Of all the problems facing the country and the world, the most pressing is the question: can a woman have a full set of magic powers?
The Church of England Synod has been hotly debating the issue again. Some churches, and I don't won't to mention any names here, don't have any kind of elected assembly, but we do. A few years ago, the synod decided that women can have some magic powers but not all of them. This was a major step forward since, even today, most Christians have never met a woman with any magic powers at all!
This is all the fault of Hamley's, the toy store just up the road in Regent Street. For years they've had separate floors for boys and girls. The boys' floor had all the fun stuff like train sets and Darth Vader outfits, while the girls' floor was just covered in princesses with yucky pink dresses. Now that Hamley's has taken a more enlightened view to children's toys, it is to be hoped that future generations will realise that gender stereotypes are very old fashioned and it really is time to let women have a full set of magic powers after all.
Some people aren't happy with women having magic powers. Unfortunately the synod is pandering to these people. It seems to me to be quite foolish to believe in the Invisible Magic Friend and not think women can have a full set of magic powers. They're going to be allowed to have a man with magic powers instead.
Let us hope that, one day, we can put all this silliness behind us and accept that the Invisible Magic Friend can give magic powers to women as well as men. Then we can listen to the wisdom of women with all the same magic powers as men.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
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.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
I just got back from Sydney and very nice it was too. For we International Directors of Christian organisations the globe trotting just never stops, especially when it starts to get a bit chillier here in the UK.
I spoke to an Anglican vicar in Sydney. We both agreed that the Church has always been the best place to be for women. When it comes to advocating feminism, I think everyone would agree that Christianity has always been at the forefront.
Imagine my shock therefore, when I returned to the UK, only to find the trampling of women's rights was all over the papers. At home, in the supermarket, cleaning the church, and various other places where one might find a woman, we find that women are struggling in this era of cutbacks.
It really is quite appalling that secular society finds it so hard to keep up with the church and its enlightened views on women. As early as 700 BC, the prophet Micah mentioned a woman, which just goes to show how seriously the Big Book of Magic Stuff takes women's rights. (One advantage of being called the Micah Challenge is that, with only seven chapters, it is a relatively easy book to memorise. The Isaiah Challenge, with 66 chapters, would have been rather too much of a challenge). The New Tasty mint is just choc full of hand maidens, maid servants, virgins, prostitutes, adulteresses and all the traditional roles of women.
Speaking as an ardent feminist myself I am the first to admit that the Church has not always been as perfect as it is today. Still, with it's long record of empowerment of women, I think we are in a strong moral position to lecture the rest of society on how it should treat its women.
Happy day before Mother's Day! I would have wished you happy Mother's Day on Mother's Day but we don't do Thought For The Day on Sunday, which is when Mother's Day is, as we all have far more important things to do on a Sunday.
Many of us either have, or have had a mother. I'm a big fan of mothers. Aren't they just fantastic? They really do the most splendid job. Without mothers we wouldn't have children and aren't children just fantastic too?
But let us look past the secular, and therefore rather superficial, tradition of sending your mother cards and flowers, taking her out to dinner and basically just treating her for the day. As we do so, we naturally turn our thoughts to something more profound: to Jesus. Jesus had a mother you know. She was called "Mary" and she was the best mother there ever was. You may think your mother is just great but actually she's complete rubbish compared to Mary.
Mary didn't have a midwife at Jesus' birth, but that's OK because she was just such a fantastic mum and Jesus was the Invisible Magic Friend. Sadly, many mothers don't have midwives, which is a great shame. Ordinary mothers, ones who aren't giving birth to the Invisible Magic Friend, could very well be killed by the Invisible Magic Friend during childbirth. So they had better make their peace with him before giving birth.
Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet?
In common with all true Brits, we Sikhs share in the delight of the marriage of His Royal Highness Prince William, and her not quite yet Royal Highness, Princess Kate Middleton. We're even more delighted that they've chosen a date so close to the birthday of Guru Nanak.
Oh yes, Guru Nanak - I wasn't going to mention him at all, but seeing as his birthday is so close to the Royal Wedding (that all we true Brits are so excited about and that has brought such joy and meaning to our otherwise dull and pointless lives) I suppose it's OK to briefly mention him. Guru Nanak taught complete equality of the sexes, as indeed did all the gurus - and so did their wives. This is why women have always had complete equality with men in Sikhism. This isn't true of other religions which I'm not going to name. Some religions, which I'm not going to name, treat women as property. Other religions, which I'm also not going to name, don't allow women to lead worship or share fully in religious rituals.
None of this is true of Sikhism. Of course, there are certain cultural traditions that prevent women from undertaking their full role that ideally Sikhism would like, but that's not Sikhism's fault.
In my household I remain the masculine hunter gatherer, bravely steering my loyal supermarket trolley down the aisles, but I also do the washing up and put the clothes out.
Anyway, back to the Royal Wedding that all we true Brits are so looking forward to with such fervent anticipation and unbounded delight. They're getting married in Westminster Abbey. I have many, many happy memories of some fantastic interfaith services in Westminster Abbey that myself and other important religious leaders have attended. It's so very, very big and that's bound to get them off to a long and happy married life. After all, Charles and Diana got married in the splendid setting of Saint Paul's and look how happy their marriage was... er.
I've had enough of the Church of England with its vicious liberal agenda and it's treating women as if they were just as good as men. What sort of a Church is that? I'm joining a proper Church, the kind of Church that excummunicates a doctor for saving a 9 year old girl's life, but retains the man who raped her as a loyal son of the Church. None of this namby-pamby, pinko, left wing, liberalism there.
