British-born imams who are better equipped than foreign religious leaders to understand the challenges faced by Muslims in the UK should be hired by mosques, the authors of a new report have recommended.
The Citizens UK report published on Monday (3), and chaired by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, examined how Muslim participation in public and community life might be improved.
The study entitled “The Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All” describes engagement between the government and Muslim communities as “a broken relationship that needs to be resolved, and both parties need to be proactive in addressing this”.
The 76-page report said British Muslim experiences were more diverse than was often assumed.
Among its recommendations was a call for mosques to review their management structures and appointment of imams. “The management committees of a number of the UK’s mosques need to better understand, and respond to, modern British life,” it said.
“It is of great importance that British-born imams, who have a good understanding of British culture and who fluently speak English, are encouraged and appointed in preference to overseas alternatives.”
The appointment of imams and others in teaching roles should be a transparent process and comply with legal requirements.
Mosques should “invest in British-born imams who are to be paid a decent living wage, funded by Muslim institutions in the UK, and equipped with pastoral skills so they are able to deal with the challenges facing British Muslims”.
The 18-month inquiry also found lack of integration between Muslims and the majority white British population was most apparent in areas of high deprivation, “which points to the need to address structural barriers, including a lack of economic opportunities and discrimination”.
But it added: “Contrary to the popular representation that there is a ‘lack of integration’ by Muslim communities, the commission encountered a wealth of positive community work by British Muslims (as well as other groups) at a local level, across ethnic and religious lines.”