My friend Vinay Lal is a formidable intellect. An old-fashioned polymath, he teaches South Asian history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Always outspoken, Vinay relishes a good argument and marshals his case to devastating effect.
I was a callow 17-year-old when I first met the Bahá'ís. I'd been brought up and confirmed in the Church of England, but my faith had waned somewhat in my teens and I considered myself an atheist.
Britain is a tolerant country, even if sometimes it seems that politicians are over-fond of saying so. This is not a smug pat on the collective back.
It seems Madeleine Bunting, the Guardian columnist who argues the case for dialogue with the Islamic far-right has suddenly resigned as director of the think tank Demos after just weeks in post. What is going on? Has there been an anti-Islamist coup?
I am no supporter of the veil. I have grave reservations about women wearing it, and serious disagreements with the allegedly Islamic principles on which the practice is based. But the struggle against this hoary old religious chestnut has to be founded on understanding and reasoned argument.