Zia Chaudhry MBE is a British born Muslim whose parents originated from Pakistan. Having grown up in Liverpool, he went on to establish his legal career there as a barrister specialising in criminal law after he was called to the Bar in 1991.
Wells Literary Festival 2014
Outside of his legal practice, Zia has been actively involved in interfaith work for over fifteen years, with a particular emphasis on dispelling misunderstanding about Islam and Muslims. In 2005 he became the first Muslim Chair of the Merseyside Council of Faiths. In 2006 he was one of the founding members of the North West Forum of Faiths. In 2007, with the support of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, he founded the Spirit of Cordoba, a charity seeking to rekindle the spirit of co-operation which was so evident between the Abrahamic faiths in Muslim Spain. He is also a trustee of Gladstone's Library, a legacy of former Prime Minister William Gladstone, having earlier been involved in the establishing of the House of Wisdom, the library's Islamic collection.
More recently Zia became the author of Just Your Average Muslim. This timely story of his personal journey growing up as a Muslim in the United Kingdom was originally intended to serve as a guide for his own children but quickly developed to address wider issues concerning Islam and Muslims. Intending to act as a bridge between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, it nevertheless embraces the self-criticism Muslims need in order to fulfil their responsibilities to the human race and occupy a position of respect on the world stage.
In Her Majesty's Birthday Honours List of 2015 Zia was awarded an MBE for services to interfaith relations.
Zia has contributed in a variety of ways to discussions involving Islam and Muslims.
ArticlesWhite Extremists November 2016
Tony Blair Flexes Muscles March 2016
Guardian article May 2015
New Statesman June 2015
InterviewsTelegraph April 2015
Wells Festival of Literature May 2015
Big Issue May 2015
Lancashire Telegraph May 2014
TelevisionDaily Rundown - That's TV Manchester
- Athenaeum 2014 – "Can Islam Be a Force For Good in the Modern World?"
- Gladfest 2014
- Wells Festival of Literature 2014
- Emirates Festival of Literature 2015
- Safeguarding Young People from Radicalisation conference – Bradford August 2015
- Book signing at Kinokuniya Dubai Mall - 21 August 2015.
- Gladfest 2015 - 5 September 2015
- Guernsey Festival of Literature – 19 September 2015
- Lincoln – 2 October 2015
- Reviewing the newspapers on BBC Breakfast - 2 January 2016
- Gladstone's Library seminar – Everything You Wanted to Know About Islam But Were Afraid to Ask - 21 February 2016
- Professional Muslims Institute dinner in Bradford - 23 September 2016
- "Islam and Pluralism" at Limmud Conference 2016, Hope University, Liverpool – 6 November 2016
Zia is available for the following:
- - Talks and analysis of issues involving Islam and Muslims
- - Training days for diversity awareness departments
- - Talks to schools and colleges
- - After dinner speaking
- - Literary festivals
Pauline Ronan, Head of RE , Notre Dame Catholic CollegeI was first introduced to Zia Chaudhry when he spoke at Liverpool Hope University in 2002. Listening to Zia's story was inspiring and incredibly educating. Since then we have been privileged to have Zia into our schools to correct the negative stereotype that has been conjured up by the media and respond to the questions that many non-Muslims have in today's society. He does this in an educated and unpatronising way, making his audience more likely to read between the lines rather than just accept the media at face value.
Christian Education Department, Archdiocese of LiverpoolAs we prepare our children for life in modern Britain we ensure they are given an understanding of the beliefs of others. We invited Zia to speak to our teachers to contribute to the common good by increasing mutual respect between those of different religions. Zia enabled teachers in our Catholic schools to widen their understanding of Islam. He captured their interest using real life events often peppered with humour and gave us all a greater knowledge of Islamic history and culture. He put many myths and news reports in context leaving each person better educated in the religion of one's neighbours.
Roger Phillips – BBC"Just Your Average Muslim" is a must read for anyone interested in or even concerned by Muslims in this country – and indeed the faith of Islam. It is readable and enlightening.
John Forrest – Director of the Insight Film Festival"Just Your Average Muslim" has given me some of the best insights I've had so far on vital issues
Not all white people are right wing lunatics, but all right wing lunatics seem to be white people. Forgive me for paraphrasing that tired cliche about Muslims and terrorists but the world is becoming a scarier place and it's not down to the usual suspects. It was right wing extremism that led to the murder of an MP on the streets of Britain. It is right wing extremism that is spreading like wildfire throughout Europe. And as for the USA, well you know the rest.
With the Klan now thinking they run America, should the rest of us be worried? The Program on Extremism at George Washington University provides analysis on issues related to violent and non-violent extremism. In a recent report they said that on Twitter, for example, "American white nationalist movements have seen their followers grow by more than 600% since 2012. Today, they outperform ISIS in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day".And the thing is, when it isn't the usual suspects involved, the whole tenor of the discussion changes. So what we don't see is the wholesale dehumanising of a race. Or the endless negative coverage in the media of their misdeeds. Or the "experts" wheeled out to opine on how there is something essentially different about these people, how they're not like us and how their way of life is incompatible with ours.
