the UK's two smaller Islamic banks
Gatehouse Bank plc and QIB (UK) plc are similar sizes. However QIB (UK) performed much better in 2020 and 2021 than Gatehouse. I look closely at their differences and make some guesses.
Islamic banking and conventional banking have only minor economic differences
Many believe that there is a fundamental economic difference between Islamic banking and conventional banking. In my experience, this belief is most common amongst people who are not familiar with Islamic banking. My short article explains that Islamic banking is just banking, albeit with Shariah compliant contracts.
An update on Bank of London and the Middle East plc
This is the UK's largest Islamic investment bank, and has been in business since 2007. Overall, its results have been disappointing, with moderate profits in good years followed by significant losses in bad years. Recent years have continued this pattern.
Al Rayan Bank plc becoming internet-only is sensible
Al Rayan Bank recently closed its last branch serving regular (that is not high-net-worth) retail customers. I regard that as sensible, since physical branches are an expensive luxury in retail banking. I have believed for over a decade that small retail banks should avoid having branches.
The tax treatment of Shariah compliant refinancing is unfair
Muslims who have refinanced property (other than their principal private residence) in a Shariah compliant way are regularly facing unexpected tax bills. The Government is aware of the problem. However it has failed to do anything to fix it despite stating long ago that it wanted Islamic finance to be on a "level playing field" with conventional finance.
Is it religiously acceptable for Muslims to trade KuCoin futures?
A website reader asked me if trading KuCoin futures was halal or haram, pointing to a number of technical features of KuCoin. I answered in a way that illustrates how I tackle almost all religious questions. I explained that to decide, you need to understand the transactions, and consider whether they serve any social purpose. Applying legalistic tests is the wrong approach.
Governments should stop privileging debt over equity
Tax relief for interest expense paid by trading companies has the effect of encouraging companies to take on more debt, rather than issuing equity. Some countries have experimented with ways of reducing or eliminating this tax privilege for debt. However, even though Islamic finance scholars prohibit explicit interest payments, as far as I am aware no Muslim majority country has sought to reduce the tax privilege for debt.
When a tax law is badly drafted, what should you do?
I faced this question in 2006 when reviewing the Finance Bill. In that case, I wrote to HM Treasury and pointed out the error, which was corrected a year later. This page also sets out my views on the ethical issues in taxation in four short points.
Low interest rates can lead to unsophisticated investors taking on excessive risk
As someone who has been investing in equities and equity linked products for nearly 50 years, I am very aware of the risks, and accept them knowingly. However I have concerns that unsophisticated investors sometimes take on excessive risks. That risk is particularly acute with the current low interest rate environment. I illustrate this by looking at the risk disclosures made by Yielders Ltd.
The Bank of England's facility for accepting Shariah compliant deposits from banks
UK regulators have understood for a long time that UK Islamic banks find liquidity management hard due to the absence of high quality, liquid, Shariah compliant assets. After several consultations that started in 2016, in December 2021 the Bank of England finally launched its deposit taking facility.
A quick look at Emirates Islamic Bank PJSC
The bank's profitability suggest that the UAE Islamic banking market may not be very competitive. Its immediate parent is a conventional bank, and like many UAE businesses is state owned.
Development of illustrative financial statements for Islamic financial institutions
AAOIFI is consulting widely as it develops illustrative financial statements compliant with its proposed revisions to the relevant accounting standard. This led to me attending a 3-hour online meeting based in Bahrain to discuss progress to date. That same day I also spoke online in a corporate governance conference in Saudi Arabia, illustrating how technology is changing work.
Why Shariah compliant annuities are still unavailable
In April 2016 I wrote an article on the need for Shariah compliant annuities. In my December 2021 column for the magazine "Islamic Finance News" I explained why they are still unavailable. The reasons are mainly the lack of demand but also the duration mismatch risk faced by providers. Devising Shariah compliant structures is not a major problem.
My views on cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrencies are a “hot” investment topic. Cryptocurrencies are also attracting the attention of Shariah compliant investors, which I regard as somewhat surprising since Shariah scholars often say that Islamic finance is about financing worthwhile real activity. I am not aware of any use for Bitcoin other than speculation on its price.
How will Islamic finance Shariah standards develop over time?
Interpretations of Shariah by Muslims vary between geographical regions. The reason is that the schools of Islamic law are not equally represented everywhere. I used to expect convergence upon the stricter Shariah standards of the capital exporting Gulf states. I no longer do.
How should Islamic banks account for profit sharing investment accounts?
The hard question in Islamic bank accounting is how Islamic banks should account for profit sharing investment accounts. These have their basis in the classical Islamic partnership structure called mudharabah. There is no easy answer. To decide on the accounting treatment one needs to consider the economics of the arrangement in detail.
AAOIFI Roundtable on planned revisions to its Financial Accounting Standard 1
I attended a 3-hour Zoom meeting to discuss The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (“AAOIFI”) proposed changes to Financial Accounting Standard 1 “General Presentation and Disclosures in the Financial Statements of Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions.” Afterwards I realised there were important messages about the future of international meetings, the common language of Muslims worldwide, and how to maximise your impact when attending meetings, whether physical or virtual.
What are the accounting standards needs of Islamic finance?
Accounting standards generally are needed for comparability between companies, both within the same country and internationally. Do Islamic financial institutions need anything more beyond the accounting standards applicable to all companies? They do, but only for those relatively few subjects where Islamic financial institutions differ from conventional ones. Those are the only areas where AAOIFI (the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions) should seek to set standards.
A snapshot of the UK Islamic banking scene in 2021
While planning my June 2021 column for the magazine Islamic Finance News I realised that I had not written a comparative survey of the UK Islamic banking scene since 2015. Of the six Islamic banks originally established in the UK, only four remain. They divide naturally into a "Big 2" and a "Little 2."
The price of money in Islamic finance and conventional finance
In free countries, Islamic finance and conventional finance exist side by side. Islamic banks always base their prices on the conventional finance interest rate. People often ask me why Islamic finance does not have an independent price for money? Even with arbitrage, I conclude that Islamic finance's pricing of money can differ from conventional finance. However, the difference will always be unfavourable to Islamic finance's customers!
Why Islamic finance does not use traditional Islamic law
I am often asked why Islamic finance uses secular legal systems instead of using Islamic law. The reasons are very practical ones. Traditional Islamic law ("fiqh") suffered many centuries of non-development and is therefore not adequate for modern commercial life.
The locations leading Islamic finance innovation
Islamic finance originated in Egypt while today the main jurisdictions are the Gulf states and Malaysia. However I believe that the UK and North America lead on Islamic finance innovation. I offer three possible reasons.
A close look at short selling from an Islamic finance perspective
Short selling is an important part of modern securities markets. Shariah scholars consider short selling to be religiously prohibited. I disagree with their religious analysis for the reasons explained on the page. Ultimately each Muslim must decide the religious question from themselves, as they are individually answerable to God. I have never engaged in short selling because I consider the risks outweigh the potential gains.
Islamic finance needs more rapid innovation
My January 2021 Islamic Finance News column was inspired by the turn of the year. I found myself thinking about where Islamic finance needs to go. I focused on the fact that Islamic finance still cannot satisfy many of the financial needs that conventional finance does. While innovation is happening, much more is needed.
My view on the religious permissibility of futures trading
Modern futures markets exist because they have unquestionable economic benefits for society. Those who doubt that are economically naive. Despite the economic benefits, many Muslims believe futures trading is religiously prohibited because some Hadith appear to prohibit the transactions involved. However the problems these Hadith aim at do not exist in modern futures markets, so I regard these Hadith as simply inapplicable to futures trading.
Islamic mortgages - who should gain / lose from property value changes?
Subject to local financial services regulation, the parties should be free to agree any terms they consider financially and religiously acceptable. I used my November 2020 Islamic Finance News column to remind readers that Muslims' views on religious questions such as the one above vary.
Short review of a 2019 UK corporate sukuk
Corporate sukuk in the UK are quite rare. I missed this 2019 issue by Al Waseelah plc to finance NQ Minerals plc when it took place. However, I summarised the details for my monthly Islamic Finance News column once I learned about it. One of my goals was to show how much one can learn simply by reading published documents.
Determining beneficial ownership in Islamic finance transactions
Registers of beneficial ownership are an important tool in combating corruption, since illicit wealth is often hidden by using trusts (as understood in English law) and similar entities which are found in other legal systems. I consider the implications of such anti-corruption measures for Islamic finance. I also set out some principles for determining where beneficial ownership lies in Islamic finance transactions.
How should Islamic financial institutions account for Zakat?
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 (AAOIFI) 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.
VAT and Islamic finance transactions: a discussion of the policy issues
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.
Comparing Malaysia's largest conventional bank with its Islamic affiliate
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.
The impact of Saudi Arabia's VAT increase on Islamic financial institutions
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.
Why has UK retail takaful never taken off?
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.
Calling yourself a "bank" does not guarantee that you are a bank
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.
Does divesting shares for ethical or religious reasons produce real change?
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.
The continuous losses of ADIB (UK) Ltd
I ask why this UK subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC has lost money in every year of operation. This article concludes my review of the financial histories of all of the UK's Islamic banks.
Looking back at 15 years of tax law changes around the world
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.
What does the UK general election result portend for Islamic finance?
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.
UK Islamic finance: The business opportunities for a small conventional bank
Habib Bank Zurich plc (which trades as Habib Bank AG Zurich) is a small British conventional bank. It now offers Islamic banking as well. I gave a presentation to their senior management team about the business opportunities. The presentation was based entirely on public domain information, and can be watched on my website page. To allow full and frank discussion after the presentation, I did not record the discussion session.
The Financial History of Gatehouse Bank plc
Gatehouse Bank was originally a wholly owned subsidiary, and remains mainly Kuwaiti owned. Since formation, it has lost very significant amounts of its shareholders' money.
The financial history of Qatar Islamic Bank’s UK subsidiary
Unlike the first three Islamic banks which I reviewed, QIB (UK) has always been a wholly owned subsidiary. It has lost large amounts of money, due to a combination of small size and a risky strategy. It now seems to have stabilised, but may be over-concentrated in real estate finance.
How Islamic banks create money
The way that money is created in a modern economy is not well understood by most people. I have never forgotten how informative I found having it explained in an economics textbook when I was 18. Many proponents of Islamic finance assert, incorrectly, that Islamic banks do not create money. Accordingly this page explains in very simple terms how Islamic banks create money.
The tax trap with Shariah compliant refinancing
UK Islamic banks use a structure known as diminishing shared ownership to offer real estate finance in a manner compliant with Shariah, Islamic religious requirements. Tax law has been enacted for this but is not comprehensive. Accordingly, the use of the structure to refinance appreciated real estate triggers crystallisation of the inherent capital gain. People may use this structure without realising they have triggered a capital gains tax "CGT" disposal. That can lead to them filing incorrect tax returns as well as owing CGT. I wrote an article for Tax Adviser magazine published in August 2019.
The regulatory capital position of CIMB Bank and CIMB Islamic
A previous page identified that, contrary to expectations, CIMB Islamic was more profitable than its larger conventional parent, CIMB Bank. I have looked further at the published financial information. For some unexplained reason, CIMB Islamic appears to have lower overheads. CIMB Bank's assets are also riskier, and therefore require it to hold more regulatory capital. However CIMB Bank appears not to earn a higher return on those riskier assets. That depresses its return on equity.
Two banks, one Islamic and one conventional, which are directly comparable
As they are part of the same group, I expect CIMB Bank (which is conventional) and CIMB Islamic to have similar cultures and operational efficiency. As CIMB Bank is larger, I expected it to be more profitable. The 2018 accounts showed the opposite. I investigated some possible reasons.
The terrible financial history of European Islamic Investment Bank, now called Rasmala plc
I looked at the financial accounts for 13 years of this company. They show that it has lost significant amounts of money most of the time, with occasional profits. It has been a disastrous investment for its shareholders.
Can you pay interest between companies with 100% common ownership?
A reader asked this question. In my view, a transaction between two wholly owned companies is a nullity for religious purposes, so no religious prohibitions can apply.
Islamic finance faces many regulatory barriers, not just tax obstacles
Financial services regulations generally pre-date Islamic finance. As a consequence, unless the regulatory provisions are adapted, they often preclude Islamic finance transactions. I give three examples, one from Russia and two from the UK.
What does the prohibition of preference shares in Islamic finance teach us?
One of my website readers recently asked whether preference shares were permitted in Islamic finance. I explained that almost all Shariah scholars who set down the rules for what is allowed in Islamic finance prohibit them. However the legal reasoning behind the prohibition relies upon analogies with very old Islamic partnerships law and is not well thought out in my opinion.
UK bank levy and the nature of Islamic banks' liabilities
A reader asked me whether the UK's bank levy might discriminate against Islamic banks. The drafter of the UK's bank levy legislation wrote it to ensure that Islamic banks were included. The reader's question led me to address the accounting for profit sharing investment accounts. My view is that, as operated in practice, profit sharing investment accounts are clearly liabilities for accounting purposes.
A financial history of Islamic Bank of Britain plc, now called Al Rayan Bank plc
This is the UK's first retail Islamic bank. I summarised all of its published accounts. They show steady losses year by year, until the bank was taken over and recapitalised after which it has made reasonable profits. It was previously just too small to be viable.
Small profits mixed with big losses - the record of the UK's largest Islamic investment bank
People underestimate how much you can learn about a company just by reading its published accounts. I downloaded and summarised the accounts of Bank of London and the Middle East plc. They show a pattern of small losses in good years, interspersed with very big losses in bad years. I consider this shows how hard it is to make money in Islamic finance in the UK.
Why private sector Shariah compliant student finance would not work in the UK
The Government's promised Shariah compliant student finance is long delayed, but I expect it to be launched eventually. A reader asked whether the private sector could instead offer a pure equity based scheme that would be more desirable from a Shariah perspective. In my view "adverse selection" would cause the private sector financiers excessive losses.
Changing the UK tax system for Islamic finance is challenging
It is nearly two decades since the UK started modifying its tax law so that Islamic finance transactions should not be taxed more heavily than conventional finance transactions. However a "level playing field" has not yet been achieved. One key reason change is so slow is because the tax system is extremely complex. Accordingly, every change risks creating fresh anomalies.
Are Islamic banks automatically ethical?
Nine years after its founding, the Global Alliance for Banking on Values has very few member institutions. Islamic banks put much more emphasis on their ethical nature than do most conventional banks. Islamic banks do not charge interest. However does that automatically make them ethical?
Islamic finance requires accurate vocabulary
For many years I have been unhappy with the name (in English) many Islamic finance practitioners give to the payment made by a customer under a takaful (Islamic insurance) contract. It is often described as a "donation" when it is nothing of the sort. Such terminology risks misleading people who are new to Islamic finance regarding the true economics of the transaction. My September 2018 Islamic Finance News column suggested more accurate names for the payment.
A second look at the performance of Shariah compliant share indices
My June 2018 Islamic Finance News column looked at the relative performance of the conventional and Shariah compliant versions of the FTSE All World Index from 2008-2017. A reader responded by saying that the MSCI World Index showed the opposite result. I have taken a detailed look at the figures which not change my fundamental point. A conventional equity investor should perform better than a Shariah compliant investor, simply because the conventional investor can pick from the entire universe of shares, while the Shariah compliant investor cannot.
The UK tax treatment of Islamic finance "borrowing" costs
Islamic banks do not make loans, but provide finance in other ways. UK tax law gives the finance costs paid by Islamic banks' customers the same tax treatment as it gives interest expense. That is normally helpful, but not always. For example, it means that the rent paid in a diminishing musharaka transaction to finance "buy to let" property will receive only basic rate income tax relief.
Do Shariah compliant shares perform better?
Writers and speakers about Islamic finance often contend that not only is it more moral, it also produces better financial results. During the global financial crisis, they regularly pointed to the superior performance of Shariah share indices. However, the evidence shows that in general Shariah compliant share indices perform worse than their conventional counterparts. That is what logic would predict.
UK taxation needs to accommodate Shariah compliant real estate refinancing
The UK is slowly amending its tax laws to facilitate Islamic finance. However the tax treatment of Shariah compliant real estate refinancing is a particular problem. Conventional refinancing of appreciated real estate involves no tax costs. Meanwhile, Shariah compliant refinancing causes the accrued capital gain to become taxable.
The UK's first Islamic bank sukuk issue
Conventional banks securitise mortgages to free up their regulatory capital. Investors in conventional mortgage backed securities receive a pre-specified return provided that the mortgages do not default beyond a safety margin built into the terms of the securities. Al Rayan Bank similarly issued sukuk in order to free up its regulatory capital. The sukuk investors will receive a return equal to LIBOR + 0.8% provided the mortgages do not default beyond the safety margin. From an economic perspective, there is no difference between conventional mortgage backed securities and this sukuk.
Many Islamic scholars don't understand that corporations are not partnerships
Traditional Islamic law (fiqh) includes a detailed partnership law, covering several types of partnerships. However it never developed the concept of a corporation. Today many Islamic scholars attempt to analyse corporations using only the partnership categories in traditional Islamic law. This is a serious mistake, and holds back the development of Islamic law, and in my view holds back Muslim majority societies more generally.
A transaction apparently complying with Islamic finance rules which dismays most Muslims who look at it
This page discusses a "total return swap" structure which has been signed off as Shariah compliant. The structure would allow Muslims to achieve the same economic returns as investing in any identified asset. For example, a Muslim could achieve the economic results of investing in brewery shares, while remaining Shariah compliant. The structure risks violating any purposive intent of Islamic finance. That may account for the nickname of the underlying religious opinion as "The Doomsday Fatwa."
An example of the risk to international investors from local country legal regimes
A key requirement for a successful economy is reliable, relatively inexpensive, and rapid, enforcement of commercial contracts. Sadly the courts of many countries cannot be relied upon when it comes to enforcing contracts, particularly when foreigners are seeking to enforce contracts against local country residents. The case of Dana Gas and its sukuk default illustrates this very well.
Leverage attributes in Islamic banking are the same as in conventional banking
Islamic banks fulfil the same economic functions as do conventional banks. Furthermore, the services they provide to their customers, whether "depositors" of money or "borrowers" of money, are essentially the same. Accordingly it should be no surprise that both types of bank derive competitive strength from the same leverage attributes.
For Islamic banks, Shariah compliance is a foundation attribute
About 25 years ago, Price Waterhouse's (now PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC) global strategy was heavily focused on the distinction between "foundation attributes" and "leverage attributes". A foundation attribute is one you must have to play in the game; a leverage attribute is something that gives you competitive advantage. Because Shariah compliance is essential for all Islamic banks, it does not distinguish one Islamic bank from another. Hence it is a foundation attribute.
The difference Islamic finance makes
Islamic finance has basically the same economics as conventional finance. This naturally leads to the question of whether Islamic finance makes any difference to the world. I see its key benefit as bringing people into the financial system who would not use conventional finance for religious reasons. Islamic finance should also discourage borrowing to accelerate consumption.
Is there a meaningful choice between AAOIFI and IFRS accounting standards?
My correspondence with a journalist on the apparent choice between AAOIFI and IFRS accounting standards. In most cases, financial institutions cannot choose which standards to use; their regulator prescribes the accounting standards to apply. Quite separately, users of accounts need to remember that AAOIFI and IFRS standards have different goals. The page also includes my subsequent Islamic Finance News article, and links to some other resources on my website.
Islamic and conventional banks face almost identical transfer pricing issues
Islamic banks are banks which operate in accordance with rules set by Shariah scholars. As both conventional and Islamic banks fulfil the same economic functions, they face similar transfer pricing issues. I gave some technical responses to a researcher and based this page on them. The page starts with a basic explanation of what transfer pricing is.
Late assertions of Shariah non-compliance damage Islamic finance
Islamic finance arrangements need to be Shariah compliant throughout their life. Unfortunately some borrowers initially accept their arrangements are Shariah compliant, but assert non-compliance when repayment is due. Several such cases have resulted in litigation. Late assertions of Shariah non-compliance create extra risk in Islamic finance, thereby making it more expensive. They also damage Islamic finance's reputation. Contractual uncertainty in Islamic finance must be minimised.
Lecture: Islamic finance - why, how, and the problems under UK tax law
My recorded 55 minute PowerPoint presentation explains how the UK has modified its tax law to facilitate Islamic finance. It also mentions the problems that still remain.
Why Islamic finance is insufficiently innovative
"Fintech" looks like disrupting conventional finance. A reader asked why this is not happening in Islamic finance. One reason is the much smaller size of Islamic finance. Conventional finance offers much bigger rewards to successful innovators. I believe another important reason is religious conservatism in Islamic finance, with innovative concepts having to be justified within narrow historical modes of legal analysis.
Bank of England almost ready to take Shariah compliant deposits
