Curriculum for Cohesion
Curriculum for Cohesion is a collaboration between academics, teachers and employers that develops humanities education to improve the lives of young people in the 21st Century. I am a patron; it may be the most important charitable activity of my life. See who else is involved at the project website.
What is on this site?
Writings which help people to learn more, to succeed personally and to change society by taking personal action.
Top 10 pages
The pages I recommended most in alphabetical order.
- 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, I decided to write it myself.
- A personal view of the Middle East 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reading the Quran
- If you want to understand the Quran and don't speak Arabic, you need a translation, but where do you start?
- The benefits and costs of joining a political party
- Few British citizens are members of a political party. I explain how much influence joining a party gives you, even if you don't have time to get actively involved.
- The importance of speaking 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.
- Triangulating the Abrahamic faiths
- How do you measure the relative closeness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam?
There is a lot more on the site; use the menu above or the one page view.
What you do matters
We cannot change others except by persuasion. However, each of us can change ourselves, lead by example and take personal action. That changes the world.
Read "What you can do."
My logo is the Mandelbrot set.
Newest pages on this site
The latest 20, newest first, are listed below.
- Success tip: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Review of "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Review of "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Each of us changes the world every day. We can choose to make it a better place.