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March 10, 2006
Tentative start for mosques advisory body
Concerns have been raised at the lack of consultation and independence of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (MINAB) recommended by the Home Office Muslim taskforces following last July’s London bombings, The Muslim News has learnt.
Speaking at a pre-launch consultation exercise, Lord Ahmed said Thursday there was a need for such a strategic organization to be set up which will help support mosques and imams and provide a united platform and voice.
“We intend to engage in dialogue with as many key stakeholders as possible and that was why meetings are being held in strategic locations throughout the country during March and April,” the Labour peer said.
But reservations about the way the initiative has been handled were raised by the Kurshid Ahmed of the British Muslim Forum. Ahmed boycotted the meeting as he expressed concern about lack of consultation in drafting the questionnaire that was sent to 1,100 mosques by Lord Ahmed. No Muslim organisation, even those who were part of the task force, was consulted about the questionnaire.
Khurshid Ahmed, who also acts as an advisor on Islamic Affairs at the Commission for Racial Equality, told The Muslim News ahead of the meeting, that he was pulling out of the pre-launch in protest, saying that it was “ill-timed and ill-conceived.” It has to be an “inclusive process,” he said. Ahmed also said his organisation was not consulted on the questionnaire that has been sent to the imams and mosques.
Ibrahim Mogra, Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) Mosque and Community Affairs, also expressed concerns at the meeting that the MCB had not been consulted about the questionnaire. “We have to now ensure that Muslim organisations are consulted,” said Mogra. He said they had received many complaints regarding the questionnaire saying it was insensitive to the Muslim community. “We are going to look at the questionnaire and get the views and recommendations from our members and only then will we see whether to support it or not,” said Mogra.
He added that the sole purpose of MINAB was for Muslim scholars and imams to recommend good practise for the mosques and other Islamic institutions.
Qazi Abdul Aziz Chisti of Markazi Jamat Ahle Sunnat, one of the largest Muslim organisations in the UK, said he supported the initiative and said MINAB “is going to protect imams rights but should not interfere with the imams and mosque committees.”
Imam Abdul Jailil Sajid Chairman of the National Association of Pakistanis, who came to observe the pre-launch, also complained that there was no consultation and said that another large organisation, Jamate Ahle Hadith, was not consulted and that he had received many complaints from mosques about the “intrusiveness of the questionnaire.”
Shaykh Salah Balal of Al Khoei Foundation said that it was important for imams to be trained in this country and many who come from abroad do not understand the culture of this country.
Lord Ahmed acknowledged that consultation of the questionnaire had not taken place when questioned by The Muslim News. He said, “Even I was not involved in drafting the questionnaire.” It was the Home Office that asked a consultancy company, Faith Associates, to draft the questions. A Home Office official, who was present at the meeting, told The Muslim News that they were not involved in the drafting the questions.
Although he did not attend, Home Office Minister, Paul Goggins, expressed support for the fledging MINAB. “It demonstrates real progress by the Muslim community towards delivering one of the key recommendations of the Preventing Exremism Together Working Groups,” Goggin said. He insisted that it was “driven by the Muslim community,” but his sending of an official to monitor the pre-launch raised further concerns about its independence from the government.
The setting up of MINAB, independent of the government, a National Forum against Extremism and Islamophobia and a country-wide 'roadshow' of influential, populist religious scholars were among the main recommendations accepted by the Home Office in November last year. In particular, a unanimous call by the leaders of the taskforces for a full judicial inquiry into the London bombings was rejected. The roadshow of mainly foreign scholars started touring the country in December, holding two or three events every month.
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