When one looks at the twelve apostles, the first thing one notices is that they all had a penis. This is because they had to act "in persona Christi". How can they possibly act in persona Christi if they haven't got a penis? Christ had a penis, although he never used it for you-know-what. He never thought about you-know-what and so it never got you-know-what, but the point was it was still a perfectly normal, functional penis. It follows that all priests and bishops have to have a penis. I'm amazed at how many people don't seem to understand this straightforward theological argument.
Now some people have pointed out that, not only did Christ and his followers have penises, they had circumcised penises, so all priests and bishops should be circumcised. That's a silly argument. It's not a proper theological argument at all. I don't understand how any sane, rational person can think that, just because Christ and the Apostles were circumcised that priests have to be circumcised. It just doesn't follow at all.
A priest has to have a penis in order to have the magic power to transubstantiate, and in order to pass on his magic powers to other people with penises. Now it just so happens that the Pope doesn't think I've got any magic powers, even though I've got a perfectly good penis. So he's going to have to give me some new magic powers so that I can do some proper transubstantiation.
Yes the Catholic Church is the place for me, a Church that orders a more severe penalty for ordaining women than for getting caught with the altar boy. A Church that knows how to look after people with penises no matter where they put them. A Church that recognised the many fine qualities of people like Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.
Thank God I'm getting away from these fascists in the Church of England.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Gul Wazir and his wife, Niaz Begum were gunned down while eating breakfast - a so called "honour" killing. I just want to make it very clear, this is not a good thing at all. Anyone who is listening and thinks this is a good thing, I have to tell you it is not. You are wrong. It is a bad thing, a very bad thing indeed.
Now, some people think this is to do with religion. While the Islamic religion does indeed cherish essential human virtues, like honour, it remains the religion of peace and general niceness, and logically therefore cannot condone honour killings. As Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, let me just assure you that those who say this is connected with Islam are mistaken. Real Islam, proper Islam, my Islam, does not enforce honour killings, or wearing the hijab or the burka or any of that sort of stuff. Too many countries seem to completely misinterpret Islam in this respect.
Honour killings are, in fact, a cultural thing, where a man's honour is tarnished by a woman who refuses to do what he tells him to. Then, for the honour of his family or tribe, he feels there is simply no alternative but to kill her.
Anyway, Happy Ramadan everyone! And remember, all you big, butch, honourable men out there, please do try not to kill any women during the holy month. Remember, Islam is a religion of compassion.
Jolly hockey sticks everyone! My hockey mistress made me take off my second hand school uniform skirt because it wasn't fashionable.
I just hated the privately paid for, exclusive, classical education that taught me to play music and quote Shakespeare and the bible. Every streetwise, urban jungle, savvy middle class street kid like me did. Don't you just hate that bossyness? That shrill, domineering, lecturing, hectoring, sermonising, holier than thou tone?
So I'm against banning the burka. Women should be free to interpret their faith and wear what men tell them to.
Of course sometimes there are security concerns, at banks, airports that sort of thing. In situations like that a ban on the burka is something I'd support.
But then again, some Muslim women are scandalised at the thought of having to show their face. They'd feel like such brazen hussies. So I'm against the ban on the burka.
Then there was the wonderful work of Gladys Aylward (a Christian) who did so much to implement the Chinese policy that banned foot binding. So yes, banning the burka could definitely be a good thing.
Saint Paul, always a reliable source on what women should do, was very much in favour of women wearing bags. So, on balance I think I'm against the ban on the burka.
But there are women who are forced to put a bag over their head against their will. That's a bad thing, so I'm for the ban on the burka.
I don't think the ban on the burka will come here. It's not very British. And why is it not very British? Well because we're a Christian nation, unlike horrible, smelly old secular France. Christians never compell anyone to do anything. So I'm going to stick with Saint Paul and say that women should definitely be allowed to wear a bag over their head.
Shum times you jusht have to compromise (hic!). I mean, take women bishopsh. Shum people, on a matter of prinshipal, they think (hic!) they think, on princpipal, that women are jusht the shame ash men and of course they can be bishops. OK, they can't quite handle their sherry the way we men can (hic!), but 'part frum that, they're jusht ash good ash blokes.
Then there are shum other people. They think (hic!), they think women are jusht as good ash men, jusht as intelligensh, jusht ash capibible. They jusht can't be bishopsh, that'sh all. It'sh not b'cause they're bigoted or any'fin like that. No, no, they say so on prinpineapple ash well (hic!). It'sh a theologicable thing you she. God shaid only men can be bishops. Well, he doesn't actually shay it, obvioushly, but all the bishopsh for the lasht two thoushand years 'ave all been men. They've made the Shursh of England what she ish today (hic!).
Sho now we're gonna get shum women bishops. An' cosh on princh'bl they don't want'em (hic), they 'fretn'd to fro out all the cuddly toy'sh, 'cos they're so prince (hic!) princessabled. Sho we've compr'ised. Tho'sh that want women bishopsh 'll get'em, but tho'sh that don't on prinz'bl 'll get shum other bishop.
That'sh called being principled you she?
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
It's terrifying! Women are becoming the majority of the workforce. They're taking over businesses. In China, the proportion of businesses run by women almost matches their proportion of the population. No wonder China's such a miserable business failure! They're getting better academic qualifications too.
But don't worry gentlemen, we're still not allowing women to do the really important jobs. Governments and the judiciary remain firm bastions of male dominance, so women need not worry their pretty little heads about them. Just look what happened when Cherie Blair was allowed to do some judging! Even where women are allowed to work, we make sure they only get paid about 80% what a man gets paid.
I think Saint Paul summed all this up nicely. When he said "Wives, submit to your husbands" we're obviously not meant to take that literally. I think what he was clearly trying to say was, men and women should be equals and men shouldn't beat women up when they get angry.