I am a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. I am a presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme, and a panelist on the Moral Maze. I used to present Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3's wonderful arts and ideas programme. I have also written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated?, Islam, Mullahs and the Media, Skullduggery and Man, Beast and Politics. My books include From Fatwa to Jihad (2009), Strange Fruit (2008), Man, Beast and Zombie (2000), and The Meaning of Race (1996). I am currently writing a history of moral thought.
I was born in India, brought up in Manchester and now live in London. I am English when watching football, British according to my passport, Italian after a night at the opera, modernist when imagining cities, radical when thinking of the Enlightenment, more so when contemplating the consequences of the free market, humanist when not contemplating God (and more so when I am), and allergic to pigeonholes.
I studied neurobiology (at the University of Sussex) and history and philosophy of science (at Imperial College, London). I was for a number of years a research psychologist at the Centre for Research into Perception and Cognition (CRPC) at the University of Sussex, working on problems of the mental representation of spatial relations.
Academically, my main areas of interest are the history of ideas, the history and philosophy of science, the history and philosophy of religion, the philosophy of mind, theories of human nature, political philosophy, ethics, and the history and sociology of race and immigration.
Politically, I take my cue from James Baldwin's observation that 'Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take.' I have long campaigned against imperialism and injustice and for equal rights, freedom of expression, and a secular society. In the 1980s, I was involved with various far left organsiations and antiracist campaigns including the Newham 7 campaign, the Colin Roach campaign and East London Workers Against Racism. I have written of how the Salman Rushdie affair helped transform my relationship with the left; the Rushdie affair gave early notice of the abandonment by many sections of the left of their traditional attachment to ideas of Enlightenment rationalism and secular universalism and their growing espousal of multiculturalism, identity politics and notions of cultural authenticity. As a result, much of my political campaigning over the past decade has been in defence of free speech, secularism and scientific rationalism.
I have written four books: The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society (Palgrave / New York University Press, 1996); Man, Beast and Zombie: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us About Human Nature (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000 / Rutgers University Press, 2002), Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate (Oneworld, 2008) and From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (Atlantic, 2009 / Melville House 2010).
The Meaning of Race, which AC Grayling hailed as 'important, cogent and illuminating', examines the historical development of the idea of race, and its philosophical and political roots. It also unpicks the relationship between racial thinking and contemporary multicultural and postmodern ideas.
Man, Beast and Zombie, described by the late Roy Porter as the 'most insightful and thoughtful account of the contemporary claims of science', looks at how the idea of the human has developed over time and explores the problems and limits of scientific explanations of human nature. It takes a particularly close look at the claims of evolutionary psychology and cognitive science.
Strange Fruit explores the relationship between the science of race and the politics of identity. Race, the book concludes, 'is not a rational, scientific category. Antiracism has become an irrational, anti-scientific philosophy. The challenge we face is to confront racial thinking while defending scientific rationality and promoting Enlightenment universality.' Andrew Anthony said of it in the Observer that 'few targets escape Malik's forensic intelligence'. It was longlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Science Book Prize.
My latest book From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (Atlantic, 2009) tells the story both of the Rushdie affair and of its transformative impact on cultural and political landscape of the West. The book explores the issues that the Rushide affair raised, in particular the questions of muliculturalism, radical Islam and free speech, and shows how in responding to these issues Western liberals have betrayed the fundamental beliefs of liberalism. It was shortlisted for the 2010 Orwell Book Prize.
I have lectured at a number of universities in Britain, Europe, Australia and the USA. In 2003 I was a visiting fellow in the department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne, Australia. I am currently Senior Visting Fellow in the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies at the University of Surrey.
As well as writing and presenting Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3 and Analysis on BBC Radio 4, I have written and presented a number of TV documentaries, including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated? (which was shortlisted for the 2005 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award), Let 'Em All In and Britain's Tribal Tensions. Other radio documentaries I have made include Islam, Mullahs and the Media (BBC Radio 4, August / September 2009), Skullduggery (BBC Radio 4, June 2006) and Man, Beast and Politics (BBC Radio 4, November / December 2001).
I write a political column for the Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende and a monthly cultural column for the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten. I review books for the Observer, Independent, Sunday Telegraph and Literary Review. I have also written for the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Independent on Sunday, Handelsblatt, Aftenposten, Trouw, Weltwoche, The Australian, Melbourne Age, Prospect, New Statesman, New Humanist, Index on Censorship, TLS, THES, Nature and The Philosophers' Magazine.
When I am not reading, writing or talking, I am usually listening to Blind Willie Johnson or Maria Callas,, watching Liverpool play badly (and, yes, I must be the only Mancunian who ever grew up supporting Liverpool), or playing the cello (even more badly). My great novel is, like Mrs Rochester, locked away somewhere in the attic.
I am a Trustee of Index on Censorship and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.