Mandelbrot set image very small MohammedAmin.com
Serious writing for
serious readers
Follow @Mohammed_Amin
Join my
email list

Search this site

Custom Search
Tap here for MENU

One page view

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 Film reviews
Politics The Israel / Palestine Dispute
Islamic finance Success tips
Book reviews Muslim Council of Britain Elections
  Finance

 

About me

In the interests of transparency, I have provided readers with 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

Return to top of page

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.

Return to top of page

Contact me

There are various ways of contacting me:

Return to top of page

Politics

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

Why I am a Conservative
Conservatives for Liberty requested this piece. For me, the Conservative Party is the party which believes in aspiration and success. Very briefly, I joined because the Party was, and still is, changing Britain for the better. I am a Conservative, not a conservative.
Why I am in the UK Conservative Party
I joined the Conservative Party over 30 years ago after being convinced of the merits of free market capitalism. I believe that the state should concentrate on a small number of functions that only states can perform. Otherwise people are best placed to look after their own affairs, with the state providing a safety net.

Other writings on politics

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, 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.
Short interview about the European Union
In May 2015 with a group of friends I visited the European Parliament building for the first time, hosted by Afzal Khan CBE MEP. He used the Parliament's facilities to record an eight minute video during which he asked four of us to share our thoughts on the European Union. I spoke three times in the video, very briefly, but was still able to state the key reasons why I strongly support the UK's membership of the EU.
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.

Return to top of page

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

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

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 Korshid 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."

Return to top of page

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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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 the Muslim world, 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 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 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 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 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 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.
"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."
"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.

Return to top of page

What you can do

I have listed them in decreasing order of importance

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.
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.

Return to top of page

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

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: One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom
I recently gave the second Annual Religious Freedom Lecture of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society UK and Ireland Chapter. The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 18 sets the global standard for freedom of thought, conscience and religion and it has my full support. I used the lecture to explain how the Declaration is consistent with Islam. My approach was to first explain the basic sources of Islam before going on to show how some key principles of Islam, clearly stated in the Quran, support religious freedom. 40 min audio recording with self-advancing PowerPoint slides.
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 transations
If you want to understand the Quran and don't speak Arabic, you need a translation, but where do you start? There are three translations that I generally recommend.
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?
 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.

Return to top of page

Film 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.

Field of Dreams - 1989
This film has a magical quality and I would describe it as almost perfect.
My name is Khan - 2010
This film made me laugh and cry. It is great entertainment with some powerful messages.

Return to top of page

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

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.

Return to top of page

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.

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.

Return to top of page

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.

Return to top of page

Finance

My writings on finance, excluding Islamic finance.

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.
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.

Return to top of page

 

Custom Search

Follow @Mohammed_Amin

Tap for top of page