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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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 08:18 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

The people of Egypt are having a revolution. I've been to Egypt you know. I spent ten weeks there as an undergraduate. It was very nice. I liked the people and the warmth and the coffee shops and all the old buildings and the sense of history and the civilisation and the culture and those lovely little sweet pastries drenched in honey or syrup that's a bit like a baklava but you don't seem to be able to get anywhere else. I came home from Egypt and I thought, that was very nice that was.

So what happens to Egypt now? Well it would be a terrible shame if they got another tyrant in Mubarak's place. What we really hope for is that a nice, liberal democracy will emerge in Egypt, but that's not guaranteed. I mean anything could happen, couldn't it? Some revolutions go horribly wrong, like in... oh well, I don't want to mention any names.

What does Islam have to say? Well Islam is very keen on social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing. So as long as Egypt gets social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing, Islam will be quite happy but it could still go horribly wrong.

The Prophet is said to have said that it's a very good thing to tell the truth to a tyrant. Now I know there are a few people who keep coming on here telling you that the truth will set you free, but that's from the wrong holy book and the truth will not set you free. It is not true that the truth will set you free. Truth and being set free are not at all the same thing.

So in conclusion, let's hope that it all works out well for all the people Egypt: men, women, children, infants, the elderly, Muslim, Christian, pastry makers - that they come to enjoy peace, prosperity, freedom, justice, good health, the occasional break to get away from it all and many, many other good 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  
Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 08:36 AM - Gibberish, Morality, Siddiqui
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I'd just like to mention Her Majesty the Queen, the supreme head of the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, both of whom said really interesting things to the synod of the Church of England, and both of whom may shortly be drawing up guest lists of important religious leaders and thinkers that they may like to invite to a forthcoming state event.

What's religion for? It's to provide moral clarity. People who don't have a religion, don't have any moral clarity.

I often ask students in my class if they have lost their religion. Some say yes. They say that they didn't want to be bound by the moral clarity of religion and wanted to run around not being moral any more. However, not having the moral clarity of religion, they often speak of a profound sense of loss. As students in an Islamic Studies class, I think these are probably fairly representative of your typical amoral unbeliever.

A famous philosopher, whom I'm sure needs no introduction, lamented that philosophy no longer has any answers. People who want to actually answer things tend to go and study something else. Religion's a bit like that. People get frustrated that religion doesn't seem to have any answers. I mean, it's not like belief in the Invisible Magic Friend gives a strict list of rules about what is right and wrong and what you must do to unbelievers, sinners and so on.

Most unbelievers lose their faith, and therefore their moral clarity, at a time of personal tragedy. Take the example of the New Zealand miners. Some will take great comfort in their belief in an Invisible Magic Friend, but others will tragically lose their faith. With no Invisible Magic Friend to help them, they'll be reduced to seeking solace with their friends and family.

The ones that manage to keep their faith in the Invisible Magic Friend though will remain strong and still have hope in their lives.

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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  
Friday, 10 September, 2010, 08:39 AM - Be nice, Koran, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Last month I told you that honour killings are unislamic. Today, I want to inform you that rioting and killing over the potential burning of the Koran by a lone American nutcase, is also unislamic.

Rev Terry Jones (not to be confused with Terry Jones, who is not at all reverend), wants to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. He thinks Islam is the religion of the Invisible Magic Baddy because it doesn't think Jesus is the Invisible Magic Friend. Well, Jesus is not the Invisible Magic Friend. He is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. The Koran was not written by the Invisible Magic Baddy, it was written by the Invisible Magic Friend.

So my message to those misguided Muslims who may be thinking about having a good old unislamic riot, is to remember that it's Eid, the end of Ramadan. Chill out. Relax. Pop along to the mosque to hear some soothing words from your friendly neighbourhood imam.

For some reason, Islam has got this reputation in the west, as a violent, intolerant, fanatical religion. I can't think why. So whatever you do, don't feed this irrational stereotype.

So have a really nice weekend, and remember, whatever you do, please, no rioting.

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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, 12 August, 2010, 09:11 AM - Justice and mercy, Women, Siddiqui
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

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.

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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 
Friday, 6 August, 2010, 08:39 AM - Education, Money, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Plans are afoot to revive the ancient Nalanda University, a seat of Buddhist learning from the 5th to the 12th centuries. Seeking knowledge for its own sake is a religious imperative in Islam. Unfortunately this wasn't known to the Muslim general Bakhtiyar Khilji who sacked Nalanda.

Academics, like myself, really wish to be left alone to get on with the pursuit of knowledge. In my case learning more and more about Islam, conducting vital new research in as yet uncharted areas of Islamic theology. However we're constantly being distracted by the need for money. Ideally, you would just give us the money. But no, we have to attract students, hit educational attainment targets and above all, get lots of lovely foreign students, with all their lovely, lovely fees.

Oh how I wish I could simply spend my time pondering great thoughts, instead of all this drudgery of marking exams, trying to drum up funding, drawing up staff performance evaluations and doing Thought For The Day.

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