Banking regulations require banks to maintain large amounts of high quality, preferably risk free, assets which can be accessed almost immediately. Conventional banks maintain deposits with the central bank, which in the UK is the Bank of England. Islamic banks cannot do so, as such deposits are not Shariah compliant. The Bank of England is consulting about it offering a Shariah compliant deposit facility, and in my view it is nearly there.
UK slowly progressing towards providing Shariah compliant student finance
Discussions have been held with the Government since 2011 regarding the possible introduction of Shariah compliant student finance. Progress has been made steadily over the years, albeit very slowly. The Government now has the statutory power to offer such finance. However the Government has not set any deadline for the introduction of the scheme. I remain hopeful that it will happen by September 2018.
Why Islamic mortgages normally cost more than conventional mortgages
In the UK Islamic mortgages are more expensive than conventional mortgages. There are good reasons for this discrepancy. Islamic banks lack the economies of scale achieved by conventional banks. Islamic mortgages also involve more, and more complex, legal transactions. As Islamic finance grows, the difference should narrow.
The need for more life takaful (insurance) provision
Most people have too little life insurance. This applies even more strongly in the case of Muslims. Some Muslims have religious concerns about life insurance. However there is an Islamic finance version approved by Shariah scholars, known as life takaful. While life takaful is now widely available in Malaysia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, I am not aware of it being available in the UK.
The time value of money in Islamic finance
People prefer money now to money later. This is known as the time value of money. Some early writers on Islamic finance appeared to believe that it required there be no time value of money. More recent academic writers generally recognise the time value of money, but then struggle to distinguish its application in Islamic finance from that in conventional finance.
A simple introduction to murabaha (purchase and resale) transactions
I have added "murabaha" to my "Glossary of Islamic finance terms." A murabaha transaction enables a bank to finance the purchase of an asset by a customer without making an interest bearing loan. This page explains how it works.
Introducing external Shariah audit requires abolishing the Shariah Supervisory Board
Islamic financial institutions are required to comply with Shariah rules. Shariah governance presently rests with the institution's Shariah Supervisory Board (SSB), which is normally appointed by the directors. There are concerns about whether the SSB is sufficiently independent or has sufficient auditing skills to give an opinion on whether the institution has complied with Shariah. Accordingly there are calls for the introduction of external Shariah audit (ESA). However, those calling for ESA have not yet addressed the implications of ESA for the SSB.
Do Muslims behave like Homo Islamicus?
Does Islamic banking meet different needs from those met by conventional banking? Not in my view. However Islamic economists envisage Islamic finance as part of a completely different economic system. Underlying Islamic economics is "Homo Islamicus" who behaves quite differently from the classical "Homo economicus." In contradiction, I do not see the economic behaviour of real Muslims as being materially different from that of real non-Muslims.
Why fixed return contracts predominate in Islamic banking
I received an interesting enquiry from a PhD student in Germany. He expected Islamic banks to primarily use profit participating contracts. He found that, in practice, fixed return contracts overwhelmingly predominate in Islamic banking. I already knew this and explained to him that fixed return contracts are used for commercial reasons. Profit participating contracts are actually very unattractive to Islamic banks, and also to their customers.
The introduction of standardised Islamic foreign exchange forwards
International business almost always gives rise to foreign exchange risk. Derivative contracts assist conventional companies to manage foreign exchange risk, but are not considered Shariah compliant. A Shariah compliant foreign exchange forward contract has now been developed. There is standard documentation which should make the contract easy to use.
Achieving Shariah compliant student finance in the UK illustrates how avoiding apathy requires realism
Many people today are apathetic. Some people are apathetic because they wrongly believe the world cannot be changed. Others wrongly believe the world can be changed easily and quickly, and give up when success is not immediate. Both wrong perceptions lead to apathy. The antidote to apathy is belief in the possibility of change combined with realism about how long it will take and how hard it will be. My experience in dealing with the UK Government on Shariah compliant student finance illustrates this quite well. I started meeting the government in 2011, and others had been involved even before that. The Prime Minister promised in October 2013 that change would happen, but I do not expect it before September 2017 at the earliest.
How should VAT systems treat Islamic finance transactions?
My article originally published in the magazine "Tax Notes International" points out that VAT systems developed in an environment of conventional finance. Particularly where one of the parties is not in business, or is carrying on an exempt or partially exempt business, Islamic finance risks incurring higher VAT costs than conventional finance. The approaches taken by four countries, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and the UK have some aspects in common, while other parts of their approaches differ. The article also makes some general policy recommendations.
Are UK universities mis-selling Islamic finance masters' degrees?
The two main reasons for studying a subject at university are its intrinsic interest and its value for a career. The relative weights given to these two criteria vary from person to person. Growing numbers of UK universities are offering masters' degrees in Islamic finance. However, if UK students are taking them for career enhancement, mis-selling may be taking place.
The need for Shariah compliant annuities
A growing number of people are in defined contribution pension schemes. Many Muslims in such schemes want Shariah compliant pension arrangements. There is adequate Shariah compliant provision for the investment phase of pension schemes, but not for the retirement phase. In particular Shariah compliant annuities are needed to satisfy retirees' financial requirements. Developing a market for Shariah compliant annuities will also help sukuk issuers to access longer term funds than they can at present.
Bank of England consultation on establishing Shariah compliant central bank liquidity facilities
Conventional banks can hold liquidity deposits with the Bank of England. The Bank of England also lends money to conventional banks when required. However Islamic banks are not able to use these facilities as they are not considered Shariah compliant which makes their treasury management much more difficult. The Bank of England is currently consulting on how it might offer Shariah compliant central bank facilities. I have responded to the consultation, which closes on 29 April 2016.
Don't confuse religious questions and empirical questions
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.
Working in a large firm as an Islamic finance tax advisor
My article for "IFN Education." Islamic finance tax advisors need to be tax experts, but they also need to know about relevant other areas such as Shariah, accounting, company law and treasury management. In addition, good client service also requires strong soft skills such as listening and communicating clearly.
Taxation Issues in Islamic Wealth Management
Wealth management is important to individuals and to the financial services industry. For all transactions the tax implications must be considered. However, tax is always country specific. Accordingly this article explains some of the generic tax issues that need consideration, and then goes on to outline how UK law deals with the transactions discussed as a guide to those who need to research similar transactions in other countries.
VAT and Islamic finance transactions
Islamic finance presents challenges for VAT systems because it requires more transactions than the conventional finance assumed by most tax systems. Consequently it can cause extra VAT costs to arise. Malaysia and South Africa have introduced specific VAT rules for Islamic finance while the UK relies upon general VAT law, which can lead to difficulties in certain situations.
Why commodity speculators are socially useful
Commodity futures markets can look irrational and chaotic, while commodity speculators are often criticised for "speculating." I explain why commodity futures markets exist, and how they assist commodity producers and commodity consumers who need to make long term plans to protect themselves from unexpected price changes. Such futures markets would not work without the liquidity provided by speculators.
The language of international Islamic finance is English
International Islamic finance is normally conducted in English. However precision and brevity often require the use of vocabulary derived from Arabic. Such imported words become part of the English language and are no longer foreign words. Accordingly they should not have transliteration signs or use Arabic grammatical formulations.
Becoming an Islamic finance columnist
Although I have been writing technical articles for 18 years, I have just become a columnist for the first time with a monthly column in the magazine "Islamic Finance News." I devoted my first column to explaining how I got involved with Islamic finance, and why I am passionate about it.
What the UK Islamic banks' 2014 accounts tell us
In 2014 all but one of the UK's Islamic banks made a profit. However return on equity is still unacceptably low for all of them. Their accounts show very different strategies and it is wrong to talk of the UK's Islamic banks as if they were a homogeneous category.
Radio interview: 15 Minute Introduction to Islamic Finance
My interview on Radio Algeria International which gives a simple introduction to Islamic finance requiring no previous knowledge. The interviewer's questions are also written out on the page.
Cross-Border Taxation of Islamic Finance in the MENA Region
An article written for the Journal of International Taxation. It was based on the report "Cross border taxation of Islamic finance in the MENA region Phase One" which I wrote as part of a research project supported by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority. The intended audience was MNC tax directors not knowledgeable about Islamic finance. My website page has the full text submitted to the magazine, which was abridged somewhat for publication due to space constraints.
Islamic Finance 2014 Accounting and Tax Developments
During 2014 the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) finally started to give some serious attention to Islamic finance accounting. It is also a good development that the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) is now providing input to the IASB on accounting. While accounting is global, tax developments are always country specific. The trend continues of countries continuing to modify their tax rules to facilitate Islamic finance.
Islamic finance in the UK - a look backwards
Outside Muslim majority countries, the UK has been the leading pioneer of Islamic finance. However, after some major announcements in 2006 and 2007, the UK seemed to lose interest. The UK government has recently taken Islamic finance much more seriously. This culminated in the UK issuing the first sovereign sukuk outside Muslim majority countries.
The impact of the OECD's tax policy challenges on Islamic finance
The rules for taxing international business developed in an era when communications were slow and difficult. However electronic communication and fast international travel make them outmoded. Consequently Governments are losing tax revenue as businesses sell via the internet from low tax jurisdictions for example. There is a risk that the likely policy responses could impact upon Islamic finance unless great care is taken with tax law drafting.
UK Government consultation on Shariah compliant student finance
The UK has a generous government provided student loan scheme. However some Muslim students do not use it for religious reasons. In October 2014 the Prime Minister committed to providing a Shariah compliant student finance scheme. The Government is now consulting on a proposed design. The consultation closes on 12 June 2014.
Sukuk - taxation of legal form or economic substance? The role for tax incentives?
In this interview on sukuk taxation I explain that no country taxes purely on legal form or purely on economic substance. I also discuss whether there is a role for tax incentives, and point out that in practice the benefits of incentives get shared between issuers and investors.
How should indirect taxes deal with Islamic finance? - Video
This 33 minute lecture explains the main indirect taxes: transfer taxes, sales taxes and value added taxes (VAT) from first principles. I then discuss how VAT should apply to financial services generally, before considering why VAT presents particular problems for Islamic finance transactions. I also suggest some possible ways forward.
Tax Treatment of Islamic Finance in the MENA Region - video
This 27 minute lecture explains the methodology and findings of a major study on the taxation of Islamic finance in the Middle East and North Africa. As well as summarising what we found, I give recommendations for how MENA region countries should modify their direct tax systems to facilitate Islamic finance.
Should accounting firms undertake Shariah audits?
My seven minute speech outlines the roles of the Board of Directors, the internal Shariah Department, the Shariah Supervisory Board and the external auditors. I explain the role I see for the external auditors in auditing Shariah compliance, and who I believe should report to stakeholders.
A late 2013 survey of the UK Islamic finance industry
The clouds of the global financial crisis are lifting. However the UK's Islamic banks are still unprofitable and the best performer had 2012 ROE of only 2%. The announcement of a UK sukuk was the highlight of 2013 for the industry.
A tale of two banks - video
This is a 26 minute video of my lecture for the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, comparing the accounts of Bank of London and the Middle East plc and Islamic Bank of Britain plc. It explains the business of banking, and shows how much can be learned by reading published accounts.
Career prospects in Islamic finance in the UK
My chapter in a report published by Simply Sharia to coincide with the World Islamic Economic Forum being held in London. I explain that there is only a limited need for Islamic finance specialists in the UK. In practice experience for these careers generally needs to be acquired in the conventional finance industry.
A simple introduction to sukuk
Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the London World Islamic Economic Forum that he wanted the UK to issue a sovereign sukuk. This has led many to ask what a sukuk is. I have written a simple explanation.
A UK Government sukuk at last!
The UK has been thinking about issuing a sukuk since 2007. However it has kept putting it off as not being value for money. Accordingly David Cameron pleasantly surprised many people when he announced at the World Islamic Economic Forum that he wanted the UK to go ahead with an issue. I wrote an article the same day welcoming the announcement and answering some questions from 2008 about the implications.
A late 2012 snapshot of the UK Islamic finance industry
My contribution to the Islamic Finance News global "2013 Guide". In my view UK Islamic finance has struggled since the global financial crisis. The UK Islamic banks were unprofitable in 2011. Figures for 2012 were awaited when I wrote. One key challenge is that the UK retail Islamic finance market is small. If conditions improve, 2013 may see new entrants to the industry.
Report on the cross-border taxation of Islamic finance in the MENA region
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.
How can Islamic finance enter western markets?
My response to this generic question is that each country market is distinct, and thinking about western markets as a whole will lead to bad strategic decisions. Each Islamic financial institution needs to decide what markets it can enter profitably and focus on its core strengths.
Some questions about the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM)
The IILM was set up by several central banks from Muslim majority countries. Its aim is to issue high quality Shariah compliant instruments suitable for Islamic banks to hold for their treasury operations. To date, it has not yet issued any such instruments. I pose some questions that must be answered before such instruments are issued.
The evolution of sukuk from asset-backed to asset-based structures
People use terms such as "asset backed" and "asset based" with sukuk without being clear what they mean. After defining the terms, I point out that investors in asset based sukuk have much less protection in the event of default by the sponsor. The credit ratings agencies have been saying the same thing for many years, but few people paid attention until the financial crisis hit some of the Gulf states.
Islamic Financial Institutions and the Implications of Accounting under IFRS
Islamic finance practitioners often question whether IFRS or AAOIFI accounting standards should be used. In practice, local law rarely allows a choice. While IFRS accounting often deviates from the transaction's legal form, so does AAOIFI accounting at times. IFRS accounting can make it harder to assess whether the company's transactions are Shariah compliant.
The impact on Islamic banking of Indonesia's new rules on bank ownership
Many countries have restrictions on foreigners owning banks. These are normally a bad idea. Indonesia's new rules are quite flexible, and therefore should not do any serious harm.
A tale of two banks: a comparison of the published accounts of Islamic Bank of Britain and of Bank of London and the Middle East
I gave a lecture based upon comparing the accounts of this Islamic retail bank and this Islamic investment bank. The accounts show the differing commercial pressures these banks face.
What businesses should Islamic banks finance?
The magazine Islamic Finance News asked: "Should the Islamic finance industry be responsible for funding the global Halal sector? And if so, how should this be facilitated?" This question appears to assume that Islamic banks exist to fulfil a social purpose. In my view, they do not; their sole purpose is to make a profit for their shareholders.
Does Islamic finance need you?
Many young UK Muslims obtain Islamic finance qualifications and want a career in Islamic finance. However the supply of UK Islamic finance jobs is very limited. Moreover, the Islamic finance industry needs specialist skills, which in most cases can only be acquired within conventional finance.
Non-Malaysian companies issuing ringgit sukuk
Like many developing countries, Malaysia has exchange controls. Whether foreign companies should be allowed to issue ringgit denominated sukuk in Malaysia is purely a foreign exchange management question, not an Islamic finance question.
Islamic banks' treasury management challenges
Islamic banks face far more challenges than conventional banks. In particular, the main contracts used by Islamic banks for treasury liquidity management are sometimes frowned upon by Shariah scholars. Also there is a shortage of liquidity management instruments apart from the Shariah compliant inter-bank market.
How industry standardisation in Islamic finance could help promote cross-border transactions
Islamic finance is far less standardised than conventional finance, with little standard documentation. This increases transaction costs. The industry also needs more Shariah standards and would benefit from greater willingness to publish fatwas.
Islamic financial institutions and the shortage of investible products
A short explanation of why Islamic financial institutions are often more liquid than their conventional counterparts, and how they should address this.
Written interview on the UK retail Islamic banking scene
In response to questions from the magazine Islamic Finance News, I explain why the industry has grown so little and the competitive pressures it faces.
When do cross-border Islamic finance payments suffer withholding tax?
As tax law varies from country to country, there is no general answer to this question. However this article, first published in Islamic Finance News, explains how to think about the issues.
The Royal Bank of Scotland disaster: its lessons for Islamic finance
The Financial Services Authority has published a 452 page report "The failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland." Islamic banks are exposed to many of the risks that brought down RBS.
The choice of applicable law for Islamic finance
Students of Islamic finance often wonder why so much of it takes place under English law. An interview with Global Islamic Finance Magazine allowed me to give a brief explanation.
Accounting and tax implications of sale and leaseback
This article first published in Islamic Finance News looks at the accounting under IFRS and AAOIFI accounting standards. It also briefly considers the tax issues that can arise.
Presentation on "Taxation of Islamic finance transactions" at ITIC MENA Tax Forum, Istanbul
The slides and additional text explain why Islamic finance transactions often suffer a higher tax burden than equivalent conventional transactions. The coverage is not specific to any one country.
Accounting for sukuk under IFRS and AAOIFI accounting standards
My chapter from a new book which uses a hypothetical example to show how the two sets of accounting standards can give very different accounting results for the same transaction.
Video presentation on "Would Islamic finance have prevented the global financial crisis?"
In 2009, I spoke three times on this subject. The talk became a magazine article, but I have discovered that the video recording of the presentation given in Australia can be downloaded free from iTunes.
Liquidity management at UK Islamic banks
Islamic banks face greater liquidity management challenges than conventional banks. I cover the reasons and also review the liquidity management practices of the five UK Islamic banks.
A simple introduction to Islamic mortgages
There is much misunderstanding about Islamic mortgages. Accordingly, I have explained how they work in simple terms with diagrams and illustrative numbers.
Leaked US ambassador's report on UK Islamic finance scene.
The diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks is a fair status summary with occasional errors, and quotes many people including myself.
What is AAOIFI’s Proper Accounting Standards Role?
A review of GCC Islamic banks shows that AAOIFI's accounting standards are only followed in Bahrain and Qatar. I conclude that AAOIFI should cease issuing its own accounting standards and instead collaborate with the IASB.
The tax treatment of Islamic finance in Western countries and Muslim majority countries
This is my chapter of the book "Euromoney Encyclopedia of Islamic Finance" edited by Aly Khorshid and published by Euromoney Books. My goal in writing it was to explain the different approaches to the taxation of Islamic finance taken by the UK and some Muslim majority countries.
The role of the UK as an international centre for Islamic banking and finance
This is my chapter of the book "Islamic Investment Banking: Emerging Trends, Developments and Opportunities" edited by Sohail Jaffer and published by Euromoney Books. My goal was to explain the factors that have made the UK the leading centre for international Islamic finance outside Muslim majority countries.
Islamic financial products and their challenge to taxation systems
This is my chapter of the book "The Chancellor Guide to the Legal and Shari'a Aspects of Islamic Finance" edited by Humayon Dar. It explains why the UK would tax Islamic finance transactions more heavily than conventional finance, and discusses how UK law has been revised with the goal of parity of tax treatment.
The UK Islamic banking scene
This short article looks at the figures on the five UK Islamic banks as at 31 December 2009. Only one of them is a retail bank, and I explain why retail Islamic banking has not taken off in the UK.
Islamic finance in Australia
Australia is an important regional financial centre, and I believe it has significant competitive advantages if it chooses to compete regionally in international Islamic finance.
Why has retail Islamic banking not taken off in the UK?
I read a newspaper article which posed this question, and decided to set out my own thoughts.
How conventional insurance and takaful differ numerically
Many people who are new to Islamic finance often ask about the difference between takaful and conventional insurance. I have tried to explain this with the simplest possible example; two people who each have a house that is at risk from fire.
British Government Policy on Islamic Finance
I was asked to contribute an article on Islamic finance for the brochure being prepared by the Muslim Council of Britain's delegation to the World Islamic Economic Forum. As the audience at the WIEF would mostly come from Muslim majority countries, I decided to explain how the UK has been able to promote Islamic finance while maintaining a policy of religious neutrality.
The United Kingdom’s approach to the regulation of Islamic finance
The UK is globally recognised as the leading Western country for Islamic finance.  However from time to time proponents of Islamic finance ask me why the UK does not allow Islamic banks to offer "true" profit and loss sharing investment accounts. This item is a long answer to that short question.
Would Islamic finance have prevented the global financial crisis?
I gave a presentation on this subject to the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance in July 2009, and then wrote an article based on the presentation.
Are Islamic banks Islamic enough?
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 Muslim Council of Britain of an open letter required me to address it when composing the response.
Should Financial Reporting for Islamic Finance be different?-video
This short video of 2 minutes and 17 seconds addresses the question of whether we need accounting standards for Islamic finance which are distinct from the accounting standards applicable to conventional finance. The short answer is no. The video is not very "bubbly"; apart from the subject being accounting, the other reason is that I was speaking without any notes or advance preparation, so I was literally making it up as I went along! It can be watched on the website of the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance.
Taxation of Islamic finance - video
The CFA Institute is a body engaged in financial training. I recorded for them a 25 minute video comprising a slide presentation with me talking on "Taxation of Islamic finance."

