An initiative to improve the quality of British mosques has been launched.
The “Better Mosques: a Community Consultation” is a nation-wide exercise to determine how mosques can best share good practice and strive to raise the quality of service they offer to congregants and the community around them.
It was launched at a Muslim Council of Britain conference in London on Sunday entitled “Our Mosques, Our Future” which saw over 450 mosque leaders and activists come together to debate the challenges and opportunities facing mosques in Britain today.
Speaking at the conference, Harun Khan, MCB Secretary General, said: “Many mosques in Britain are already doing amazing work and our objective must be to share that good practice and inspire even more mosques towards excellence.
“Today’s consultation launch invites the views of mosques and local communities on how best we can achieve this and the MCB is committed to working with all our stakeholders and partners to make sure the consultation results are translated into real tangible action afterwards.”
There are over 1,750 mosques in the UK serving Britain’s three million Muslims. While all offer a space to pray in congregation, many of the UK’s mosques also act as hubs for the local community.
Difficult questions on the challenges faced by mosques in Britain were also tackled at the conference including Islamophobia, governance good practice and access for women, as well as other workshops on creating safe spaces for young people, disability inclusion and dealing with the media.
The conference heard that many mosques are “not fit for purpose” and risked becoming “defunct” if they did not become more like community centres.
Many mosques are still run solely as places of prayer, said Ishtiaq Ahmed, co-founder of the Bradford Council of Mosques. Funding was part of the problem, he said. “[There are] Islamic charities in the UK which get millions in funds raised from UK donors. With a few exceptions, investment in the UK is not a priority for them.”
The National Zakat Foundation focuses spending in the UK and helped to distribute funds to Grenfell victims. The charity’s CEO, Iqbal Nasim, said that too little zakat money was donated to local causes. He said this had contributed to severe problems within Muslim communities in Britain, including above-average levels of unemployment, poverty and health difficulties. Mr Nasim said Muslims could still donate separately to overseas aid but zakat was different.
“Zakat is not charity,” he said. “It is more like a tax. It is supposed to be focused on the local areas where supporters live.”
Mr Nasim said zakat was worth up to £500 million each year if full dues were paid. Spending this in the UK would transform Muslim communities, he said, alleviating poverty and promoting Islam.
Mr Ahmed told the “Our Mosques, Our Future” conference that more funding was needed for community projects. “Our mosques are by and large not fit for purpose,” he said. “We cannot allow them to become defunct.”