The Mosque: Insights For Public Agencies Staff

The Mosque is a place of worship, lifelong learning centre of social interaction. This makes the Mosque an ideal place from where community development projects can take place. The role of a mosque in community building is illustrated by a case study, Karimia Institute in Nottingham. The five areas of its work are: Education; youth work; Social and Welfare; Media; worship.

Extremism is a complex social disease that has many causes the author discusses some possible causes; frustration amongst Muslim Youth; the impact of fundamentalist and extremist movements like Wahabism, Talban al Qaeda; economic & political marginalisation etc. I show how this uncharacteristic of traditional Islam, which embraces diversity and respects other religions and cultures. Historically this is how muslims lived alongside jews and Christians in spain for eight hundred years. it is recommended that taking a positive approach to Islam and its institutions Muslim clients can be better served.

In the inner city terraced houses where the majority of Muslims live you will find rows upon rows of the Victorian houses. And somewhere in those terraced houses you will find one or two houses , which have been converted into a Mosque. Muslim areas have their own shopping malls, restaurants and even small factories. However there is one place, which gives them a real sense of community and that is the local Mosque. Statistics shows that nearly 90% of adult Muslim men pray Juma – the Friday Prayer, which means they will take time off work.

The local Mosque has always been the hub of the community. From the days of the prophet of islamt has played a pivotal role in the community. At once it is the place of worship, a School (the suffa), a sports hall, a court, a place of marriage, advice centre, welfare office, Institute of strategic planning, and so much more.

In British society the Mosque is three distinct spaces rolled into one. Firstly, and most importantly it is a place of worship. Where devotees can practice and develop their spirituality. Secondly, it is a centre of learning for the young and the old. Thirdly, it is a public place for meeting, social interaction, bringing people together, sustaining integrated recreational activities, a place of funeral, festivals and marriage. The Mosque is the operational base for community building. It is where Muslims can cooperate and support young and old people to build healthier and multi faith society. The role of mosque in community building can be summarized as follows: –

1. This is an effective vehicle for social change.

2. It binds people around a common faith and shared vision for society.

3. Provides cultural values and an Islamic atmosphere, i.e. an alternative culture. This offers protection from the onslaught of any dominant immoral and corrupt culture that may exist in society.

4. It pools talents, resources and efforts for promoting good and checking wrong in society. It increases social and political capacity enabling effective actions for building a just and moral society.

5. Provides the continuing spiritual, moral intellectual and social development of its members, so as to support them in becoming competent law abiding citizens and leaders of society.

Now, Islam is neither eastern nor western but rather a universal religion for all people, all places and all times. However, due to their circumstances, Muslims at different times had adopted certain practices and cultures that give Islam a particular color. Sadly the contemporary Middle Eastern Islam has been blighted by Arab nationalism, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Wahhabi fundamentalism and terrorist movement of al-qaeda. This has not only politicized the Muslims world over, but has made them angry and frustrated. The Indo-Pak subcontinent provides another colour of political Islam, which has roots in the hatred of British imperialism expressed in the recent naivety and extremism of the Taliban.

Now close your eyes for a moment and step into dr. who’s time capsule, let me take you to the royal city of Alhambra standing proudly over Granada in Spain. This is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in western world. A Swiss architect wrote “the intelligent, just and the magnificent interplay of volumes made harmonious by daylight”. Not only is this Muslim western architecture amazing but it gave rise to a plural and harmonious community that is a model for us – Jews, Christians and Muslims living and working together.

Perhaps in our times a face of Islam that might suit British Muslims most is the Indonesian Islam, which many international Western scholars regard as “an example of successful harmony between Muslims and modernity”, the Islam that is modernist, progressive and friend of the west and other cultures.

That’s the western Islam or more precisely British Islam for me that we would like to revive. The Islam that teaches its followers to be “generous givers, pious and to affirm beauty wherever they find it”. On the other hand it prohibits us from being “miserly, independent and cut off nor those who deny beauty”. For me reviving Western Islam means to translate the meaning of the Islamic traditions into modern idioms so that all can understand them. Reviving is not reforming, Islam doesn’t need reforming for as God says, “today we have perfected for you your religion and completed our favours upon you” (Al Maeda: 4).

