I have long been very interested in my own family history, following in the footsteps of my father who was a keen amateur genealogist.

The word artificial, like many other words, is a mixed bag, best conceived of as a semantic continuum encompassing positive, neutral and negative connotations.

I need to begin with a confession. I approach music not as a disengaged academic or critical exercise but from an experiential perspective as a keen amateur pianist, music lover and unashamed advocate of the power of music to move, inspire and heal the soul.

When I was studying history at ‘A’ level in 1964, our syllabus identified 1492 as the year in which ‘Modern History’ began, the year that Columbus ‘discovered’ the ‘New World’. I was not told that it was also the year in which Columbus, in his relentless search for gold and slaves, instituted shockingly cruel and genocidal policies in the Caribbean islands he had ‘discovered’, including the rapid decimation of the populations of indigenous Arawak Indians.

A striking aspect of the cultural elevation of the celebrity chef has been the use of inflated (and some would say hyperbolic and pretentious) superlatives to describe them, their techniques, and their output.

What is the umma and how do we conceive of the role of ‘community’ in advancing human values? 

I need to begin with a confession and clear statement of intent. I’d like to write about nature not from a distance, neither as an object of abstract study – a disengaged academic or critical exercise – nor as an occasion for the recital of well-worn platitudes.

If you had a choice, which city would you like to live in?

What route should we take through the landscape of higher education, in particular within Muslim societies? As a keen country walker, given to long-distance trekking in a range of ‘wilderness’ environments, I might suggest that we approach this task as another arduous trek, setting out to cover as much ground as possible in all weathers and take in every conceivable vista on the way.

A recent ‘World Exclusive’ on the front page of The Times caught my attention. It reported that the British Museum had allowed part of the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles to leave London for the first time by lending one of the sculptures to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.