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Heritage Podcast interview about my religious and political history

Some people claim to never change any of their beliefs. Conversely I am open about how mine have changed during my life.

Summary

Recorded 4 March 2021. Published 14 March 2021.

Heritage Radio is a project of the British Muslim Heritage Centre (“BMHC”). I have supported the BMHC as a donor and as an informal adviser since its foundation.

As well as the radio channel, Heritage Radio also publishes podcasts. I was recently contacted by their Media Centre Manager Adam Bukhari who asked for an interview for their Heritage Podcast series.

I am always glad to help and was interviewed using video over Zoom on 4 March. Heritage published the podcast on YouTube on 10 March.

You can watch it below. By coincidence, the interviewer, Junaid Alvi, was a pupil at Manchester Muslim Preparatory School when my wife was the headteacher there! (She was the headteacher from 1997-2007.)

Video

I had no prior information about the questions, and never ask for it, being happy to take questions as they come. The questions were obviously based upon a reading of my website, particularly the “About Me” page.

To assist website visitors, I have transcribed the questions, slightly paraphrased. For ease of reference, I have added timings. See below.

Transcribed questions

1. What prompted you to set up the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester? 01:18

2. What have you learned about Judaism and the Jewish community? Has it impacted your faith in any way? 03:30

3. What impact did visiting Israel and the Holocaust Memorial Museum have on you? 04:30.

In my answer, I mention my article "Reflections on visiting Auschwitz". In conversation, Junaid Alvi also mentions his trip to Israel.

4. When you were younger, you became agnostic and then atheist. Why did you have this change of faith? 11:18

5. After being an atheist for a couple of years you joined the Worldwide Church of God. What led you to Christianity? 12:14

6. When you reverted to Islam around the age of 27, why did you go back to Islam after leaving it? 13:53

7. Have you learned more about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam since you got involved with the Muslim Jewish Forum? 16:00

8. Tell us about your political conversion from the Labour Party to the Conservative Party. 18:01

9. Didn’t Conservative Party policies like the poll tax and selling council houses not bother you, having come from a working class background? 19:20

10. The poll tax moved the burden of taxation from the rich to the poor; how did you justify this to yourself? 20:22

My answer includes the single most important point I made during the entire interview. You must judge the progressiveness of the tax system as a whole, and not look for progressiveness tax by tax.

11. Did selling the council houses lead to today’s massive housing shortage? Do you blame the prime ministers who followed Margaret Thatcher for the shortage, rather than blaming her for starting the sell-off? 21:43

12. In 2006 you joined the Conservative Muslim Forum (“CMF”). Over half of Conservative Party members believe that Islam is a threat to the British way of life. In your time at the CMF, why did you believe that Muslims should vote Conservative? 22:07

13. In 2017, 85% of British Muslims voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Why is the Conservative Party so unappealing to British Muslims? 24:58

14. In your time with the CMF did you encounter any Islamophobia from the Party or its members? Did you feel welcomed? 27:09

15. You were expelled by the CMF in June 2019 over Brexit and resigned from the Conservative Party in July 2019 when Boris Johnson became the Leader. Tell us about the circumstances that led to this. 28:16

16. Boris Johnson has referred to Muslim women as letterboxes, and referred to black Africans as piccaninnies. Is he playing to the gallery, or is he really racist? 30:51

In response, I explain that we should never assume that other people have knowledge and share my view that Jonson suffers from ignorance about Islam, as revealed by the final chapter in his book “The Dream of Rome.”

17. Everyone knows it is not right to call Africans “Piccaninnies with watermelon smiles.” Does Boris Johnson just do that to jump on the bandwagon of Donald Trump’s style of populism, or does he really believe these things? 32:30

18. Do the other members of the Cabinet and Tory MPs just support Boris Johnson because he is the Leader, or do they believe the same things as him? 33:20

19. Why was the Brexit issue so important to you that you left the Conservative Party over it? 34:25

20. Why is it the political right that has been gripped by leaders like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi in India? Why does this not happen on the left? 36:11

21. Will you remain in the Liberal Democrat Party? Alternatively, if Boris Johnson stopped being Conservative Party Leader would you go back to the Conservative Party? 37:03

22: Why was the issue of Brexit so important to you that you voted for the Lib Dems? [In the EU Parliament election in May 2019 while still a Conservative Party member.] 37:41

23. Did David Cameron make a mistake by calling a referendum over Europe? 39:08

 

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