Islam is about taking the moderate view, the middle option of the two ends of any given spectrum. Understanding the Islamic authentic teachings and applying the above principle to modern society is paramount

Karimia institute; an example of Mosque Based Learning Centre

Let me illustrate how British Muslims , like myself are striving and struggling to establish the moderate and peace building Islam. Here I want to use the example of karimia institute , a mosque based organization. We are clear about our aims, we understand the context of a modern society, and are focusing on the next generation, without alienating the elders and finally working in partnership with local government, council etc. These various activities are described below.

Mission statement

To help individuals and families learn life skills and Islamic values through education and recreation.

Core values:

1. Sense of individual worth

2. Justice and equality

3. Mutual cares and concerns

4. Sensitive to the needs of others and generosity in efforts for others

5. To work with integrity and honesty and give good value in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and economy

AIMS

Aims are to build God conscious, moral and just society, by promoting a balanced way of life, including inner and outer development of the person. The belief and values of Islam are coherent set of principles for successful and peaceful society. These values inspire and guide people to focus on goodness and refrain from evil. This is an effective way of nurturing good citizens.

Understanding the context

The institute runs two mosques in Nottingham, two nurseries, primary school and variety of youth clubs as well as the following projects;

A library, supplementary classes, adult education courses in English, IT dress making, Arabic,, Islamic studies, art and craft.

The institution has developed working relationship with local council, LEA, Police, PCT’s and FE colleges and interfaith council. The Institute recognizes the responsibilities of working in the deprived inner city areas with multiple deprivations; educational underachievement, unemployment, poor housing, asylum seekers, and high crime rates etc. The Institute provides vital services for the groups(see attached diagram).

We believe that good family life helps to build stronger and healthy communities. Therefore we provide pre and post marital advice and guidance as well as parenting seminars.

The Building Bridges project sponsored by the Home Office has played an important role in educating the city about Islam and in tackling Islamophobia, 20,000 leaflets about Islam were distributed to local schools and city council departments.

Youth work

Teenagers are the most vulnerable group and gullible to the materialistic temptations. They deserve special attention, as they are the future of the community. At Karimia our youth work is about tackling disaffection and preventing and reducing crime. We do this by providing learning environment, recreational activities and residential lcamps. Through these diversionary activities we are inspiring the young and training them to be good citizens. This is a tried and tested way of diverting young people from crime.

Young people are idealists and a positive force for social change so they need a sense of direction and mission. Our youth activities attract many youngsters who would otherwise be on streets and committing crimes.

At Karimia our focus has been around three areas

i. Raising educational achievements of school children through tutorial classes, home work clubs, SAT and GCSE revision classes and 3 weeks long summer school.

ii. Developing confidence through sports. We run coaching sessions form football and cricket throughout the year, Karate and Aerobics for women.

iii. Moral and spiritual development through Islamic studies, Quranic classes and Lectures.

Nearly 850 young people per week attend these programs

Partnership

We cannot do everything by ourselves since we may not have the expertise or the resources. Therefore we have to work with others. However this requires outward looking and open minded organisation, which is willing to work with others and share its resources. Partnerships are particularly effective for broader aims. We have been funded by the following:

SRB, several trusts, LEA, Primary health care group and we have had a fruitful partnership with the Pakistan Centre (with the help of LSC who have provided us with a fundraising manager for our projects). We formed TEEP (training, education and employment partnership). At Karimia, we have gone down this road of working in partnerships and accepting funding form statutory and no statutory funders.

The following points I think are valuable for anyone contemplating partnerships. There is a need to educate others, statutory bodies and fund providers about the nature of our work, the successes, services offered and concern for those who support our work. The best evidence of a success of any project is of course testimonials from recipients.

It is important to emphasise the facts that the organisations work does not only produce good in an individuals lives but it produces many goods for the wider society.

