Imams at British mosques have let down a generation of young Muslims by failing to reach young people who sometimes end up in prison, Ibrahim Mogra, chair of the mosque and community affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, has said - writes Trevor Grundy.
Following the publication of a report showing that the number of Muslims in British prisons has rocketed over the last 20 years, Mogra told ENInews, in an interview on 11 January 2012, that most Muslim clergy and mosques have finally realised that in houses of worship they are preaching only to the converted.
"They are now taking their message out to the youth," he said, "and this is excellent. The cocktail of issues facing young people today -- broken homes, difficulties with arranged marriages, drugs, the absence of male role models -- requires a unified effort. I am convinced that more and more imams and mosques will rise up and join that effort."
Ahysham Ali, Muslim adviser to Her Majesty's Prison Service, which manages most prisons in England and Wales, said in a 10 January story in the Times that the Muslim population behind bars in Britain has rocketed to 10,600 in 2011 from 1,957 in 1991.
Muslims represent 12.6 per cent of the total prison population in England and Wales compared with a proportion of about three per cent of the general population.
Ali described it as "a tragedy" and pointed the finger at out-of-touch imams who were often recruited from countries in the Middle East to work in the UK. But many of them, he said, could speak hardly a word of English.
"It is a tragedy," said Ali. "I have seen youngsters, the next generation, just totally switch off from it (religion). This is dangerous. It allows others to take advantage, to take up the vacuum."
Mogra told ENInews that he agreed with Ali that too many imams were concerned only with the rituals of faith, such as the correct length of the beard, rather than making mosques more attractive to young men and women.
But he said encouraging signs were on the horizon adding, "hundreds of imams and mosques have woken up to the dangers faced by the youth and have been preaching solutions and remedies against them. They are now taking their message out to the youth ... Where there has been local authority support, specific projects have been set up in mosques, madrassas [schools] and Muslim community centres to tackle crime and drugs."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]