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Book reviews

Books are a cornerstone of our civilisation. They allow one person to speak to many, and they allow the dead to speak to the living. I review books that have made some kind of impression on me. The books are listed below in strict alphabetical order of their titles, with a clickable link to the actual review.

"1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War" by Benny Morris
Views about the Arab / Israeli dispute are highly polarised, and the history is strongly contested. Israel's birth saw civil war between Jews and Palestinians and war between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. Benny Morris has written a detailed, well documented and very readable account of the conflict. Everyone, regardless of their existing views of the dispute, will learn from reading it.
"7/7:Muslim Perspectives" by Murtaza Shibli (editor)
25 Muslims write about what they were doing on 7 July 2005, how they were affected by this terrible crime, and how they feel about it five years later. I contributed so much to this book that I cannot review it. However, you can read the full text of my chapter, the book introduction and profiles of all the other contributors.
"A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World: A philosophy for success through education" by Matthew L.N. Wilkinson
This book is an important part of the Curriculum for Cohesion project. It constructs a philosophical framework for thinking about Islam which is then applied to the teaching of history, religious education and citizenship. The book is based on high quality research and detailed literature search, and the theory is developed rigorously. It requires the reader to think hard, but should be accessible to any university graduate.
"A History of Jewish - Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day" edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora
Relations between Jews, Muslims (and Christians) have been of vital significance since the rise of Islam. Accurate historical knowledge is indispensable, as so many protagonists today distort history for their own ends. Accordingly this book will be a vital resource. In over 1,000 pages it brings together many experts in a book that is encyclopaedic in its coverage.
"A Minority within a Minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom" by M.A. Kevin Brice
At the end of 2010, Faith Matters published a 40 page report "A Minority within a Minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom". I consider it well worth reading.
"Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground" by Jonathan Kay
Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? The author spent three years researching the American "9/11 Truth" movement and provides some insightful answers.
"An Indian in the House: The Lives and Times of the Four Trailblazers Who First Brought India to the British Parliament" by Mohamed Sheikh (Baron Sheikh of Cornhill in the City of London)
This book recounts the lives of the first four Indians to serve in the UK Parliament. The era of these pioneers, late 19th and early 20th century is now long gone. However we should honour the memories of these ground-breaking pioneers. Three of them, all Parsis, became MPs while the fourth, a Hindu, became a life peer and government minister. The book does well at bringing them to life, so that the reader will remember them.
"And Then Came Peace" by Greg Masse
This is a work of fiction in the form of a thriller, set mainly in Jerusalem, in the midst of Israel / Palestine peace negotiations. The author uses the book to set out his vision of the underlying unity of all religions. It is exciting and captivating to read, with an almost magical quality that leaves one feeling uplifted. It reminds us that good things are possible as well as bad.
"A Portrait of Modern Britain" by Rishi Sunak and Saratha Rajeswaran
Britain's ethnic composition has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. 14% of the British population now belongs to an ethnic minority, projected to increase by 2051 to 20-30%. The 2011 national census and other sources provide very detailed information which this report condenses into 97 very readable pages. It is immensely informative.
"A Textbook of Hadith Studies: Authenticity, Compilation, Classification and Criticism of Hadith" by Mohammad Hashim Kamali
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.
"Authentication of Hadith — Redefining the Criteria" by Israr Ahmad Khan
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.
"Behavioural Investing: A practitioner’s guide to applying behavioural finance" by James Montier
Why do so many investors, including investment professionals, perform poorly? The author contends that it is due to poor psychology, in other words behavioural errors. The book is clearly written, easy to read, and makes its case in detail. The author also shows us how behavioural mistakes can be minimised. Reading and applying it should improve the performance of all investors.
"Celsius 7/7" by Michael Gove
A short and very readable book setting out Mr Gove's views regarding the threat posed by "Islamist terrorism." Opinions about the book are very polarised. I think the author is right to emphasise the importance of the terrorist ideology.
"Chance Witness: An Outsider’s Life in Politics" by Matthew Parris
Matthew Parris is a well-known journalist and was a Conservative MP for 7 years after 1979. This is his autobiography up to the year 2000. It is extremely readable and fascinating and gives an excellent insight into the Conservative Party.
"Clara Mandrake's Monster" by Ibrahim S. Amin
This short work of fiction is by my eldest son. He never lets me read anything before it is published, so I came to it in the same way as every other reader will. I found it entertaining and easy to read albeit somewhat gory. It also has a serious message about the dangers of religious fanaticism. It passes the key test for fiction; I always wanted to know what happened next until I finished it!
"Consanguinity in Context" by Alan H. Bittles
Scientific knowledge of genetics is less than 200 years old. However most human societies have long banned certain consanguineous relationships while allowing others. This book comprehensively covers the science and the social policy issues. It matters because many people are unaware of the serious genetic risks of marrying one's biological relatives. However people without a strong science education will find it hard to read.
"Countering Al-Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnership" by Robert Lambert
The author spent over 25 years in the Metropolital Police and founded the Muslim Contact Unit. He explains in detail how Islamists helped reclaim the Finsbury Park Mosque from Abu Hamza, and how salafis countered Al Qaeda recruitment on the streets of Brixton.
"Dataclysm: What our online lives tell us about our offline selves" by Christian Rudder
When responding to opinion polls, people often falsify their answers because they don't want to give socially unacceptable responses. When making selections on internet dating sites, or when searching the web, they reveal their true selves. The author had full access to all of the data held by the dating website OkCupid, and also obtained access to data from other sites. The result is a fascinating and illuminating book. He reveals, for example, that after her early 20's, a woman has much lower appeal to men.
"Dear Infidel" by Tamim Sadikali
This short novel is easy to read. It illustrates some of the identity issues Britons of Pakistani origin face in our society. Readers of white British and of Pakistani origin should find it interesting.
"Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan" by Irwin Porges
As well as his Tarzan stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a large amount of science fiction, and some historical fiction. I read almost all of his non-Tarzan writings when younger. I bought this biography when I was about 26 and read it about 43 years later! It is the definitive authorised biography of one of the 20th century's most successful authors, based on full access to his personal papers and his children, and took over a decade to research and write. It is very easy to read.
"Emperor of the Five Rivers: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh" by Mohamed Sheikh
This short book gives a vivid account of a momentous period in Indian history. In 1799, the 19-year old Ranjit Singh created an empire in the Punjab, led by Sikhs but including Muslims and Hindus, that he ruled for 40 years.
"European Muslim Antisemitism: Why Young Urban Males Say They Don’t Like Jews" by Günther Jikeli
The author and his team interviewed 117 young Muslim men on the streets of Paris, Berlin and London. They found widespread antisemitic attitudes. The book provides detailed qualitative insights into the antisemitic views expressed. This does not claim to be a representative survey of all European Muslims. However everyone who cares about the integration of Muslims in Europe will benefit from reading it.
"Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings" by Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
The full English translation of Dr Qadri's meticulous fatwa. It systematically demolishes every Islamic argument the terrorists can put forward to justify their actions.
"Free Capital: How 12 Private Investors Made Millions in the Stock Market" by Guy Thomas
This book is based upon detailed interviews with 12 private investors. Two are identified, while the others use pseudonyms. The anonymity allows them to speak frankly about how they became full time investors. Everyone will learn something from this book, regardless of the extent of their previous involvement with investing.
"Gorgon Street Girls" written by Ibrahim S. Amin, illustrated by Cameron Stark
Gorgon Street girls is a work of fiction, a relatively short 140 pages. As fiction, I do not want to spoil the plot. A gang of girls spend their time fighting other gangs while at the same time some of them have genuine artistic talent and aspirations. Overall, the key test with any work of fiction is: "Do I want to turn the next page?" With this book I always wanted to know what happened next. I was genuinely moved by a peroration near the end of the book, but I cannot say more without risking spoiling the plot.
"Hazrat A’ishah Saddiqah (R.A.A.) — A study of her age at the time of her marriage" by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
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.
"Holy Terror" by Frank Miller
Frank Miller is the author of such famous graphic novels as "300", "Sin City" and "Batman: Dark Knight Returns", all of which have been filmed. However this 120 page graphic novel has cardboard characters, is filled with anti-Muslim propaganda and is best ignored.
"Home Fire" by Kamila Shamsie
This is a short, gripping, fast-paced novel. It intertwines the story of two families, from opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum, but both of which have Pakistani connections. One is the family of the Home Secretary, the other the family of a deceased jihadist. It is a love story for our times, with radicalisation and Islamist extremism as the backdrop. Once you start reading it, you do not want to stop.
"How not to die: Surprising Lessons on Living Longer, Safer and Healthier" by Dr Jan Garavaglia
Medical examiners see the many foolish ways people manage to get themselves killed. The book is entertaining while being full of sound advice for reducing the risk of an early death.
"How to Cure a Fanatic — Israel and Palestine: Between Right and Right" by Amos Oz
In this short but passionately written book Oz argues that both Jews and Palestinians have legitimate claims to Palestine. He considers that the only solution is compromise in the form of the two state solution. Many on both sides of the dispute are fanatics with closed minds; this book should help to open such minds.
"How to get things done without trying too hard" by Richard Templar
This book is very easy to read, and quite short. It contains about 100 efficiency improving recommendations, and almost everyone will find something that they are not already doing.
"How to talk about immigration" by Sunder Katwala, Steve Ballinger and Matthew Rhodes
Immigration is a key issue for most British voters, and much of the debate around it is highly polarised. This book is from British Future which is a think tank that believes in building a modern British identity and promoting integration. It is based upon detailed polling and focus group discussion and I regard it as a valuable contribution to the immigration debate.
"How to write a sentence — and how to read one" by Stanley Fish
Business English normally requires short sentences without any structural complexity. However that is not how one writes literature. This short book is a delight to read and introduces the reader to some wonderful sentences. It will improve everyone's ability to write good English.
"Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America" by John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck
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.
"I'm NOT a Celebrity — I am a Muslim: One woman's journey to a world of faith" by Sahera Patel
Sahera Patel grew up in Bolton and is now a mother aged 40. This easy to read autobiography provides real insight into growing up as a Muslim girl in Bolton in the 1970's. I enjoyed reading it and wrote the foreword to the book.
"In Ishmael’s House — A History of Jews in Muslim Lands" by Martin Gilbert
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.
"In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World" by Tom Holland
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.
"Islam and the Future of Tolerance — A Dialogue" by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz
Sam Harris is a well-known atheist commentator while Maajid Nawaz is a former Muslim extremist who now chairs the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam. This book contains an extended dialogue between them on whether Islam is compatible with tolerance. It is short, very easy to read, and gives real insight into the issues.
"Islam on Serving Humanity" by Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Due to terrorism, many non-Muslims associate Islam primarily with violence. Meanwhile many Muslims focus on the rituals of Islam while ignoring their responsibility to other people. This book, for which I wrote the preface, cites the Quran and Hadith to demonstrate the essential Islamic obligation to serve all humanity, Muslim and non-Muslim. It is part of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri's "Islamic Curriculum on Peace & Counter Terrorism."
"Islam — Past Present and Future" by Hans Kung
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.
"Islamic Banking and Finance: What It Is and What It Could Be" Editor Tarek El Diwany
1st Ethical put in significant effort to enable this book, which has 11 authors as well as the editor, to be published. It is aimed at professionals new to Islamic banking and finance, and at students at undergraduate level and above. I found it interesting to read, but conclude that it fails the objectives it set itself. As well as the review, there is a response from the Editor Tarek El Diwany.
"Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Futures and Options" by Mohammad Hashim Kamali
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.
"Islamic Law — Theory and Interpretation" by Michael Mumisa
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.
"It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump" by Stuart Stevens
Stuart Stevens has been a Republican all of his adult life. For decades he has been a political strategist, working to elect Republican candidates at all levels, including presidential campaigns. His disgust with the Republican Party's embrace of Donald Trump led him to reflect on the Republican Party more generally. He has concluded that in his career he deceived both himself and the country.
"Jacob's Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History" by David B. Goldstein
The author is professor of molecular genetics and director of the Institute for Genome Science and Policy's Center for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics, Duke University, USA. He has written a short and gripping book which is accessible to everyone regardless of scientific or religious background.
"Jesus, Prophet of Islam" by Muhammad Ata'ur-Rahim and Ahmad Thomson
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.
"Jihad Squad" by Ibrahim S. Amin
This graphic novel is by my eldest son but I was only allowed to see it after it was published. I found it quite amusing. Despite being humorous, it gives a disturbing insight into the world-view of people who want to be jihadis.
"Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam" by Akbar Ahmed
The author is a trained anthropologist. Starting in September 2008, he and his team spent nine months on fieldwork travelling the length and breadth of America. They met with around 2,000 subjects, Muslim and non-Muslim. That makes this project the largest ever survey of America's Muslims. It is illuminating and full of insights.
"Lifespan: The Revolutionary Science of Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To" by David Sinclair, PhD with Matthew D. LaPlante
Scientific knowledge of the body and its molecular processes is advancing very rapidly. The author is at the forefront of this research at Harvard University's Medical School. He explains our current understanding of ageing, and how it might be delayed or even reversed. Reading the book has made me change my lifestyle. Reading it, and acting upon the new knowledge, could extend your life.
"Mapping Integration" edited by David Goodhart
Integration poses challenges for many countries including the UK. The word "integration" itself has many contested meanings. The Demos think tank has been focusing on the issue and one output is this collection of short essays which is well worth reading. It is free to download.
"Minority Verdict — The Conservative Party, the voters and the 2010 election" by Michael A. Ashcroft
Lord Ashcroft was at the heart of Conservative campaign strategy from 2005 - 2010. He gives a fascinating, short and very readable insight into how the Conservative Party needed to change, and why it just failed to win an overall majority.
"Monkey with a Pin — Why you may be missing 6% a year from your investment returns" by Pete Comley
Pete Comley wrote this free book to share what he learned about why investors underperform the stock market index. In it he explains in very simple language why investors go wrong and recommends how they should change their behaviour.
"Muslim Civilisation: The Causes of Decline and the Need for Reform" by M. Umer Chapra
The author is a leading economist and Islamic finance specialist. He attributes the decline to causes internal to Muslim societies, and places greatest emphasis on political illegitimacy.
"Muslims on the Map: A National Survey of Social Trends in Britain" by Serena Hussain
This book by an academic geographer contains some fascinating insights into Britain's Muslim population.
"Old New Land (Altneuland)" by Theodor Herzl
A novel by the founder of modern Zionism, setting out his utopian vision for the future of Palestine.
"Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape" by Raja Shehadeh
The author is a Palestinian Christian lawyer who for decades has fought legal cases against Israeli land expropriations in the West Bank. He writes about seven walks in the West Bank, sharing his love of the countryside and his sense of loss as it is stolen.
"Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence" by Mohammad Hashim Kamali
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.
"Qur’anic Concepts of the Ethics of Warfare: Challenging the Claims of Islamic Aggressiveness" by Joel Hayward
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.
"Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation" by John Wansbrough
This book is the source of the radical view that the Quran was not composed when generally believed, but around 200 years later, and in Mesopotamia rather than in Western Arabia. It is written in obscure academic language and very hard to read. I found it unconvincing and severely flawed.
"Radical: My journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening" by Maajid Nawaz
Maajid Nawaz is the Chairman and co-founder of Quilliam. He spent four years inside Egyptian prisons for his political beliefs. This autobiography vividly takes us into his life, from childhood to today. It is a compelling read, as well as giving insights into the mind of a radical.
"Rational Expectations: Asset Allocation for Investing Adults" by William J Bernstein
Deciding what types of investment you should hold matters far more than your specific investment selections. Your decision depends on your investment objectives and your attitude to risk. This short book teaches you about the issue in a methodical but entertaining way.
"Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain" by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin
UKIP is the most significant new political party since the rise of the Labour Party. UKIP supporters are often believed to be entirely disaffected Tories. The book details the history of UKIP, and looks at who supports it. It concludes that UKIP supporters are very different from the supporters of the other three main parties.
"The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism" by Sara Khan with Tony McMahon
The main author of this book, Sara Khan, has practical experience of preventing young people being radicalised. The book covers the main groups in the UK which promote an extreme and intolerant version of Islam and shows how the Government's Prevent programme has been systematically maligned by its opponents. It also profiles the many unsung heroes who are promoting an inclusive vision of Islam in Britain.
"The Bomb on the Rock" by Michael Weiss
This is a short work of fiction where Palestinian terrorists smuggle an atomic bomb into Jerusalem with the help of a Palestinian "sleeper." It is very easy to read, and quite gripping. Accordingly I recommend it as mental relaxation. It also has an important message of reconciliation.
"The Cambridge companion to the Quran" edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe
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.
"The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon" by Jonathan Brown
The Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim tower in reputation above other Hadith collections. Most Muslims regard them as canonical texts. However, when they were first compiled, they encountered some controversy. Their canonical status took several centuries to acquire. Professor Brown reviews the history in a book that combines being authoritative with being very readable and accessible to the layman.
"The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
The title of this book has probably influenced far more people than have ever read it. It is often cited as evidence of unavoidable conflict between Islam and the West. On its own terms, the message of the book is much more mixed, foreseeing conflict between many civilisations. However the book's dystopian future shows no signs of being realised. It should be seen as part of a genre of "declinist" books which have been around for almost a century.
"The Constitution of Liberty" by Friedrich Hayek
This book has inspired an entire generation of people who believe in personal freedom and its relationship with free market capitalism.
"The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment" by Guy Spier
I bought this book primarily because I knew Guy Spier. It reveals that we have a surprising number of interests in common. The book is short, easy to read, informative and the author is very open about himself. I believe that it should make every reader a better investor.
"The Federalist Papers" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
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.
"The Genealogy of Terror: How to distinguish between Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism" by Matthew L.N. Wilkinson
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.
"The Israel lobby and US foreign policy" by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
In the USA this book was very controversial. I believe it provides a blueprint for British Muslims.
"The Jewish State" by Theodor Herzl
This short book was the founding text of modern Zionism. The seeds of the Israel / Palestine conflict can be found inside it.
"The Little Book of Behavioral Investing: How Not to be Your Own Worst Enemy" by James Montier
This book is short and easy to read. In simple language it explains why investors make so many bad decisions. Reading it will help you to understand yourself and to become a better investor.
"The Long and the Short of It: A Guide to Finance and Investment for Normally Intelligent People Who Aren’t in the Industry" by John Kay
Saving and investing matter for all except the very poorest in our society. Unfortunately there are serious problems getting impartial advice, so people need to learn for themselves. This book is my recommendation as the best place to start. It is simply the best book I know for the new investor. The author is a well-known economist, who writes well and seeks to share his knowledge.
"The Monster Hunter's Handbook" by Ibrahim S. Amin
This is my eldest son's first published book. It is both funny and informative.
"The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else" by Hernando de Soto
Why does capitalism work in the West, but fail in so many other countries? In the 1990s Hernando de Soto and his colleagues went fact-finding. They went into the streets of developing and former communist nations to learn what real people are achieving inside and outside the formal economy. They found that even poor people in such countries have assets and savings which could be used for successful capitalism, but nevertheless these countries are underdeveloped. In this book they summarise their findings and explain the key changes underdeveloped countries need to make to transform their economies.
"The Myth of Digital Democracy" by Matthew Hindman
The internet gives ordinary citizens the power to publish material that can be read by everyone in the world who has computer access. Many commentators have argued that this is democratising public discourse, since the old media such as newspapers and TV concentrated power in the hands of only a few publishers. The author demonstrates with detailed research that this view is incorrect because although it is easy to speak in cyberspace, it is very difficult to be heard.
"The other Schindlers: Why some people chose to save Jews in the Holocaust" by Agnes Grunwald-Spier
Hiding a Jew risked death for you and your family. Most people looked the other way, but some risked everything to help complete strangers. How do people make these choices? It is a fascinating short book, and very readable.
"The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness" by Morgan Housel
Many people have very high incomes, but end up poor. Others with much more modest incomes die rich. What accounts for the difference? With very simple examples, this short readable book explains that the most important factor is your personal psychology. This short simple book is the best possible introductory guide to thinking about your personal finances.
"The Right Kind of History — Teaching the Past in Twentieth Century England" by David Cannadine, Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon
The authors have written the first history of how History has been taught in English schools from 1900 to 2010. The book is very easy to read and helps one to think clearly about this vital issue. Afer all, we are our history.
"The Road to Mecca" by Muhammad Asad
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).
"The Second Arab Awakening — And the Battle for Pluralism" by Marwan Muasher
Marwan Masher is a former Foreign Minister and former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan, with obvious deep knowledge of the Arab world. He gives a short, readable and insightful survey of the main Arab countries, their problems, and how they needs to change. There is also a video of him being interviewed at the book launch by Michael Binyon.
"The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets" by Simon Singh
This 230-page paperback by a leading popular science writer is both entertaining and informative. No advanced maths required!
"The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life" by Alice Schroeder
Warren Buffett is one of the world's richest men, and almost certainly its most famous investor. This 838 page authorised biography paints a very moving picture of the man, as well as recounting his business successes and philosophy.
"The Theory of Investment Value" by John Burr Williams
This is one of the seminal works on investment valuation. Written in 1938, it is still worth reading today.
"The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success?" by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld
Some groups in America are clearly much more successful than others. The authors investigate why and identify three characteristics, all of which are needed to make individuals in a group successful. They are a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control; together the Triple Package. Reading the book I could see the impact of these personality characteristics in my own life.
"The Unknown Fallen: The Global Allied Muslim Contribution in the First World War – Volume 1" edited by Dr Anne Samson
World War 1 was the first truly global war. Muslims from many countries and many European colonies made a major contribution to the Allied War effort. Much of that has been forgotten. This book reminds us of their dedication and sacrifice, is beautifully presented, well illustrated, and easy to read.
"The Wages of Sin Taxes; The True Cost of Taxing Alcohol, Tobacco and Other “Vices”" by Christopher Snowden
Many countries have heavy taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gambling. These are often justified by arguing that smokers, drinkers and gamblers impose costs on the rest of society. The author looks at the hard evidence and disproves these justifications. This 50 page booklet from the Adam Smith Institute can be downloaded free.
"Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns" by Elroy Dimson, Paul Marsh and Mike Staunton
This is the most definitive study I know of investment returns over the last century. The authors look at equities, bonds, treasury bills, inflation and currencies for 16 countries. The book is very clearly written and the high quality colour charts and tables make the data easy to absorb.
"Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity" by Lilliana Mason
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.
"Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History" by David Aaronovitch
Why are some people so ready to believe in conspiracy theories? The book covers a number of modern conspiracy theories in depth and then comes up with a theory about the types of people drawn to them.
"Wandering Lonely in a Crowd" by SM Atif Imtiaz
This is a collection of the author's essays and speeches ranging over the nine years since 11 September 2001. In them the author gives a personal view what he calls "the Muslim condition in the West."
"Winning the Loser’s Game: Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing" by Charles D. Ellis
His role at Yale University's endowment fund shows how well Charles Ellis understands investing over the long term. In this book, he gives clear guidance that can be implemented by anyone. He focuses on understanding yourself and your objectives. Everyone should read this book before committing themselves to any investments.
"Why should anyone be led by you? – What it takes to be an authentic leader" by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
Leadership is vital to the success of organisations. Accordingly the authors, who are both business school academics, have spent much time researching successful and unsuccessful leaders. From this they have identified some key characteristics and behaviours of successful leaders and explain these in a very readable manner. The book should encourage reflection in every leader and potential leader who reads it.

