I was rather surprised by Assisi. I expected the home town of St Francis, who was declared the patron saint of ecology by Pope Paul II in November 1979, to be a haven for wildlife.

This world, the old Sufi mystics used to teach, is a mirage. There is a higher Reality that exists by its own essence.

Is the future ‘real’? Can it be made ‘real’? The best answer in these best of all possible postnormal times cannot be black or white.

Fibs projected as true stories. That is what populism is all about. Like all stories it has elements of truth. And like all stories it is fiction in the true sense of the word, involving falsehood, lies, misrepresentation, untruth.

Most South Asian families have one. An Auntie Ji, who is not really a member of the family, but everyone’s Auntie. On the Subcontinent, they serve as marriage brokers and go-betweens, and keep the neighbourhood well-oiled with gossip. Amongst the Asian diaspora in Britain, the universal Auntie Ji performed an additional function: she served as a local moral guardian who kept a beady eye on the young.

It has become rather unnatural to be an ordinary, caring, socially conscious human being. So here are twelve postnormal plagues, some already with us, some anticipated as lurking over the horizon, for you to contemplate.

Superpowers. Of all the possible superpowers in this best of all possible worlds, which one would you most like to possess? We sought the counsel of a four-year old girl. Without hesitation she replied that she wished she could ‘make everything pink’.

Muslim attitudes to power are like everything else about the contemporary ummah: complex; contradictory and chaotic.

Qatar does not have a rich football history, and I must admit, I did not think it had a chance. But when Qatar won the bid, I jumped for joy. At last, I thought, a Gulf state is going to do something that will be seen around the world as good. But moments later, my delight evaporated as some disturbing thoughts came to the fore.