Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh 
Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 08:15 AM - Christmas, Siddiqui
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

The True Meaning of Christmas is that there are loads of twinkly lights. Everyone gets to decorate a Christmas tree with bright baubles and more twinkly lights. Living rooms have holly and ivy on their walls, or at least their plastic equivalents, and sometimes even more twinkly lights. The whole country comes to a stop for a few days and everything is completely dominated by it for months before hand.

It's all so unfair. I wish we had Christmas in Islam. Oh, we get Eid, but it's nowhere near as good. For a start, there aren't nearly as many twinkly lights. We do the family thing and have a big meal and all that, but the Queen doesn't come on the telly to wish us a Happy Eid. There's no Coronation Street special. It's just not the same. And there are no twinkly lights.

We exchange gifts and cards with people at Christmas time, but we don't get to put up twinkly lights. As Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh, I think Muslims should be allowed to put up twinkly lights at Christmas too!

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Tuesday, 6 December, 2011, 08:22 AM - Women, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

I was once asked if cultural traditions could be used to excuse a particularly violent case of honour killing. It cannot. Murder is murder and is always wrong.

Honour violence in this country is nearly always perpetrated by Muslim men against Muslim women. Family honour is often interpreted as narrowly as a woman's chastity.

Last year, there were nearly 3,000 reports to the police of honour violence. This is not something that we Muslims can afford to ignore. It is a culture intended to impose obedience in women through fear.

Religion cannot pretend to maintain the dignity of all human life while ignoring the murder of women. The mindset of Muslims must change. We cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of a liberal society while ignoring this oppressive behaviour. It is time to speak out against Muslim violence against women. If we do not then all Muslims will harbour some responsibility for the consequences.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 8 September, 2011, 08:44 AM - Siddiqui
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I went to New York once. I got my picture taken at the top of the twin towers, but the twin towers aren't there any more. A bunch of religious nutters flew some planes into them and knocked them down. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against religious nutters in general, some of my best friends are religious nutters, but they have to be the right kind of religious nutter.

Now it just so happened that this particular bunch of religious nutters turned out to be Muslim. Of course they weren't proper Muslims, real Muslims, like me. No true Muslim goes around flying planes into skyscrapers.

On a brighter note, as a result of 911, there's been a tremendous increase in demand for Professors of Islamic Studies, so that people can find out what real Islam, proper Islam, is all about. Thankfully, we've managed to explain to people that Islam, which is after all the world's second largest religion, is in fact the Religion of Peace. All over the world, from Pakistan to Iran, from Saudi Arabia to Somalia, people now recognise that Islam is fully supportive of liberal, democratic values.

However, we must never forget, how a small minority of extremists, can warp and distort the message of a loving Invisible Magic Friend.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 1 September, 2011, 08:16 AM - Be nice, Think of the children, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Years ago, a Muslim friend who had died, had expressed a wish to be buried in India. This caused some concern among UK friends and relatives. How could they pay their respect?

Yet there are other ways to pay respect to the dead, as we see in the people of Wootton Bassett. Now the military cortèges will no longer pass through the town, one resident remarked that maybe the town will be a little happier.

Individuals and communities are not defined by their deaths or by passed conflicts, but by their willingness to forgive the past and move forward.

I celebrated Eid in Yorkshire with my brothers and sisters, their partners and their children. Old tensions were soon forgotten. In the end it is always better to forgive, we will be happier for it. More important still, it creates a happier future for our children.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 08:41 AM - Education, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Students are about to get their A-level results. My son got his Highers and has decided to study maths. If he goes to an English university he'll graduate with a debt of about £50,000. Alternatively, he can study in Scotland and not graduate with a debt of £50,000 - this may well be his first test of his aptitude for maths.

My own school results weren't that good, so I studied Islam. School results aren't everything you know. I mean, I wasn't that great at school and I'm a Professor of Islamic studies! Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of learning. One of the nice bits of the Koran says we should be big fans of learning and who am I to argue with the Koran. Other things are important too though.

Life is so much more than exam results. Life has other things in it too. We should leave some room in life for those other things. A famous poet once said, there are other things in life, so I must be right. Hard work and learning things are always good, but there are other things too that make life worthwhile.

Try and make room in your life for other things.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 08:24 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Good leadership requires a sense of purpose and high levels of integrity, but it also needs someone who is able to listen and lead by consent. As various dictators around the Middle East are now discovering, hanging onto power without peoples' consent can be a brutal and bloody affair.