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What you can do

I have listed them in decreasing order of importance

To change the world you need to take action
Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad changed the world more than anyone, but only because people chose to follow them. If dissatisfied with the world, you need to take action within your resources, and find others to collaborate with.
Be personally successful
I meet many young people whose main goal is to work for a charity or an NGO. They underestimate how personal success enables you to do more good for others.
Choose words that unite people
Every day, we influence others when we speak with them. The words we choose to use can divide us from other people, or bring us together. I give some specific examples.
Show Muslims are normal citizens
Muslims are normal British citizens with much to contribute to society. A short exchange of comments about the commercial value of psychological testing reminded me of the need for Muslims to speak up about issues that have nothing to do with religion. Doing so reinforces their position as full citizens.
Overcome your unconscious bias
My 90-second "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester devoted to unconscious bias. In it, I shared two examples of my own unconscious bias, including a riddle which defeated me, my wife and my sister. The page also has some additional resources on the subject including the Implicit Association Test. By understanding and overcoming your own unconscious bias, you will make the world a better place.
Join a political party
This will cost less than £40 per year, but will dramatically increase your political impact. The amount of time you spend is up to you, but even if you spend almost no time on party activities, you can still make a difference as I explain on the linked page.
Write to the media and politicians
In Britain, we have the right to free speech, and should make our voice heard. I have explained why we should write letters and website comments, and set out how to maximise your effectiveness.
Make public comments on websites
Many website articles allow comments to be posted. Even if there are many other comments, quickly adding your own comment can be worthwhile and takes little effort. I outline some rules that will increase the impact of your comments.
An illustrative political complaint letter
I have written to the Superintendent of West Point objecting to a proposed speaker. The email is reproduced with an explanation of my thought process.

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Religion and community cohesion

The role of religion in society is somewhat contested in the UK. Sadly, in many other countries it is a matter of life and death.

Freedom of religion and belief is of fundamental importance, and I start by listing some key resources. Other pages about religion and community cohesion are listed in reverse date order.

Freedom of religion and belief

Resources on religious freedom
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.

