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Muslim Parliament
The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain
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The Role of the Mosque

The vast majority of mosques currently serve as places of worship, for breaking the fast during Ramadan, and little else. Whilst these services were considered priority some 20/30 years ago when most mosques were initially established the community has now moved on and mosques must develop to meet the changing needs of the community and its new generations.

Mosques tend to be very male-oriented and not particularly hospitable to non-Muslims. If mosques be going to perform a useful function for the community as a whole they need to open their doors and provide a more welcoming environment to women, youth, mothers with young children, and non-Muslims interested in finding out about Islam. Our paramount need is to have a lively community atmosphere vibrant with activity.

Many problems surrounding the current role of mosques stem from the use of imported Imams and their catastrophic lack of understanding of the cultural and social norms of the host country. This can often lead to a mosque becoming detached from the everyday needs of its members and results in very little activity outside of prayer-timings. Whilst a well-educated, knowledgeable Imam is an important asset to any mosque it is also vital that he understand and can engage with the community he serves.

It is a source of shame that frequently mosques are under-resourced and under-funded. We need to overcome this and make mosques active so each mosque becomes the beating heart of the community. A mosque is more than a mere place of worship; mosque facilities should comprise a cafeteria, a sports facility, a library, classrooms, Halal food store, a crèche facility, etc. The mosque should be a place for social encounter providing opportunities for the elderly and the youth, measures that shall enable it to function in a diversity of roles but always serving and adjusting to the community’s needs. This way, the mosque may be enabled to reassume its traditional place at the heart of Muslim society.

The Muslim Parliament has launched the “Focus on Mosques” project in order to:

  • Create awareness in the community that mosques should be more than a place of worship but should be the focal point of the community, providing services to the community, and also welcoming non-Muslims.
  • Identify gaps in service provisions by mosques and develop a strategy for implementation of new ideas, e.g.:
    • remedial courses for Imams – some system of qualification (ijaza)/ recognition of ability
    • provide supplementary education classes
    • register mosques as a place for the solemnisation of civil marriages
    • provide counselling for domestic abuse, forced marriages, etc.
    • arrange visits to schools, providing talks for RE classes
    • organise social/sporting events
  • Encourage dialogue between Imams and community organisations in order to build alliances with such organisations with a view to facilitating change. Utilise resources within the community, i.e., identifying people with certain skills: teachers who could run tutorial classes at the weekend, lawyers to establish legal clinics, doctors, counsellors, etc.

Before launching this project, the Muslim Parliament commissioned a consultation paper on the role of the mosque in Britain to highlight problems, suggest solutions and explore the way forward for mosques in 21st-century Britain.

   

See also the research paper The role of the Mosque in Britain