On 24th February, Quilliam issued a press release launching its first report.
Despite the Charity Commission’s findings that some of Britain’s mosques provide a range of services and activities within their community, Quilliam’s nationwide poll of mosques has more worrying findings:
• a staggering 97 per cent of imams (clerics) in mosques are from overseas, although the majority of Muslims in Britain were born in the UK;
• forty-four per cent of mosques do not hold the lecture before Friday Prayers in English, making it difficult for young British Muslims to access weekly guidance at mosques; and
• nearly half of mosques do not have facilities for Britain’s Muslim women, depriving half the community of access to public spaces.
Foreign imams, poorly paid and with limited proficiency in English, are ill-equipped to navigate Britain’s complex, liberal and multi-faith society. They have neither the freedom, being at the mercy of mosque management committees dominated by first generation elders, nor the capacity to promote a British Islam informed by British values. By failing to reach out to young British Muslims, radical Islamists have the upper-hand. Britain’s young Muslims, without a voice in mosques, are looking elsewhere for religious guidance and will continue to be drawn in by young, articulate extremists who offer an alternative narrative, cause and social space.
Quilliam’s Director Maajid Nawaz says:
“These findings are deeply disturbing. Our first line of defence against terrorism is the ability, commitment, and confidence of mosques and Muslim communities to root out extremism. Currently, we are failing. With foreign imams who are physically in Britain, but psychologically in Pakistan or Bangladesh, mosques lack the requisite resilience to challenge Islamist extremists. We cannot continue to ignore the malaise in our mosques.”
The report’s author, Anya Hart Dyke, a senior research fellow at Quilliam says:
“There are signs of hope. I have found some locally-led initiatives in mosques across the country that are: including women and youth in mosque governance, making use of community cohesion and Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) funds, taking advantage of training opportunities, sharing their space with community-based organizations, working with schools, and opening their doors to non-Muslims. This needs to become the norm amongst our mosques. ”
Recommendations for Government, local authorities and mosque leaders draw on a range of views from Muslim practitioners across Britain, as well as on expertise from within the Christian and Jewish faith communities.
Notes for editors
1. Quilliam is Britain’s first counter extremism think tank.
2. Quilliam attempted to contact over 1,000 mosques by using researchers who spoke Urdu or Bengali during Ramadan in late 2008, a busy period in mosques. Due to lack of resources at most mosques and after repeated phone calls we successfully polled 512 mosques, although not all mosques responded to all questions posed.
3. For comment, analysis, and interviews please call Quilliam’s media line on 0207 182 7286 or 07590 229 917 or email [email protected].