Other pages on religion and community cohesion

Polling British Muslims with an agenda
The Henry Jackson Society commissioned a poll of British Muslims. The poll had many disturbing findings. In my view, the poll was designed to maximise differences between Muslims and Britons generally. I appeared on the GB News "Farage" show to discuss the findings.
Video: The importance of interfaith dialogue
This five-minute video was made for showing at the 2023 Sandford St Martin Awards in Manchester. It is a conversation between a Muslim (me), a Christian (David Walker, Bishop of Manchester), a Jew (Rabbi Warren Elf, Director of Faith Network 4 Manchester), and a Buddhist (Jill Brennan, Co-chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Faith and Belief Advisory Panel.) As well as the discussion, it is a beautiful example of outstanding video editing.
How Britain has changed in my lifetime - a talk at Dean Trust Ardwick School
In February 2023 I gave a talk to Dean Trust Ardwick School which is within walking distance of where I grew up in the 1950's. They asked me to repeat a talk I have given at other schools which I updated for data from the 2021 census. Britons are far better off today than when the UK ruled the largest empire in human history. After the talk the pupils had many questions about my journey through life.
Islam & Secular Democracy — What many Muslims believe. Why. How to change it.
Many Muslims consider that Islam is not compatible with secular democracy. I explain why they hold this view, and why they are wrong. I briefly outline how one can change people's minds about this. My talk at a conference on Islam & Secular Democracy jointly organised by the Neem Tree Forum and the National Secular Society.
Can one be a cultural Muslim?
Jews are both an ethnic group and a religious group. A cultural Jew does not believe in Judaism, but identifies as a Jew and may observe some traditional Jewish practices. Muslims are defined solely by their beliefs. Accordingly, there is no such thing as an atheist Muslim. The term "cultural Muslim" should be understood as a compound noun, not as an adjective followed by a noun. The compound noun "cultural Muslim" correctly categorises some people. To be precise, cultural Muslims are not Muslims.
Teaching Civil Rights with a global perspective
Good of All is an American 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit education organisation. For several years it has taught the principles of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the philosophy of non-violence championed by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Given the rising levels of strife and violence in our world, the non-violent principles of Dr King offer a road map for young people around the world to make a productive contribution to the cause of justice and peace in the digital age. Good of All recently produced a universal rights school curriculum based on Dr King's principles, partnering on the curriculum with McGraw Hill. Having started off with school districts in the USA, Good of All is now taking the curriculum internationally.
The relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam - March 2022 version
Savio Salesian College asked me to talk about the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I first explained the different ways that believers and academics think about religion. After summarising the history, I looked at how the three religions overlap, and focused particularly on what they believe. Focusing on religious beliefs shows how Islam and Judaism are much closer to each other than either is to Christianity.
How Muslims should talk about terrorism committed by other Muslims
Several mistakes are easily made. These include offering analysis about motivations too soon, denying that the terrorists are Muslims, or claiming that the terrorists are not motivated by their religious beliefs. To speak effectively, you need to learn how the terrorists interpret Islam, and how recent their ideology is. It is essential to condemn them without equivocation, and to promote better inter-religious understanding.
Britain leads all European countries in integrating ethnic minorities
Racism still exists in Britain, but integration in the UK is far ahead of other European countries. In my view, no country in Europe comes close to the UK when considering the representation of ethnic minorities at the top levels of politics, media and the professions. We should celebrate this with pride, while recognising that we still have further to go.
Why Islam has a terrible reputation
Many non-Muslims have a negative view of Islam. When they look at Muslims, they see many things that would concern any reasonable person. These include widespread terrorism committed by Muslims, and the lack of religious, political, and economic freedom in many Muslim majority countries. Indeed, I am surprised that perceptions of Islam are not worse. A future article will outline what individual Muslims can do to improve the position.
Religion prohibits “whataboutism”
As well as being intellectually dishonest, “whataboutism” conflicts with fundamental teachings of religions such as Christianity and Islam. I also make the wider point that you should always be more critical of your "own group" (however defined) than you are of other groups.
Is Britain “Structurally Racist?”
“Manchester Speaks” is a group of Manchester University students. They organised a panel event on “Structural Racism” with Charlotte Nichols MP and me as the speakers. As preparation, I took a close look at the definitions of “racism,” “institutional racism,” and “structural racism.” I concluded that Britain is not structurally racist.
Parents' unconditional love for their children and God's love for humanity
Nearly 40 years ago, a bereaved client said something to me that I have never forgotten. I shared it in my "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester, along with my view that the God of the Old Testament is often severely misrepresented.
How do we feel about our fellow citizens?
After covering the Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachings about loving your neighbours, I go on to discuss what we owe our fellow citizens. We have many legal obligations to them. However being my fellow citizen does not, of itself, entitle you to any affection.
How well do we really know Jesus?
For all questions, start by asking “What are the facts?” My Boxing Day "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.
Faith communities in Greater Manchester and the Muslim Jewish Forum
The Royal College of Defence Studies is the senior college of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Some of their students visited Manchester recently. The Co-Chairs of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester gave a presentation on Manchester's faith communities generally and the Forum in particular. You can watch my 12-minute presentation on the page. The opportunity to speak to such a senior group of people comes from being involved with an organisation like the Forum.
Video - Why the Islam & Liberty Network is vital
I believe that Muslim majority countries lag behind because they lack religious, political, and economic freedom. A key reason is that many Muslims have religious views that are not conducive to success in this world, including rejection of religious, political, and economic freedom. Changing such views is ILN's mission. My presentation at the opening of the recent ILN 8th International Conference.
Deciding religious questions – whose opinion matters?
People regularly ask me religious questions via my website. I always give the same response. On the Day of Judgement, each of us will be individually accountable to God. Accordingly we have to decide all religious questions for ourselves. You can consult others as part of reaching your decision. In many cases, the religious views of other people will nevertheless impact up on your life.
Using the term “Radical Islam” is counterproductive
Our choice of words should help us think clearly, and should not alienate potential allies. The name we use for the ideology of enemies such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban really matters. Calling their ideology "Radical Islam" confuses us and alienates many Muslims.
Why the Jewish people survived 2,000 years as a dispersed minority
My "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester preceded Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. I reflected on the wonderful story of how their religious beliefs enabled the Jewish people to survive for so long living in lands ruled by others without being absorbed.
“Judeo-Christian” is historically inaccurate and deliberately divisive
Historically, Europeans have described their civilisation simply as "Christian". The term "Judeo-Christian" was popularised by anti-communists, and then by anti-Muslim bigots.
Why I support the National Muslim War Memorial Trust
Muslims were a major part of Britain's Armed Forces in both World Wars. However their story has largely been forgotten. This matters for community cohesion. The NMWMT will commemorate Muslim servicemen and servicewomen, and tell their stories, thereby bringing people closer together.
Anti-Muslim hatred: What the law can, and cannot, do
I spoke about anti-Muslim hatred at an event for the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. Some forms of bad behaviour can be, and are, legislated against. However other bad behaviour requires changing people's attitudes. Each Muslim is an ambassador for Islam, whether or not they want to be one. My video presentation also distinguishes between "old" and "new" anti-Muslim hatred.
My reflection on the death of Prince Philip
BBC Radio Manchester asked me to replace my planned "Thought for the Week" with one about Prince Philip, given his very recent death. I focused it around the life choice he made when he decided to marry Princess Elizabeth of Britain.
Attacking religion vs. attacking religious people?
Freedom of speech is vital and needs protecting. At the same time, society needs to guard against hate speech that promotes attacks on individuals. Drawing the boundary is particularly difficult when it comes to religion. Where does freedom to criticise religion cross the line and become an attack on people who follow that religion? I spoke at a Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats fringe meeting during the September 2020 Lib Dem Conference which addressed this question. You can watch the recording on the page.
Interview for the Parallel Histories project
I have known Michael Davies since 2015, before he founded the Parallel Histories project. Parallel Histories has a methodology for covering very contested histories (e.g. Palestine, Northern Ireland) for maximum educational value. He recently asked if I could be interviewed by one of his team. The interview turned out to be very wide ranging. I have now published it on YouTube and on my website. I have transcribed the questions to provide an overview of the podcast.
President Macron and French Muslims — right goals, wrong implementation
France has performed far worse on Muslim integration than have the UK or the USA. An upsurge in religiously motivated terrorism by French Muslims has led President Macron to focus on the issue. Unfortunately, while Macron's goals are right, he has so far failed to propose policies that will work. I have written some specific advice for the French state and for French Muslims.
Can you love mankind if you can't stand people?
I based my "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester not on a religious text but on a Peanuts cartoon strip. What is the message in Linus Van Pelt's cry "I love mankind... It's people I can't stand!!"?
What I like about Judaism
3,000 years ago Judaism was the religion of a small collection of tribes located in a small part of the Middle East. Today Judaism and its historical offshoots Christianity and Islam are the religions of a very large part of humanity. I briefly explain how I see Judaism, and share my thoughts on the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Judaism. This was my 8-minute talk for the Muslim Jewish Forum's event for Interfaith Week 2020.
Preserving your life is a religious duty
Judaism and Islam both teach the importance of preserving the lives of others, and your own life. That requires you to be meticulous about avoiding coronavirus infection risks. My 58th "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester, which followed shortly after my 70th birthday and 42nd wedding anniversary, both celebrated in isolation at home.
Why are Muslim majority countries lagging behind?
The data makes it clear that, on average, Muslim majority countries are poorer than non-Muslim-majority countries. The history of colonialism is a factor, but only a partial one. There are some key criteria states need to fulfil if their citizens are to advance. Muslim majority countries are often deficient due to corruption, maintained by the absence of freedom. The way that citizens behave is also vital. Unfortunately many Muslims interpret Islam in a way not conducive to worldly success.
The role of religion in personal life and in state law
I spoke to the morning assembly at a Church of England High School. Then I spent almost an hour answering open questions from 7 sixth-form Religious Education students. The two sessions together outline my views on the role of religion in personal life and its proper position in state law.
Who is a Muslim?
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.
The Runnymede 1997 "Islamophobia" definition refuses to die
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.
Interview by Muniem Batoni of Pakistan
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.
Interview by Rizwan Akram of Pakistan
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.
Muslims, Jews and COVID-19
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.
The relationship between Christianity and Islam - February 2020 version
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.
The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester's presentation at the University of Salford
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.
Would you believe in a miracle if you saw one?
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.
The relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam
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.
What do we do with a definition of Islamophobia?
Because Runnymede's 1997 definition of "Islamophobia" was seriously flawed, the word has been contested since then. However, it refuses to die. Meanwhile several revised definitions have failed to gain general acceptance. The Government is currently devising its own definition of Islamophobia. How a definition of Islamophobia will be used is rarely discussed. Accordingly, I wrote an article for the Conservative Home website explaining how I expect a definition to be used.
Free countries should make online anonymity socially unacceptable
The ability to publish our thoughts online, and to share them using social media, has made it possible for everyone to speak to a large fraction of the world. Sadly however, the internet has facilitated intemperate and abusive speech, and the propagation of falsehoods. Much of this is due to anonymity online, which leads people to behave much worse than they would if their identities were know. We can all take action by refusing to engage with anonymous accounts: never respond to them, never share them, never follow them. I made this the topic for my "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.
Why don't Muslims talk about Jesus more?
The Quran gives a significant amount of coverage to Jesus, including the story of the Virgin Birth. Despite that, I rarely hear Muslims mentioning Jesus. I used my post-Christmas "Thought for the Week" broadcast to ask why.
The relationship between Christianity and Islam - November 2019 version
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 22-minute talk delivered at a secondary school in Stoke-on-Trent. There is now a more recent February 2020 version of this talk higher up on this page.
Having one place called home really matters
In September, I attended the funeral prayers of a close friend in Manchester Central Mosque. While praying, I reflected on how important that location has been in my life, and the importance of a place called home more generally. I made that the subject of my 51st Thought for the Week on BBC Radio Manchester.
Policy Exchange fringe event “Challenging Islamophobia” at the Conservative Party Conference
The event was chaired by Trevor Phillips, with the speakers being Nusrat Ghani MP, Peter Tatchell and Dr Qanta Ahmed. Despite two of the speakers being Muslims and Peter Tatchell being a long-standing human rights campaigner, the event was strongly attacked by Baroness Warsi, based on other people's tweets and then listening to a recording. I deferred commenting until I could watch the event recording. Having watched it, I believe there are no grounds for complaining about the event. It was a good event expressing serious concerns about anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred. The speakers reject the term "Islamophobia", as indeed do I.
Why anti-Muslim hatred has grown, and how to counter it
People hate others for multiple reasons including: race; culture; and religion. Anti-Muslim hatred increases when some Muslims behave badly such as the terrorists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Countering hatred is more effective when Muslims ally with others. Each individual Muslim has a part to play. My opinion piece for the Islam & Liberty Network.
Does the Quran support Zionism?
Manchester Limmud is a one-day educational conference with mainly, but not entirely, Jewish speakers and attenders. I have spoken there on many occasions. I chose this subject, as a way of learning more about what the Quran has to say. In my view nothing in the Quran prohibits the existence of a Jewish majority state in Palestine. My personal views of the Israel / Palestine conflict are fully set out on my page "A personal view of the Israel / Palestine conflict."
64-minute interview with The Middle West Podcast
The Middle West Podcast appears fortnightly and describes itself as "dealing with Western and inherently Islamic issues through the lens of #BalancingTheDiscourse." This was a wide-ranging interview covering my life journey, the British political scene, individuals and the state, radicalisation, and the key message for young British Muslims.
My definition of Islamophobia
I think the word Islamophobia cannot be rescued after 22 years of poor quality definitions. However most Muslims and many other people don't want to let the word go. The Government has committed itself to coming up its own definition of Islamophobia. Accordingly, I have supplied one. This definition is intended as a complete replacement for all previous definitions.
Refuse to fear minority groups
Genocides don't just happen. Evil leaders create them systematically. Refusing to fear minority groups is an essential defence against such leaders.
My international Manchester
A recording of my presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University on 27 February 2019. Manchester was the world's first industrial city and has long been home to foreign visitors and immigrants. It has been my home since I was aged 1 ¾ and in my lifetime Manchester has seen enormous demographic and economic changes. I explain why people living in a multi-cultural metropolis like Manchester have far greater opportunities than those living in smaller towns or the countryside.
Sex and gender are different
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.
Religion matters for life before death — not just after death
At its heart, religion is about ultimate truth. That point leads to Pascal's wager. However religions also strongly affect the way people live their lives here on Earth. That can be very beneficial for their adherents, or it can be very damaging. My page gives one religious example each way.
Should the Government adopt a definition of Islamophobia? - TV discussion
I appeared in a 26-minute panel programme on TRT World with Afzal Khan CBE, MP for Manchester Gorton, and Imran Shah, spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK). In my view, existing hate crimes and anti-discrimination legislation is adequate. Adopting a definition of Islamophobia will not, of itself, change the law.
The Relationships Education controversy
Many religious parents object to schools teaching their children about the existence of LGBT relationships, and that such relationships are normal. While the most recent controversy concerns Muslim parents, the same issue has arisen with Jewish and Christian parents. This controversy illustrates how the rights of parents can conflict with the rights of children, which it is the role of the state to protect. While teaching must always be age appropriate, all children have the right to be taught that LGBT relationships are a normal part of this world.
Reflections on the killings in New Zealand
The terrorist attack in New Zealand came as a shock, mainly because New Zealand is such a safe country. Sadly, with the level of hatred being propagated, it was not a surprise to find someone seeking to kill Muslims. Apart from the security response, governments need to address the toxic hatred that has recently been spreading through society, assisted by the availability of social media. Anti-Muslim hatred is fed by the actions of violent Islamist extremists, and in turn allows Islamist extremists to promote their narrative that the whole world hates Muslims.
The word Islamophobia should be abandoned
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.
Helping the world also helps you
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.
TV appearance: Why Holocaust commemoration is vital