However the work that is funded by others may be minutely scrutinized to ensure accounts are carefully managed and serious probing questions will be asked about the success, costs and management and to track funds. Furthermore these funds cannot be used for Dawa work proselytising and to discriminate against anyone.

However those people who assume this tremendous burden and responsibility may already have heightened sense of responsibility. In fact their religious fervour demands they have a higher level of accountability, responsiveness and commitment than secular agencies. I certainly have noticed this in Karimia where my managers go beyond their call of service. Most have joined us because they are driven by faith to help and serve others. It will not be an exaggeration to say most of us view service to others as means of realizing our faith. I hope that our secular friends and agencies will notice this commitment to faith and the important role it plays in people’s life. As a consequence of this dedication to serve otherwise extremely efficiently in other words very cost effective.

Example of working with a disaffected teenager showing extremist tendencies: Mentoring proposal

Statement of Need

This young Muslim was referred to YISP by his school, he has been verbally and physically aggressive toward staff and students. These were in some instances linked to a terrorist agenda e.g. stating that his dad was Osama Bin Laden , that he wants to blow up white people and that he can make bombs. Alongside YISP intervention, it has been agreed that a muslim mentor will work with him to help him understand his identity, engage in positive activities and have the opportunity to talk through cultural/religious activities.

Proposed Action

Karimia Institute will provide a mentor from to work with this young person who can understand his issues and concerns and involve him in positive activities.

Benefits for Mentee

To have support from a male adult role model, to have the opportunity to engage him in positive activities, to be able to discuss issues which may be concerning him at home, at school or relating to mosque.

Mentor

To gain the experience in working with a young person at risk of offending, to increase knowledge of 1:1 support work, to work alongside a partner agency.

Nottinghamshire YOS

To gain valuable experience from Karimia Institute, to meet diversity needs, to reduce the young person risk of offending and to support the case manager.

Proposal for project

Madad Project: Education and Rehabilitation for Muslim Ex-offenders

Patron: Lord Ahmed of Rotherham

After leaving prison it can sometimes be difficult to find a job straight away. However, there are lots of opportunities out there for ex-prisoners to increase their prospects by improving their skills. Training courses and voluntary work can be the ideal way to build their confidence and give them something positive to talk about to future employers.

Aim and Objectives

Muslim prisoners who have been released or who are going to be released will be provided with mentors, from local Mosques or Muslim community organisations based in the relevant area. The aim is to prevent offenders from relapsing into crime. The prisoners will then be helped to re-adjust to life outside prison in regards to housing, welfare benefits, employment and health etc. We will run an educational programme to help them become law abiding citizens.

Proposed methodology

A coordinator with experience of working with ex-offenders will manage the project

1. The prison will contact the coordinator who will then contact the nearest local Imam or community organisation.

2. Training to be given to volunteers Imams and Community leaders in regards to mentoring, advocacy etc.

3. Muslim Hands to develop a database of all volunteer Imams or volunteers who will work closely with the prisoner.

4. We could also use workshops around the ex-prisoner to talk to other young people who might be at risk of offending or re-offending.

It’s important that we take this project seriously and remember that this is only a concept. It is vital that we sit down and take this plan forward and help the ex-prisoners to re-adjust to life outside prison and what strategies we could put in place to help these people. The committee members of the relevant mosque or community organisations will oversee the project.

Possible partners in Nottingham

Muslim hands; a muslim charity

SOVA Early intervention Castle Cavendish Business Centre, Dorking Road, Radford, Nottingham Ng7 5pn

Compass Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Service

Final thoughts and recommendations

Islam should be seen as a resource that guides Muslims, it gives purpose and meaning to life. It stresses the need for personal, social, moral and spiritual development. This positive approach to Islam will help probation service staff to engage more confidently with their clients.

The mosques and Islamic centres can be a helpful in rehabilitation of ex-offenders as well as partners in preventing and reducing levels of crime amongst young Muslims. However, they need a lot of capacity building.