Muslim Parliament logo
Muslim Parliament
The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain
Links Links go to homepage

In the media

Novice imams must be vetted, Muslim leaders say

By Stefanie Marsh
The Times, London, 25 September 2004

CHILDREN who go to mosque schools are vulnerable to beatings and abuse by religious teachers who consider themselves above the law, leading Muslims have said.

Reformist Muslims are now calling for the creation of a regulatory body to vet and train prospective imams after a court case this week in which a Koranic teacher was convicted of beating an 11-year old pupil with a stick.

Opponents of the current system, which allows so-called “rookie clerics” to take up high-ranking positions in mosques or madrasahs without teaching qualifications or background checks, complain that many mosques are run “as if they are situated in the sub-continent”. Member of the congregation who make a complaint about an imam are ignored, ostracised or threatened, it is claimed.

Critics say that intractable traditionalism among community elders combined with the zealotry of foreign-born imams are to blame for a culture of secrecy in mosques, where crimes such as physical or sexual abuse are sometimes covered up and where dissent is not tolerated. Because the majority of imams practising in Britain’s 1,200 mosques come from abroad, it is often impossible to check whether they have a criminal record.
Victims of such crimes have said that they had been intimidated by their mosque’s council for having allegedly brought shame upon their community by going to the police.

One man, who discovered a young boy being sexually molested in a mosque, told how mosque officials ignored the complaint and tried to prevent him from notifying the police. Another man, who complained to the authorities when his son was beaten by an imam, and has subsequently installed security cameras in his house for fear of retribution, said: “It wouldn’t bother them to put a petrol bomb through my door.”

Victims are critical of mosques for not doing enough when serious crimes are reported or automatically taking the side of the imam in question.

One Muslim women, whose daughter was sexually assaulted by an imam in a mosque, was threatened with violence by members of the mosque council and spat at on the street for having helped to secure the man’s conviction.

Another victim, a 67-year old man with a heart condition, described how he was beaten to the ground by an imam in a mosque in London for having attempted to stop the preacher from hitting a boy. He had retracted a complaint to the police because he feared being attacked himself.
“Imams treat mosques like embassies where they have diplomatic immunity from the law,” he said. “At the moment anyone who can read some Arabic can be a priest.

“Only a minority are British-born, the rest are imported. They could be criminals. It’s time people realised these people need to be educated.”

Critics of the current system, where each mosque operates autonomously and is not answerable to any governing body, say that mosque council members often rely solely on word of mouth when recruiting imams, who are in desperately short supply in Britain.

Many British-born Muslims, especially women, feel that they want to be represented by imams who have grown up in Britain and understand British culture.

This summer the Government introduced legislation that will force foreign clerics arriving in the country to speak a good standard of English, but they will not be required to pass any other tests.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the leader of the Muslim Parliament, said that many imams, 85 per cent of whom are born abroad, have “an ambivalent relationship with the law” and are unaware that corporal punishment, which is practised in the sub-continent, is illegal in this country.

“Many mosque schools are simply run by untrained activists or not very educated elders of society,” he said.
“There are people who are simply not responsible in their treatment of children, and lapses are likely to happen.”

 

 

 

Media archive

Shariah Queries Pose Challenge

Gaza and the radicalisation of British Muslims

Law to protect the young must cover madrassas as well

This is no way to fight terror

A marriage of convenience will not do

Frustrated love and forced marriage

Changing the face of Muslim family life

New model Muslim marriage contract ‘revolutionary’ for UK women

British women who paid dearly for not registering their marriages

New Sharia law marriage contract gives Muslim women rights

Is this the beginning of a new European Islam?

Compulsory lessons urged on forced marriage and 'honour' violence

Law and principle are lost in the crazy politics of 42 days

A shaming victory - Brown 42 days

Islam's holiest city set for 130-skyscraper redevelopment

No more mosques, says senior Synod member

Muslim reformer's 'heresy': The Islamic state is a dead end

Intellectuals condemn fatwa against writers

Met 'let down' victim killed by her family

Divisions In Our World Are Not The Result Of Religion

Home secretary accused of putting off vote on terrorism bill

Muslim leader says families must help catch honour killers

Blasphemy caused by cuddly animals

Mistake to curb liberties in response to 7/7, says minister

Asim Siddiqui: Beyond Hizb ut-Tahrir

Naomi Klein: Why failure is the new face of success

Naomi Klein: The erasing of Iraq

Naomi Klein: The age of disaster capitalism

Special units to crack down on honour killing

Can Culture Be Bought In the Gulf?

Luxury timeshares on offer at Islam's holiest pilgrimage site

The shortest route to peace… is through Jerusalem

Pope and Islam - Muhammad's Sword

Pope and Islam -
Roots of rationality

Removal of men from holiday flight condemned

How Islam got political: Founding fathers

MPs fear police terror raid will hit community relations

Muslims question terror raid tactics

A pantomime in Forest Gate

Sudan’s Turabi - Muslim women can marry Christian or Jew

Faith leaders unite to champion supportive care for terminally ill

Warning on Muslim schools 'abuse'

Government urged to introduce registration scheme for religious Islamic schools

Call for national register of mosque schools

A call to protect Madrasa-goers from abuse

Abuse widespread in Islamic schools, says Muslim leader

Madrassa children ‘at risk of abuse’

Islamic schools in denial about child abuse

Muslim rally organisers tell extremists to stay away

Calls to scrap holocaust day slammed

The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage

Britain to rebrand ethnic minorities

Live chat with the leader of the Muslim Parliament in Britain

Religious leaders braced for more faith-hate attacks

Police investigate 'backlash' attacks

Fanatics realise worst fears of Muslims

Muslims, do not be fooled by this law

Prisoners freed a year ago struggle to rebuild their lives

Muslim leaders consult other faiths for advice on stamping out abuse

Could the tsunami disaster be a turning point for the world?

Muslim men use law loophole to get a harem of ‘wives’

Novice imams must be vetted, Muslim leaders say

End these detentions

Muslim leaders blame Blair’s war on Iraq for growing alienation

End this internment now

Under siege on all sides, Muslims plead for peace

Islamic weddings leave women unprotected

Muslim leaders attack extremists' claims

Talking Point Forum interview with Dr Siddiqui

Focus on forced Asian marriages

British High Court judge condemns forced Asian marriages

Islam and the voice of reason

Passionate debate on a landmark in race relations

Leave us Muslims out of the anti-terror laws