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.
Defining and promoting the word "antimuslimism"
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.
Jesus continues to inspire us today
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.
How Britain has changed in my lifetime - a talk at Tytherington School
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.
Call for Evidence by the Commission for Countering Extremism
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.
Why I avoid using the word Islamophobia
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.
What the Holocaust teaches us
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.
To perform Hajj more than once is a selfish act
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.
It is vital for British Muslims and Jews to cooperate
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.
Has English law recognised a “nikah only” marriage?
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.
Criticising Islam as disguised anti-Muslim hatred
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.
Why the Islam and Liberty Network matters
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.
What does it mean to love your neighbour as you love yourself?
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.
Do Muslim religious texts cause religious persecution?
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 will all mankind look the same?
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.
The diversity of British Muslims
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.
Lecture on Islam to Christian theology students
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 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism
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.
TV interview at European Union Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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.
Radio Interview: My Messages for Young Muslims
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.
How Muslims understand Islam significantly affects their countries' politics and economies
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.
All ethnic minority outcome differences cannot be blamed on discrimination
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.
Fatalism is religious belief gone astray
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.
Talk: Christianity and Islam + Violent Islamist Extremism
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.
Short radio interview: Why freedom of speech is vitally important
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.
The Muslim duty to combat antisemitism
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.
Why the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester is needed, and why it has succeeded
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.
Why do we attend other faiths religious events?
Shared religious beliefs is only a small part of the answer. I believe the main reason is that attendance demonstrates your respect and love for other believers as fellow human beings.
Recording of "Islamic Foundations of a Free Society" panel event
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.
How Manchester mourned after the Arena attack
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.
Muslim parents have primary responsibility for preventing their children being radicalised
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.
Defeating the terrorists behind the Manchester Arena bombing
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.
Christians and Muslims should celebrate Passover
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.
Preventing terrorism is your responsibility
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.
Having a religious belief helps you to succeed in life
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.
Why teaching British pupils to do their own Quran translating is undesirable
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.
Integration in the UK and the Casey report
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.
My reflection on Christmas
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.
Are Human Rights and Islam compatible?
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.
Presentation on antisemitism in the UK
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.
Reducing antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Britain
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.
Religious freedom is fundamental for a free society
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.
Why is France doing so badly at integrating Muslims?
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.
Seeing what you want to see in major events
What people say about 9/11 and its implications tells you much about how they see the world.
Our country's non-negotiable values need to be properly specified
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.
Why critics of the Home Office’s Shariah Law Review are wrong
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.
Building a cohesive society depends on you
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.
Publish convicted terrorists’ biographies
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.
Downplaying European terrorism committed by Muslims
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.
Lecture: Muslim Jewish relations in the UK
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.
What Ramadan means to me
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.
Debate in Bradford on the UK Government's Prevent programme - video recording
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.
Lecture: The Quran recognises religious freedom
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.
Tackling Extremism Amongst Muslims While Respecting Freedom of Religion
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.
What makes us a nation?
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.
A Muslim Prayer for the Nation
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.
Curriculum for Cohesion - Developing minds to heal a fractured world
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.
Why Baroness Cox’s "Shariah Law" Bill is misconceived
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.
Teaching Muslims religious intolerance
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.
Sharing a country with believers in other religions
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.
Should Muslims be actuaries? How misunderstandings about Islam spread.
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.
Clarion Project interview on Muslim groups fighting extremism
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.
Simply condemning terrorism by Muslims is not enough
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.
Panel discussion: Is Islam the Cause or Solution to Extremism?
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.
Political activity builds social capital
Social capital is built when people join organisations and take part in group activities. A particularly important such activity is joining a political party and voting to elect our government.
A review of the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill [HL] 2015-16
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.
A comparison of British Muslims' and Jews' engagement in interfaith dialogue
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.
TV discussion: David Cameron's Birmingham speech and non-violent extremism
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.
David Cameron's Birmingham speech on extremism
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.
A reflection on the 7 July 2005 London bombings
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.
TV discussion: What does "radicalisation" really mean?
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.
Muslims need to challenge extremists, not remain silent
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.
A personal perspective on Ramadan
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.
Speakers for Schools talk about The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
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.
Has multiculturalism failed in the UK?
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."
What being a Muslim means to me
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.
Video: What does it mean to be British?
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.
"British values" and the Home Secretary's March 2015 speech on extremism
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.
Pamela Geller’s attack on me
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.
Muslim religious marriages and divorces – the problems and ways forward
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.
TV Programme "Halal meat - History or Reality?"
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.
Classifying bigotry accurately matters
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 Survey of British Muslims' attitudes for the BBC
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.
My petition to protect religious slaughter
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.
How reliable are Hadith? Some are contradictory.
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.
Antisemitic incidents in the UK 2014
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 Muslim Council of Britain misunderstood Eric Pickles' letter to mosques
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' reactions to the Paris attacks of 7-9 January
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.
Why it is vital to learn history
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.
Compendium of Muslim condemnations of terrorism
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.
TV Debate: Radicalisation on Campus
A one hour panel discussion about radicalisation generally, with some discussion of the role of universities. It shows how contested the concept of radicalisation is. I consider it a serious issue.
Anti-Muslim prejudice: some causes and counter-strategies
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.
My speech at the 2014 Curriculum for Cohesion Dinner
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.
Stand for righteousness, not tribalism
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.
Terrorism by Muslims and two opposing denials
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.
The role of religion and belief in British public life
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.
The Conveyor Belt Theory of Radicalisation
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.
A conspiracy to Islamise Birmingham schools? My reaction to the Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and Department for Education reports
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.
A conspiracy to "Islamise" Birmingham schools?
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.
A reflection on the “Shariah wills” hysteria
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 does anti-Zionism become antisemitism?
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.
Perpetually moaning is a bad strategy for advocacy organisations, including Muslim ones
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.
A strategy for dealing with Hizb ut Tahrir
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.
TV discussion on religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue
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.
To help others, make a success of your own life
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.
The scale of Islamophobic attacks since the Woolwich murder
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.
Technology means that our writings will long outlive us
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.
My speech at the Curriculum for Cohesion Dinner - Video & Text
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.
Response to criticism of Tell MAMA which monitors anti-Muslim attacks
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.
Muslim Jewish relations in Britain after the Woolwich murder
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.
TV phone in - Britain post the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich
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.
Religious rituals help us through life
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.
Doing what is right instead of following the crowd
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.
Choose words that unite people
Every day, we influence others when we speak with them. The words we choose to use can divide us from other people, or bring us together. I give some specific examples.
Time to retire Islamism?
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.
Lessons from seven years of Muslim Jewish dialogue in Manchester
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.
Religious understanding is a mutual obligation
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.
The theory of evolution and religious texts
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.
Edip Yuksel and Farouk Peru debate Islamic reform and the 19 theory on video
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.
Living by principles and rules makes you happier
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 should never be a crime
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.
God's infinite love
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.
Eid is for sharing
Some religious festivals are solemn and serious. Others are fun occasions. Solemn festivals will only appeal to believers of that faith. Fun festivals, like Eid ul Fitr, can be shared by everyone.
Why science ignores God
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.
Islamophobia – a trap for unwary Muslims
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.
Humans are all one family
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.
Voting unites the country
Politics often creates strong emotions and is seen as disuniting people. However voting is a great national communal act and we need to remember that all politicians are loyal to their country.
To save one life is like saving all mankind
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.
A perspective on shechita and halal slaughter
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.
A Curriculum for Cohesion
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.
Shariah is more than a set of legal rules
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.
Reflections on the death of Svetlana Alliluyeva
Svetlana always bore the burden of being Stalin's daughter. While we are commonly judgemental about the children of "bad" parents, God never judges us except by our own actions and inactions.
Reflections on 9/11
It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by. As well as reminiscing, I assess Al Qaeda's goals and conclude that it has failed and that its time has passed.
Reflections on the killings in Norway
Anders Breivik's mass murder defies understanding. However I have found reading his manifesto helpful.
BBC Radio Manchester interview about the London Bombings
I was interviewed for seven minutes alongside Dr Joel Hayward, Dean of the Royal Air Force Academy.
Preventing people becoming terrorists
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.
Why are Muslim majority countries more corrupt?
When you itemise OIC members states on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions index, they cluster towards the bottom. I have been thinking about the reasons.
BBC Radio Manchester discussion about the death of Osama Bin Laden
I took part in a half hour discussion along with a rabbi and two Christian reverends. The BBC have given me the sound files and permitted me to post them on the internet.
The difference between "multiculturalism" and "state multiculturalism"
David Cameron has criticises "state multiculturalism" on at least two occasions. Unfortunately many misunderstand that as criticism of multiculturalism. I have tried to explain the difference.
We all need to prevent violent extremism – nobody can stand idly by
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.
Reflections on visiting Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is the most important centre documenting and commemorating the Jews who died during the Holocaust. I visited it at the beginning of 2010, and found it very moving.
Statement regarding death threats made against Dr Usama Hasan
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.
Why I wear a Union Jack lapel pin
It changes the way strangers see me, by silently asserting my patriotism.
A brief introduction to Islam for non-Muslims
For many years non-Muslims have asked my wife and me for a simple and short introduction to Islam. Unable to find anything quite suitable for them, I eventually decided to write it myself.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Need for Constitutional Reform
The MCB has announced that it is reviewing its constitution. I have made a written submission to the review committee which I am sharing on this website.
Review of a report on Muslim converts in the UK
At the end of 2010, Faith Matters published a 40 page report "A Minority within a Minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom". I consider it well worth reading.
Is the correct usage Koran, Qur’an or Quran?
I explain why "Qur'an" is the most correct form, even though I choose to use "Quran". I have also noticed that obsolete usage such as "Koran" and "Moslem" is often associated with anti-Muslim views.
Conference address on the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
I spoke about why and how the Forum was set up and what it has achieved.
Is Israel criticised unfairly?
Israelis often complain that their country is criticised while other countries which behave much worse are not, and that this is unfair.
The European Union threat to halal and kosher food
Muslims, Jews and their friends need to act now to get rid of proposed EU legislation which will make halal and kosher food more expensive, and which could eventually lead to it being banned.
Playing Russian roulette with my baby's health
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.
A guide to Quran translations into English
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.
A response to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach regarding suicide bombers and hell
Muslims believe that only God decides who goes to heaven or to hell. However, this can easily be misinterpreted as moral ambivalence, which Rabbi Boteach has done.
Triangulating the Abrahamic faiths
How do you measure the relative closeness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam? You have to decide what matters most in religious belief and compare what each religion has to say.
 Antisemitism amongst Muslims – a personal view
I feel strongly about antisemitism, but it grieves me most when find it amongst fellow Muslims because I believe that we should be "the best of people."
Suicide by samosa? Stopping the Asian diet from killing us
I feel very angry about the ill health that plagues Britons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin.
Letter to Israeli ambassador about the Gaza flotilla and blockade
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'd invite Melanie Phillips to dinner'
The journalist Chaminda Jayanetti who interviewed me for the Samosa website was clearly taken by my approach as he used it for the title of his wide ranging interview.
Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism"
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.
Tortured by algebra? Who can you blame?
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.
The university and modern civilisation
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.
Powerful or powerless?
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.
Another charge of reds (sorry, Islamists) under the bed!
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.
A poor article comprising mainly innuendo
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.
Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't!
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.
Board [of Deputies of British Jews]: Muslim Council of Britain must be boycotted until reform
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.
Are Islamic banks Islamic enough?
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.
No Muslim should deny Holocaust
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.
Reflections on visiting Auschwitz
I regard the Holocaust as the ultimate in human depravity. In 2009 with some other Muslims and Jews I visited Auschwitz, and wrote this afterwards to share how I felt about it.
"The Israel lobby and US foreign policy" - a blueprint for British Muslims
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.
Gaza and the need for peace now
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.
Why engage in interfaith dialogue?
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.
Seek extremism and you will find it
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.
Muslims misguided enough to abandon Islam are free to do so
Apostasy is a controversial subject, and this item generated more comments than any other blog I have written on the City Circle website.
Terrorist + Muslim = "Muslim terrorist"?
This piece tackled another controversial subject. What should we call people who themselves proclaim that their terrorist activities are inspired by Islam?
Better words mean better thinking
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.
Rowan Williams and people's unwillingness to read
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.
Look back and learn
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.

