A simple challenge to us all!

I was shocked by the disclosure of appalling sexual abuse of young girls in the town.

All of us in Rotherham must ask ourselves how we came to fail our young people so badly.

It comes hard on the heels of the realisation that hundreds of young British Muslims have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State.

On the face of it, there is no obvious connection between the two. But if we are to prevent a repeat of these disturbing events, the British-Pakistani community must confront some uncomfortable truths.

One of the most important of these is that most of Britain’s 1,400 mosques – which traditionally provide moral leadership and guidance to Muslim communities – are incapable of performing such a role in 21st Century Britain.

Some mosques try hard to help young Muslims, others fail dismally and, in my view, this has been a major contributory factor to the problems we face with young British-Pakistani adolescents.

Many mosques have no idea how to lead or guide young men struggling to come to terms with being a Muslim in a modern country.

Many mosques are dangerously cut off from the rest of society, rooted in the ancient world, not the modern one.

This approach is reflected by the way imams behave. Many rarely mix with other faiths, which is wrong. They should be encouraged to visit other places of worship to break down barriers between faiths and learn how others tackle these problems.

This inward-looking view is mirrored by the proliferation of satellite TV stations, on which rival British-based Sunni and Shia imams attack each other.

They get big audiences, with some Muslim families in Britain never watching the BBC or Sky, increasing the sense of alienation from the community…Politicians have expressed concern at the way some of these stations receive funding in the UK under the guise of charitable donations.

But it would be wrong to lay all the blame with imams. The heart of the problem lies in the way mosques are run – and who runs them.

Mosques are much more than a place of worship: they are about money and power, too. Most are wealthy and, unsurprisingly, the people with their hands on the purse strings wield much influence – meaning they have become power bases.

Mosques are run by what are known in Muslim communities as tribal elders. No qualification is needed to become one – it often has more to do with age or family connections than wisdom.

Sometimes elders appoint themselves and, once there, it is impossible to remove them,

Even if an imam wanted to discuss these matters, they could not do so for one simple reason: the elders would refuse to pay them and they would be sacked.

The elders are oblivious to the fact that growing up in a town such as Rotherham is more complicated than in a remote village in the mountains of Pakistan.

But mosques will never be reformed until there are drastic changes to the way they are run.

There is no formal structure, no transparency, no financial accountability, no elections, nor are they accountable to any form of body.

I cannot think of any other organisation in this country with such influence and vast resources that is allowed to operate with such little scrutiny.

This is not acceptable.

This brings me back to my argument that, although worlds apart, the British Muslims in The Rotherham sex abuse scandal and those fighting for IS have a common factor: you can be sure that they regularly went to their local mosque.

Clearly, no responsible Muslim would claim the actions of either were anything other than a betrayal of their faith – as well as being illegal. But, in my opinion, it is equally clear that mosques are not doing enough to provide strong moral leadership to young British Muslims.

Nobody would suggest that the answer to all these problems can be found by changing the way mosques are run. But given their hugely important role, they are a good place to start.

This issue must be addressed now and not swept under the carpet, as I fear it will be by many mosques.

‘Shocked’

6 thoughts on “A simple challenge to us all!

  1. Many, many people, are religious, however it doesn’t control there life’s. In fact as they become older they are somewhat less believing of what they have been told, when they were younger. And you do not need religious instruction or guidance, to know what is right or wrong. Raping of children, by gangs of men, is not religiously or morally defensivable, by any stretch of the imagination. The first teaching of any religion should be, treat others as you would want to be treated – RESPECT YOUR NEIGHBOUR.

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  2. “It comes hard on the heels of the realisation that hundreds of young British Muslims have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State.”
    Hundreds ? Were did you get your figures from?
    How many have gone from UK to fight against ISIS – including those fighting with the Kurds it is likely to be an equal if not greater number.

    But yes, a core problem is that so many Imams are recruited directly from the country that the Mosque adherents families originally came from; and have no experience of the British way of life.

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    • So all those that attend the Mosque, are think bastards, who can’t make up there own minds and informed decisions, ie Rape of children is wrong?

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  3. It is time our Government got to grips with these places. EVERY Mosque in this country is a potential terrorist training centre and I believe many are. Why are they so uncontrolled? It’s called positive discrimination, we must not upset these people because they are Muslims.
    Successive governments have failed to control these people and places and appear scared of them. Why? they are a minority for goodness sake, they contribute very little to our society, they abuse us at every end and turn and in all I believe they are a drain on our society.
    They should be told in no uncertain terms that they are more than welcome to live here PROVIDING they comply with British laws and the British way of life. They are also very welcome to leave if they want to live in an Islamic State instead of trying to turn Britain into one. I for one don’t want to live in an Islamic State.

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