Author: Simon appleby

The Deobandis in the UK

The Deobandis are the largest Islamic group in the UK, running over 40% of mosques and a network of seminaries. Owen Bennett Jones investigates who they are and what they believe.

Deobandis in UK

“BRING me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

For many decades, when immigrants to the US arrived by ship, that inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcomed them to their new home. And as soon as the newcomers docked in New York the process of assimilation began. Partly to make it easier for potential employers, Kohnavalsky became Cohen and Smillikov turned into Smiley. Europeans became Americans.

Military and the clerics

On 4 October 1954 Pakistan’s army chief General Ayub Khan passed the hours of a sleepless night at the Dorchester Hotel in London writing ‘A Short Appreciation of Present and Future Problems of Pakistan’. It ran to 2500 words and outlined the general’s views on how best to manage a country that had existed for seven years but had been unable to agree a constitution.


Altaf Hussain can look forward to 2017 with a smile on his face — in spite of major splits in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and notwithstanding his ill-judged August 2016 speech. As the long-running police investigations in the United Kingdom into the MQM’s affairs are running out of steam, he will soon be able to proclaim he has been cleared of all wrongdoing.

The MQM and Indian Funding

The BBC has learnt that senior officials of one of Pakistan’s biggest political parties, the MQM, told UK authorities in formal recorded interviews that the party was receiving funding from the Indian government.

The man who negotiated peace in Northern Ireland

There is a sentence in Jonathan Powell’s Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts that raises intriguing questions about how the Northern Ireland peace process got underway.​* ‘Martin McGuinness,’ Powell writes, ‘still denies sending the message stating that “our war is over” which started the correspondence with John Major, and it is pretty clear in retrospect that one of the intermediaries in the chain between the government and the IRA did in fact embellish the message.’ The peace process, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff is suggesting, began with an exaggeration. Or what others might call a falsehood. It’s a remarkable story.

The efficacy of violence

As they fled Afghanistan after 9/11 some of bin Laden’s followers wondered whether the attacks on the US had been a mistake. Among them was one of al-Qaida’s most acerbic writers, Abu Musab al-Suri. In public he backed bin Laden: privately he described him as an obstinate egotist. And he was scathing about the consequences of 9/11: ‘The outcome, as I see it, was to put a catastrophic end to the jihadi current which started in the early 1960s.’


Altaf Hussain lives in London but leads Pakistan’s powerful, controversial MQM party, which has millions of supporters. He has also been acccused of inciting murder and violence in his home country.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto

In her posthumously published book, Reconciliation, Benazir Bhutto named a man who she believed had tried to procure bombs for an unsuccessful attempt on her life in Karachi in October 2007.