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Media reviews

Film was the most important new art form of the 20th century, possibly the most important since the invention of the book. Films can be mere entertainment to pass the time but they can also educate and inspire us. Many of the films that we have seen become an integral part of our lives.

Like books, films take us out of the greyness of our mundane everyday existence into a world of magical possibility. For example, I was aged in single figures when I watched the immensity of ancient Egypt and was inspired by "The Ten Commandments" and have never forgotten it.

Subsequent to films, radio, TV, and now new media such as podcasts have transformed how we learn about the wider world. My occasional reviews of all media formats are in alphabetical order of title.

"Abbasid History" — podcast series
This simply produced series shows how much interesting work is being done in Islamic intellectual history. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Islamic scholarship and history.
"Field of Dreams" — 1989 film
This film has a magical quality and I would describe it as almost perfect.
"My name is Khan" — 2010 film
This film made me laugh and cry. It is great entertainment with some powerful messages.
"Presidential" — 2016 podcast series
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?"

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The Israel / Palestine Dispute

The dispute over Palestine has had a central role in global politics since the 1940's. I first set out my personal view of the conflict, and then my other writings in reverse date order.

My personal view of the conflict

A personal view of the Israel / Palestine conflict
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.

Other writings

British Jewish attitudes to Zionism before the Balfour Declaration
Jonathan Schneer's book "The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict" has a fascinating section explaining how divided British Jews were about Zionism. Many of the anti-Zionist comments made by British Jews might be regarded as antisemitic today. I explored the subject in a talk for the Jewish Historical Society of England which I recorded.
We must not import the Israel / Palestine conflict into the UK
British Muslims and Jews have many common interests. However, their views about Israel and Palestine generally differ. It is essential to not let Israel / Palestine divide them. 18 years of experience with the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester has produced positive developments in that regard.
The definition of antisemitism and when does anti-Zionism become antisemitism
Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East asked me to present on this subject. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism is excellent. However it is widely misunderstood, both by people who regard themselves as pro-Israeli and anti-Israeli. I also cover some possible definitions of anti-Zionism, and explain two instances of antisemitism involving Labour Party politicians.
Likening Israel to Nazi Germany is wrong, and harms Palestinians
People often compare Israel with Nazi Germany. Such comparisons are inaccurate, morally wrong, and antisemitic. People making such comparisons think they are helping Palestinians. Actually they are harming Palestinians.
My perspective on Israel's minorities
I am a Vice Chair of Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East. While discussing Amnesty International's comments about Israel's minorities, I stated how I would feel about being a minority citizen of Israel. I have now written some text for the LDfPME website which I have reproduced on the linked page.
Israel’s legal policy in East Jerusalem is hypocritical
The establishment of Israel led to many Arab and Jewish refugees. However after the 1948 War of Independence, Israel also had Arab citizens who were internally displaced. Their property was confiscated just like that of Arab (non-citizen) refugees who were no longer in Israel. After Israel's purported annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel has enforced the pre-1948 land titles of Jews who fled East Jerusalem during the 1948 conflict. Such enforcement is hypocritical while Israel denies the land titles of its own Arab citizens who were internally displaced persons ("Present Absentees") in 1948.
Understanding Muslims and Jews perspectives on Israel and Palestine
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.
Why it is essential to teach the Israel / Palestine conflict in schools
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.
My 27-minute presentation on the Israel / Palestine dispute
This 3 ½ hour event had an audience mainly of Pakistani origin. The planned speakers were one Jew, one Palestinian and myself. However the Jewish speaker was unable to attend due to illness. The page includes an audio recording of my presentation with self-advancing PowerPoint slides. In the 27 minutes, I give my full overview of the dispute. The page also has audio of my responses in the Q&A session. It also includes a full 2 hour 25 minute video of the entire event, although the video does not show the Palestinian speaker's slides.
Should Israeli Arabs learn more Hebrew?
You have a responsibility to make your life better. Sometimes that may conflict with the way other people want you to behave. Are you betraying your heritage by mastering an extra language? I asked this question in the context of Israel's citizens of Arab origin, but it arises for many countries.
Lecture: One Muslim’s perspective on the Israel / Palestine Dispute
Greater Manchester Humanists asked me for a lecture on the Israel / Palestine dispute. The 1-hour of lecture time provided enabled me to explain the history and the issues in detail. This dispute attracts partisans, so I tried hard to give a balanced overview. As well as the self-advancing PowerPoint presentation with audio, I have also provided the audio of my answers to questions from the audience.
Presentation: Thinking about the Israel / Palestine dispute
I was invited to speak to the sixth form "History and Politics Society" of a girls' school in London about the Israel / Palestine dispute. As well as providing a brief history of the dispute, the most important point I made was the extent to which people take sides on this dispute. I emphasised that both parties to the dispute have rights and wrongs. That is what makes it so difficult. I recorded the 21-minute presentation for this website.
When is being anti-Israeli evidence that you are antisemitic?
An antisemite is a person who hates Jews. Hatred is a mental state. Deciding if someone is antisemitic requires evidence in the form of words or deeds. What the person says about Israel may be such evidence. However such utterances need to be assessed alongside other evidence to determine whether the person hates Jews. Assertions denying one is antisemitic will not displace the conclusion drawn from words or deeds, if those clearly evidence antisemitism.
The 25% of non-Jewish Israelis are often overlooked
Many people wrongly use the word "Israeli" to mean "Israeli Jew." However 25% of Israelis are not Jewish. They face severe discrimination. I recommend what Israeli Arabs can do to make their lives better, how Britons can help them, and what the Israeli government should be doing. Improving Israeli Arabs' lives should also advance the cause of Israeli / Palestinian peace.
Seeing the Israel / Palestine conflict through Jewish eyes
The parties to almost all disputes have radically different views on the causes and aims of the dispute and usually display extreme reluctance to understand the opposing party's narrative. The Israel / Palestine dispute exemplifies these behaviours. I recently presented the Jewish narrative of the conflict before an audience in Liverpool that was mainly Jewish audience plus some Christians and Muslims. I particularly recommend it to those who believe Israel has no case and is entirely in the wrong.
My perspective on Hamas and Gaza
To understand Hamas, one must read its Charter. It shows that Hamas is committed to reconquering the whole of Palestine. This goal is not achievable, but causes immense suffering to Gaza's Palestinians. Accordingly Hamas needs to change its goals or to dissolve itself.
My visit to the City of Hebron in Palestine
Hebron is a holy place to Jews and Muslims, housing the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It has a terrible history; Jews were massacred there in 1929, and Palestinians in 1994. It is a microcosm of the hatred that divides Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land, and was the most depressing part of my visit to the Holy Land at the end of 2009.
When does anti-Zionism become antisemitism?
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.
Review of "In Ishmael’s House – A History of Jews in Muslim Lands" by Martin Gilbert
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.
Advocating Israel to Muslims
“How should supporters of Israel get its message across to Muslims?” I had to think about that question when speaking at an Israel advocacy event in Manchester called "The Big Tent for Israel."
An Israel for all Israelis
Does Israel exist for all of its citizens, or only for the 80% who are Jewish? The Israeli national anthem is problematical for its non-Jewish citizens as is the new requirement that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state in any peace agreement.
Interview given to Children of Peace
I have been a friend of this charity for over a year. I recently gave them an interview which summarises my thoughts on the Israel / Palestine dispute.
Review of "The Road to Mecca" by Muhammad Asad
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).
"Old New Land (Altneuland)" by Theodor Herzl
A novel by the founder of modern Zionism, setting out his utopian vision for the future of Palestine.
Reflections on visiting Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is the most important centre documenting and commemorating the Jews who died during the Holocaust. I visited it at the beginning of 2010, and found it very moving.
Is Israel criticised unfairly?
Israelis often complain that their country is criticised while other countries which behave much worse are not, and that this is unfair.
 Antisemitism amongst Muslims – a personal view
I feel strongly about antisemitism, but it grieves me most when find it amongst fellow Muslims because I believe that we should be "the best of people."
Letter to Israeli ambassador about the Gaza flotilla and blockade
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
Reflections on visiting Auschwitz
I regard the Holocaust as the ultimate in human depravity. In 2009 with some other Muslims and Jews I visited Auschwitz, and wrote this afterwards to share how I felt about it.
"The Israel lobby and US foreign policy" - a blueprint for British Muslims
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.
Gaza and the need for peace now
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.
"The Jewish State" by Theodor Herzl
This short book was the founding text of modern Zionism. The seeds of the Israel / Palestine conflict can be found inside it.

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Success tips

A long career teaches you things that eventually become obvious to you. However they are not always obvious to other people. The tips are listed newest first.

My Guardian opinion piece about Home Secretary Rt Hon Suella Braverman MP — learning points
A Guardian journalist contacted me in April, about 10 years after he had interviewed me. I agreed to write a piece sharing my thoughts on Suella Braverman's anti-asylum-seeker rhetoric. The way the piece came about, and the way I wrote it, contain some lessons worth sharing.
Consume TV and radio purposefully
I grew up in a very poor family. Our television, especially the BBC, was how I knew what was happening in the world and was an important part of my education. The BBC's mission statement, “to inform, educate, and entertain”, gives an order of priority for how to consume TV and radio.
Be the very best person you can be, within the reality of your limitations
If they are below average height, most people will accept that without hesitation. However many people are very reluctant to accept that they are below average intelligence. Despite that, our limitations, whether in height or in intelligence, are real. Accepting them is hard, but a necessary part of achieving as much as you can.
Master Microsoft Word
Most users of Word know little about its advanced features. Many are weak even on basics such as the different kinds of "Paste" in Word. My career experience and need for self reliance meant that I had to master advanced Word. I recently gave a 15-minute presentation to some colleagues on Advanced Word, which you can watch on the page. It is followed by 4 short video demonstrations from the Q&A session as well as some written answers to questions. Learning how to use Word effectively, especially its advanced features, will make you more successful at work and anywhere else good documents are required.
Attend events effectively
Many people attending events behave in ways that do not advance their careers. Without being aware of it, they are choosing to stagnate. I list many behaviours that should become automatic habits. Implementing them will help you to advance your career.
Accept that on many subjects you are not entitled to have an opinion
My "Thought for the Week" shared a small, but important, point that many people miss. That is the need to be honest about the limitations of your own knowledge, but also recognising when other people are not competent to discuss something. Refusing to debate the ignorant will save you time and is better for your blood pressure.
Learn to laugh at yourself
There are very few occupations that do not require the ability to work with other people. One important component of "people skills" is showing that you are human just like everyone else. It is a big help to be able to laugh at yourself. I share two personal examples.
Choose a career you are passionate about
Several members of the Clare College Class of 1969 recently reflected on their career paths. The event was recorded, and some of the talks are now on the Clare College website. I shared my good fortune in discovering at age 23 something that I was fascinated by, would never be boring, and also happened to be well paid. My personal career journey has some important messages for younger people.
Acknowledge being well off
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.
Pay for your news
"You become what your mind consumes" by reading, watching and listening. Instead of taking in news at random, you should choose what you consume. I show how to do this even if you have limited time.
Set your own high standards
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.
Learn to refine your message
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.
Control your desire to be liked
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.
Reflections on what made my marriage successful
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.
To win a debate, reinterpret the question to suit your position
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.
Your choices are all you can control. They make your life.
The circumstances of our birth, and many other aspects of our lives are beyond our control. We only control the choices we make. Those choices in turn determine what becomes of our lives. In my 50th "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester, I illustrated this with the story of Ruth and Naomi.
Globalising yourself and your career
I spoke to students, most of whom were international students, at Bath University. The general theme was "Global careers." I shared what my career taught me about how to become outstanding, having a global perspective, and how to overcome discrimination. The page has my self-advancing PowerPoint presentation with the audio of my talk and of the Q&A session.
Wear conference badges correctly
Having people remember you is very important for your career success. That is why at conferences when given a badge you should always wear it. You also need to wear it in the correct position, which most people are unaware of.
Integration advice for Britons of Pakistani origin
I spoke to about 30 Britons of Pakistani origin. Integration matters for society as a whole, but it also matters for each individual. We can choose how integrated we become, and take action accordingly. My 6-minute talk was recorded, and you can listen to it or read a transcript.
Advice for professionals about achieving career success
I spoke to 30 Pakistani origin professionals and young people aspiring to become professionals. I shared 10 tips for career success based on my own experience. The 12-minute talk was recorded. You can listen to it or read a transcript.
Defer gratification to succeed in life
Walter Mischel's marshmallow experiments showed that children as young as four differ in their ability to defer gratification. Those who can are far more likely to succeed in life. It is an ability you can teach yourself by taking it seriously. I made this the theme of my BBC Radio Manchester "Thought for the Week" delivered on New Year's Eve.
The importance of being selfish, to some degree
Many young people are so unselfish that their career aspirations focus entirely upon helping others. They should focus on taking care of themselves. As well as avoiding becoming a burden on others, becoming richer will enable them to help others more.
Force yourself to keep learning
A colleague decided at 40 to stop learning. Her career then died, illustrating the importance of continuous learning. I personally also dislike change, but have taught myself to embrace it. That habit considerably enhanced my career as well as my capability outside work. I believe that when people avoid learning new skills, it is because they don't think they can, or don't accept that it will raise their value in the job market.
Integration advice for individual French (and British) Muslims
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.
Making your New Year resolutions stick
To make a resolution work, it must really matter to you, and you must take action. Action that you can sustain permanently.
Understand that success is a matter of degree; it is not binary
Some people believe that success is binary: you are either "a success" or "a failure." Others, including me, regard success as a matter of degree. I explain why understanding that success is a matter of degree will make you happier, and will also make you more successful.
Attend the best university you can get into
While apparently obvious, many students attend lesser quality universities by choice, rather than due to financial compulsion. It is a serious mistake.
Learn to say "Yes" - it leads to many new opportunities
Sensible time management requires you to often say "No." However whenever possible, say "Yes", especially when asked to do something you have never done before. It will develop you professionally and personally.
Accept that life requires you to make choices
Many of the things we want are incompatible. Achieving personal or professional success requires you to choose which you want. Even when goals are not incompatible, you need to decide where to focus your energies.
Avoiding apathy requires realism
Many people today are apathetic. Some people are apathetic because they wrongly believe the world cannot be changed. Others wrongly believe the world can be changed easily and quickly, and give up when success is not immediate. Both wrong perceptions lead to apathy. The antidote to apathy is belief in the possibility of change combined with realism about how long it will take and how hard it will be.
Marriage tips for Muslim women (and men)
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.
Making a career in accountancy
My talk for Speakers for Schools at Salford City College. It recounts my own career and guides students on how to get into the profession. My accountancy career was absorbing and well paid. I mainly served large companies, but also family businesses. Entry is very competitive, and aspirants need to acquire the broad range of skills needed.
Decide which charities to support
All of us have to choose between charities because our resources are finite, while charitable needs are endless. Your giving will be more effective if you think strategically about which charities to support. I explain my own thought process and why my largest giving has been for education.
Live within your means and give to charity
Being short of money causes stress and unhappiness. Accordingly financial discipline is a habit to develop early, and it will make you happier. Giving to charity will also make you happier. Charitable giving is easiest if you build it into your personal budgeting.
Use telephones effectively
Almost everyone uses telephones, but few people receive guidance on how to use them. Accordingly many people make basic mistakes when initiating calls, receiving calls and using voicemail. However developing good telephone habits will make you more effective. You will also benefit from learning to use the more advanced features of modern telephone technology.
Ten short professional success tips
A long career teaches you what professional success requires. I was asked to speak to an audience of consisting mainly of Muslim doctors from Pakistan and India about the subject. I gave them 10 tips in 10 minutes. The prescriptive style helped to keep the talk short.
The paradox behind a happy marriage
Your choice of marriage partner should be made for entirely selfish reasons. However once you are married, you will only be happy if you behave very unselfishly. That paradox underlies having a happy marriage.
Helping others rewards you
The purpose of helping others is the unselfish one of helping them. However as well as spiritual benefits, there are usually tangible benefits for yourself. You will often learn something, or even just get some useful exercise. It can also be enjoyable.
Do the job you were hired to do, as well as possible
Achieving promotion normally requires doing your present job exceptionally well. This may seem obvious, but many people fail to follow this advice. The danger of trying to do something other than your assigned role is greatest when the job appears too mundane. One example is filing and another is serving as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) of a political meeting. However your performance in every role can be improved. A recent video allows me to illustrate this for an MC.
Control your weight
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.
Make yourself who you want to be
"Give me a child until seven and I will give you the man" say the Jesuits. It is partially true. However neither our genetic endowment nor past have to determine our future. We can change ourselves by deciding who we want to be and then taking action.
Control your life's direction
Success in life requires a balance between inner direction and responding to outside events. Taking up opportunities is normally a good thing to do. However you need periodically stop and take stock, to ensure that what you are doing supports your own strategic priorities.
Reduce the effect of "Confirmation bias"
Humans are good at finding evidence to confirm their existing views. We all suffer from it, and psychologists call it "Confirmation bias." However there are ways of reducing its impact so that we can think better and see the world more objectively.
Learn to cope with internet trolls
Trolls seek to provoke you with inflammatory communications. That can lead you to waste your time. Bad responses may weaken your cause, or even be defamatory. Achieving your objectives requires being selective about who you respond to, and being calm, courteous and precise when responding.
Take care of yourself
It is easy to forget that you can achieve little without your health or if you are not around. That means it is essential to take care of your health and personal safety. Furthermore your life matters not just to you, but also matters to everyone you can help.
Avoid false modesty - it can lead you astray
To succeed, you need to accurately assess how good you are. False modesty is dangerous because you can end up believing it. That will lead you to under estimate your strengths.
Accept responsibility for your decisions
Our decisions lead to outcomes which are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Successful people accept that when they get bad outcomes, they made bad decisions, and they try to make better decisions in the future. However unsuccessful people tend to put the blame for bad outcomes elsewhere. Consequently they never learn to make better decisions.
Be true to yourself
Many people adopt a false personality for interviews and other purposes. However being authentic and true to yourself is less effort than trying to adopt a fake persona. That reduces your stress levels with health benefits and extra ability to concentrate on work. Also being found to be deceitful seriously reduces your chances to succeed in life.
Learn to say "No"
People like to hear the word "Yes." It means that turning down requests is often difficult. Success in life requires learning how to say "No" politely but clearly, instead of saying "Yes" and making yourself unhappy.
Read "The New York Review of Books"
Well rounded individuals who are knowledgeable about many things are more successful. Reading this magazine is an excellent way to broaden one's mind. The content is wide-ranging, informative and absorbing to read.
Living by principles and rules makes you happier
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.
Use an email signature
Almost every email program allows you to create a standard "signature". A well designed signature contains useful information making it easier for the email's recipient to contact you in future. It also shows that you are professional and well organised. Getting it right will contribute year after year (in a small way) towards your success.
Attend work-related social events
Success at work requires strong collaborative relationships with colleagues and clients. Much of the relationship building happens outside the office. Those who refuse to attend work-related social events are damaging their career.
Think about your CV
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.
Read "The Economist"
To rise to a senior position, it is not enough to be good at your technical specialism. You also need to understand current political and commercial affairs.
Use business cards effectively
There are some good habits which become second nature when you develop them. However I am always surprised by the number of people who fail to make the best use of their own and other people's business cards.
Speak proper English
You are more likely to succeed in life if your spoken English is outstandingly good. I give some simple advice on how you can improve it.
Use a good quality photograph
Many people have profiles on networking sites without a photograph. It looks unprofessional and is counter-productive.