Instead, all that was anathema to the civilised world not so long ago is now being rebranded and re-served to the masses. Our grandparents' generation may well have fought against fascism, making sacrifices which are still remembered to this day, but now we have the "alt-right", suited not jack-booted, and with real grievances. Not families-killed-by-drones real, but apparently they are the victims of "white genocide". You couldn't make this stuff up. I know their understanding of history is sometimes called into question but you'd have thought that Americans would have an inkling that the only genocide that features in their story is by them, not on them.
I don't suggest for a moment that there aren't some real grievances behind the rise of the far right. No amount of immigrant-bashing can disguise the fact that livelihoods have been destroyed due to the zeal for globalisation and the unscrupulous activities of the banking industry. The politicians don't seem to care for their plight, so the public feel compelled to resort to demagogues who appear to offer an alternative. And thus we end up with the likes of the American President-elect, our own chortler-in-chief fancying himself as the British ambassador to the USA, and the numerous pocket fascists newly emboldened in Europe.
600% is a big number. Seems that white people have a problem with extremism which they need to address.
Reading former Prime Minister Tony Blair's observation in the Sunday Times that the "centre, left and right, has to rediscover its muscularity" when dealing with Islamist extremism I was taken back to the 1990s when a smart-suited well-coiffured charismatic politician was wooing Europe with his own brand of muscularity when it came to dealing with Muslims. A few days ago, however, Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment for his role in the massacres he promoted, leaving a disgruntled Karadzic apparently feeling a bit perplexed, no doubt because Europe didn't seem overly concerned about his actions back then and pretty much left him to it.
Others may be keen to suggest that Mr Blair should be facing a similar trial for his involvement in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims but that isn't my issue at the moment. I can even give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it is not his fault that the publication of his choice decided to go with the headline "We are in denial about Islam" (thereby blaming the very faith that our political leaders insist we have no issue with) when the former Prime Minister actually used the phrase "we need to end the denial about what is happening within Islam". No, my criticism is borne more out of confusion than hatred of Mr Blair.
You see despite my misgivings I was somewhat encouraged when the piece began with the acknowledgment that "we require a fundamental change of strategy". I half-expected that this seasoned politician, world leader, peace envoy and incredibly astute businessman would present us with a solution which emanated from his years of experience and, perhaps, a tacit if not explicit acceptance that maybe he had made some mistakes along the way. After all, as ArunKundnani wrote in the Washington Post this week the West's "war on terror turned the whole world into a battlefield….and kills more civilians than terrorism does". Sadly, no great insights were forthcoming and no fundamental change of strategy was offered. In fact, it could be argued that it was more of the same; the by now regular Tough Tony comment following every such atrocity, prefaced with the customary "Islam as practised and understood by the majority of the world's Muslims is an honourable and peaceful faith", leaving a bemused public wondering why he simply refuses to go quietly.
I know Islam is peaceful and tolerant but I also know that there are those who abuse Islam to justify all manner of financial, political and territorial ambition, a bit like some folk do with "democracy and freedom" you might say. I am painfully aware that there are some unduly rigid interpretations of Islam that may lend themselves to violence as Mr Blair himself recognised when he alluded to "the export of Salafist type of doctrine". Having identified this problem this is precisely the area where the former Prime Minister's advice should go on to identify the said doctrine, where it comes from and the circumstances in which it flourishes, before proposing ways of tackling it. But at this very point where true leadership should come to the fore, we find that other interests trump the peace and security our leaders purport to desire.
As I write this another 60 people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Lahore, twice the death toll of Brussels. I would happily see Isis and co obliterated from the face of the planet but we need to have an idea of what we wish to see in its place and our recent action (and inaction) suggests that we might not wish for others what we wish for ourselves. What is often overlooked is that those societies which pride themselves on tolerance today are able to rely onfreedom, political stability, education, wealth and relative security, factors conspicuous by their absence in much of the Muslim world. Yet do our leaders in the West truly desire that for the Muslim world? The freedom and political stability of democracy is not our preferred option in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, both being highlighted by Mr Blair as our allies, or indeed in a host of other countries of the Middle East. Education requires the financial investment made possible by wealth but would we rather that wealth be spent on educating the very natives who would then compete with us, or on buying western arms (which also serve the ancillary purpose of subduing agitated populaces seeking democratic reform)? And, of course, at the end of the day the only security that matters is the security of the people who matter.
I have long argued that Muslims need to take a long hard look at themselves and their approach to their faith. But their traditionally conservative ideas are not the breeding ground for the modern strain of terror targeting Europe. The causes of this phenomenon are complex and understandably avoided by the likes of Mr Blair who prefer to hide behind ideology as the sole cause, leaving the readers (with a little help from the headline creators) to interpret this as they see fit and in the process exclude any possibility of suggesting that "our" policies may have played a part in creating this monster. It was ideology that led to the birth of Isis in Iraq, not the illegal and wholly unnecessary invasion by us, not the promotion of sectarian conflict by us, not the dissolution of state owned factories by us, not the disbanding of the army with no prospect of alternative employment by us.
As long as we fail to learn the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. The names may change but we continue promoting the same failed model: Shah, Saddam, Mubarak, Gadaffi, Sisietc.etc. Our preference for such strongmen illustrates that it is not our muscularity that we need to rediscover, but perhaps a new found ability to share the planet with others as equals, deserving of the same freedoms and facilities that we take for granted.