In democratic societies too, people can rebel against their former leaders. Berlusconi's attempt to stoke the politics of fear in Milan, claiming that the city would be overrun by Gypsies, Muslims and foreigners had no impact on that city's vote. The whole of Italy has now rejected Berlusconi's policies on nuclear power, on water privatisation and on him never having to stand trial for anything. It seems even the Italians are now beginning to see Berlusconi as a joke.

Give someone too much power for too long and they will eventually begin to see themselves as having all the answers. They stop listening. They fail to lead by consent. As Lincoln once said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

We can all misuse authority and power. As it says in one of the nice bits of the Koran, we can all be asked to lead and we will all be judged on that leadership. For leaders to use their power wisely, they must always retain a little humility.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 9 June, 2011, 08:40 AM - Siddiqui
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

There's nothing much in the news at the moment, so I thought I'd tell you about what I've been watching on the telly.

In between my jobs as a busy Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, I like to relax by watching Emmerdale. A couple of days ago Jackson Walsh (you know, the gay wheelchair bound character) was helped to commit suicide by his mum and his friend (let's just call him a "friend" for now, OK?). Well, I could have done with an extra box of tissues, I can tell you.

I would just like to remind you that I myself am a mother. As a mother myself, I have to say it was very sad. I found myself wondering, what would I do if my gay disabled son wanted to die in the presence of his lover friend? Although I have to say, that's rather unusual in Muslim families. His request to die was the result of a long period of contemplation. It wasn't a rushed decision. Would I go against all the ethical and moral teachings of Islam? Or would I conclude that Islam's just a load of arbitrary made up stuff that I should ignore and do what my son wants?

Next Monday Peter Smedley will be shown dying, live on TV. Although this is unethical, immoral and irreligious, you can't help wondering if some people are having such a rotten time being alive, that they'd be better off dead. The Koran says it's a bad thing, but maybe we should just ignore the Koran on this one.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 09:03 AM - Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Fabio Capello only needs one hundred words to manage the England team. Words like "renegotiate my contract before putting in a dreadful performance at the World Cup" come to mind.

The Oxford English Corpus has a list of the one hundred most common words. "The" is number 1. "Us" is number 100. "Take" is at number 60, while "how" is at number 85. Interestingly, "would" is at number 37.

Being able to speak to a wider audience than footballers, requires more than 100 words. In order to express the sort of nuanced, complex arguments that one must deliver on Thought for the Day, for example, one needs a far more advanced command of a language. That is not to say that this can only be done in one's first language. I was listening to the prime minister of Qatar the other day and I must say he had a beautiful speaking voice.

Being able to speak more than one hundred words is very important. My mother didn't know enough words, something that I felt at times may have held her back. Conversely, I like to teach my children Urdu so that they will have some insight into their grandparents' culture.

Sometimes you don't even have to understand a language. Arabic is the language that the Invisible Magic Friend speaks, so just muttering bits of the Koran in Arabic will make you holier than you would otherwise be. The disadvantage of this approach, is that nobody knows what they're muttering about.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Wednesday, 2 March, 2011, 08:11 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

"Should I stay or should I go?" asks Colonel Gaddafi. Based on his talk of blood of martyrs and fighting to the bitter end, it sounds like he intends to stay. Some say he is mad, delusional, but then he's always been mad and delusional, it never stopped us doing business with him before.

The current talk of military intervention is probably unhelpful and likely to alienate the very people it is intended to help. For once, we have to put aside our vested interest in oil and let the people of the region find their own answers.

The people of Libya are not uniting under an Islamic flag, they are not shouting anti-western slogans. This is not a religious revolution. Instead they are fighting for the biggest idea that the West has sold them: freedom.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 08:41 AM - Think of the children, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

We all have roots, where our cultural values originate, places where we were born, where our fathers and our fathers' fathers and our fathers' fathers' fathers were born. Many of these places allow children to be adopted. Some even allow adoption without any sense of shame - none at all. What's important is what is good for the child.

The government has revised the rules on adoption. A child's race will no longer be of such importance in finding suitable adoptive parents.

Conceivably this is possibly, just maybe, a potentially not so bad thing, perhaps. India may be the place of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers, and that place of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers will always be part of me, but I don't agree with absolutely every cultural trait from the land of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers. So maybe race and culture are not so static and well defined as we sometimes suggest.

Muslims tend to be confused about adoption. Islam, as the religion of peace, tolerance, love and caring, exists to help the poor, the widows and of course, the orphans. It is really, really important, and as a Professor of Islamic Studies I can't emphasise this enough to you, Radio 4 listeners, that orphans be looked after.

Perhaps it is time to look beyond a child's race, culture and yes, perhaps, possibly, maybe, even their religion. Won't someone please, please think of the children.

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