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My writings on finance, excluding Islamic finance.

My recommended five books about investing

I have been buying equity related investments since my early 20's. In retirement, my personal finances depend on the investments accumulated from the income I saved while working. I believe strongly that everyone has the responsibility to save and invest for their financial future.

Since I began investing, I have read dozens of books about the subject.

In early 2020, one of my children recently asked me to suggest an investing reading list.

To ensure that produced a focused list, I limited myself to five books, to be read in the order specified. The page is at the link below.

My short reading list on investing

Other writings about finance

Doing arithmetic with dates using Excel
Excel holds dates as whole numbers, starting with 1=1 January 1900. That allows you to subtract dates to calculate the number of days between those dates. This makes it easy to calculate the internal rate of return. I also explain absolute and relative cell references. This was my second article for the UK Shareholders Association on monitoring investments with Excel.
The basics of corporate governance in 12 minutes
Corporate governance can seem dull, but is vitally important. I was asked to speak at a corporate governance conference in Saudi Arabia on “Effective Corporate Governance and the Independence of the Board Audit Committee.” I set out to emphasise the basic principles. Once those are fully absorbed, the details become straightforward. My 12-minute presentation can be watched on the page, and you can also hear my answers to the two questions I was asked.
Why, and how, I became a quantitative investor
I have been investing in shares since my mid-twenties. Over the years I have learned that, as an investor, my greatest enemy is myself. To overcome that, and because I find it intellectually interesting, over the last six years I have been changing to being a “quantitative investor.” This article explains how, and why, I made the change.
The basic concept of internal rate of return
Excel is a very powerful tool for dealing with anything numerical. Sadly many people use little of its potential. I have used Excel for decades to monitor my investments. This article, on computing the internal rate of return, is the first of a series I am writing for the magazine “The Private Investor.”
How to restore trust in audit and corporate governance
There are very specific reasons why auditing and corporate governance regularly go wrong. Fixing the problem requires making some radical changes. UKSA and ShareSoc have sent their joint views to the Government. This article summarises what needs to be done. It also explains how the response was written by seven co-authors, led by me.
Dying without a will – what happens?
Many people don't know how the state distributes your assets if you die without a will ("intestate"). Others think they know, but have it wrong. If you die intestate, in many cases your estate will not be divided the way you would have liked. I explain the rules in detail, along with some other points on inheritance.
What happens if I “lose my mind”?
Most people know that they need a will to govern the distribution of their estate. However few people think about how their affairs will be managed if they lose mental capacity. ("Lose their mind.") They need a lasting power of attorney. My wife and I created these in 2012. The Government website makes it easy for you to create one for yourself.
Give shares to charity instead of cash
This page is for readers who give to charity, and who also own investments where capital gains tax would arise if they sold the investments. If so, they will almost always be better off giving shares to charity instead of giving cash. Surprisingly few people are familiar with the relevant tax rules. I have explained how they work, with full calculations.
The implications of capital gains tax for investment returns and decisions
When directly held shares increase in value, you generally cannot sell them to reinvest in other shares without paying capital gains tax ("CGT"). Paying CGT year by year has a significant impact on your long term post-tax investment return. I model the implications over a 30 year period. The CGT implications have led me to gradually shift my portfolio to avoid directly held shares outside tax-favoured wrappers such as ISAs and SIPPs.
Lifetime ISAs – Free money from the government
Money is free when you receive it, and it is not taken away in future. Free money is rare. However the government addition to your Lifetime ISA is free money in my opinion. Provided you are confident of not breaching the Lifetime ISA rules, and fall in the qualifying age range, the free money makes a Lifetime ISA extremely attractive. I have illustrated this with some modelling.
My shareholder perspective on auditing and corporate reporting
The Government is undertaking a major review of corporate governance and auditing. This could lead to the biggest changes in this field for a generation. I gave a short talk to the CRSA forum with my perspective on the issues. I believe that the proposals do not go far enough. I recommend that power to appoint the auditor should be taken away from major companies and given to an independent regulator.
When accounting standards become dangerous
To draw up a realistic balance sheet, companies need to discount their long term liabilities to present value. Generally accepted accounting practice is to discount liabilities at risk free rates derived from the prices of government bonds. Instead IFRS 17 allows insurance companies to discount illiquid long term liabilities using theoretical rates that would be earned on illiquid risk free assets, even though such assets do not exist. This allows an undesirable degree of flexibility to insurance companies, and the theoretical discount rates used are impossible to verify. Discounting at these higher theoretical rates can have a very significant effect on the reported shareholders' funds. At the very least, insurance companies should be required to quantify the impact of discounting at these higher theoretical rates. I explained this in an article for "The Private Investor" which is reproduced on the page.
Carried interest — How private equity executives pay less tax than the rest of us
Many countries, including the UK, tax capital gains at a lower rate than income. Private equity houses have special participation rights in the profits (above a hurdle rate) of the private equity funds they run. This is called "carried interest." Executives at private equity houses are rewarded for their work partly by salary and partly by a share in the firm's rights to "carried interest." This means they pay less tax than if they received cash bonuses.
Personal financial planning 101 - The basics
The basics of personal financial planning are not difficult. I wrote them down for a response to a Financial Conduct Authority consultation. They are now published on my website page. I believe that sadly most people fail to follow them.
Auditors' responsibility for detecting collusive management fraud
Companies protect their assets and the reliability of their accounts by having strong internal control systems. Such systems normally stop single individuals from stealing money or falsifying the accounts. Unfortunately, when senior management personnel collude, they can override any internal control system. I propose making auditors explicitly responsible for identifying such collusive management fraud. This will however cause audit costs to increase. My article originally published in "The Private Investor", the house magazine of the UK Shareholders' Association.
My response to the "Complaints against the regulators" consultation
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.
My talk on charitable giving, inheritance tax, and SIPPs
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.
International tax planning – a real example
Tax advisers are normally reluctant to discuss real instances of tax planning. This page shares a real client problem that I solved in 1978. I was so excited by solving this problem that I have never forgotten it. It illustrates how creative tax advisers need to be. It also shows how tax advisers are able to save their clients large amounts of money, which is the reason they are well paid. I recommend the page to young people considering career options.
How to make auditors completely independent
The UK has seen many recent audit failures. I have experience of auditing from both the auditor's perspective and the client's perspective. In my view the most fundamental problem is that companies choose their auditor. In practice, company managements have a major influence over auditor selection. The best solution is to take the power to appoint auditors away from companies.
A hazard with Microsoft Excel's Internal Rate of Return function
I recently used Excel's =IRR() function to calculate my internal rate of return on an investment. The result I received was completely incorrect. This was not user error. After some effort and discussion with one of my sons, I discovered that Excel's IRR function treats blank cells differently from cells containing zero cash flow. Blank cells are treated as if that row did not exist, causing Excel to assume the actual cash flows occur on different dates than when they actually arise. If using IRR, it is essential that cells where there is no cash flow contain the number "0" (zero).
Why share buybacks by investment trusts are generally desirable
Investment trusts are closed ended investment companies which are listed on a stock exchange. Their shares often trade at a discount. Share buybacks at a price above the quoted price but below net asset value benefit both selling shareholders and continuing shareholders. That is why I normally support them. This page contains my article "Why you should encourage share buybacks by investment trusts" published in "The Private Investor" using material from my page "Why I always vote against trading company share repurchases."
Why I always vote against trading company share repurchases
It has become increasingly common for listed UK companies to repurchase their shares on the stock market. There is a clear rationale for such repurchases in the case of investment trusts trading at a discount. In the case of trading companies, I consider that the arguments put forward for stock market share repurchases instead of paying special dividends do not hold water. I illustrate the point with some detailed calculations. Accordingly I have now started voting against giving trading companies' managements the authority to make market purchases of shares.
Auditors, EU audit regulation, and private investors
Capital markets cannot function without reliable published financial information. In turn that requires independent auditors. The European Union sets out rules regarding listed company audits as part of overseeing an EU-wide capital market. While the detailed rules are primarily of interest to audit firms and the companies which engage them, private shareholders need to understand the factors that can impair effective auditing.
Corporate governance – why it is needed and why it fails so often
Public company shareholders cannot run companies themselves, or even choose executive management. Instead, they require intermediaries in the form of non-executive directors. However there are structural weaknesses in our present corporate governance rules. Furthermore, in my view the most important reason for governance failure is not structural; it is human nature.
Should you delay taking your state pension?
A UK state pension is paid for life. However the pension can be deferred in exchange for a higher pension later or for a lump sum. Any decision needs to take into account your time preference for money, your tax profile, and your life expectancy. I carried out some modelling for myself and have shared that for educational purposes only. The approach used of building a spreadsheet to model changing the assumptions can be applied to many financial questions. However my spreadsheet model cannot be relied upon by anyone else and you must do your own calculations for yourself.
Drawdown pensions, death and charity
If you have a drawdown pension, how is the fund treated when you die? If you have a drawdown pension and a free estate, and want some money to go to charity and some to your heirs, what is the most tax efficient way? I have written a short explanation with some illustrative examples.
The Euro – Conception, Complications & Prognosis
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.
Review of "Monkey with a Pin – Why you may be missing 6% a year from your investment returns" by Pete Comley
Pete Comley wrote this free book to share what he learned about why investors underperform the stock market index. In it he explains in very simple language why investors go wrong and recommends how they should change their behaviour.
The impact of management charges on your investment outcome
Unless you manage your investments yourself, you cannot avoid management charges. However the impact of management charges is much bigger than most people think.
Review of "Free Capital: How 12 Private Investors Made Millions in the Stock Market" by Guy Thomas
This book is based upon detailed interviews with 12 private investors. Two are identified, while the others use pseudonyms. The anonymity allows them to speak frankly about how they became full time investors. Everyone will learn something from this book, regardless of the extent of their previous involvement with investing.
My fellowship thesis for the Chartered Institute of Taxation
Fellowship is the top level of membership in the CIOT. For years I could not think of a subject. In 1996 I signed up to write about the new loan relationships rules. Most of the thesis has been superseded by legislative change, but the introductory parts are still worth reading. The editing process was very instructive.
Review of "The Theory of Investment Value" by John Burr Williams
This is one of the seminal works on investment valuation. Written in 1938, it is still worth reading today.

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Muslim Council of Britain

On 25 March 2010, I announced that I was offering myself as a candidate for election as Secretary General of the MCB, by writing a piece on the Guardian "Comment is free" website.

The election took place on 20 June 2010. Due to block voting, I was not elected onto the Central Working Committee, which precluded my standing for Secretary General later that afternoon. The MCB later launched a review of its constitution, and I submitted a paper.

Announcement of candidacy on Guardian "Comment is Free" website
Apart from my reasons for running, this is worth reading for the range of reader comments, some of which I felt needed a response.
My full 14 page election manifesto
I set out my vision for the MCB, some of the steps I thought it should take, along with a detailed personal background for the benefit of voters who did not know me already.
Endorsement from Ali Akbar Mohammed
Ali Akbar Mohammed (no relation!) has known me for 30 years.
Endorsement from Nasar Mahmood
Nasar Mahmood has known me for 40 years.
Endorsement from Bernardo Vizcaino
Bernardo Vizcaino knows me through both of us being involved with Islamic Finance.
Endorsement from Yassar Iqbal
Yassar Iqbal is someone I got to know a few years ago when he approached me out of the blue for guidance.
Interview on "The Samosa" website
On 1 June 2010 the Samosa news website published a wide ranging interview about my vision for the MCB and how I would handle some difficult questions.
Madeleine Bunting article in "The Guardian"
Madeleine Bunting wrote an article in the Guardian on 18 June 2010 "The MCB's Wonderland Election" correctly predicting the election results. It attracted 141 comments including some from me if you scroll a long way down the readers' comment. You will spot mine because they have my photo against them.
Inayat Bunglawala's blog "Mohammed Amin resigns from the MCB"
Inayat's blog attracted a number of readers comments, including one reader who was using three different pseudonyms!
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Need for Constitutional Reform
In early 2011 the MCB announced that it was reviewing its constitution. I made a written submission to the review committee which readers unfamiliar with the MCB may find informative.

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