LONDON: Mosques in the UK should hire British-born imams to promote better integration into British life, according to recommendations in a new report published today.
'Missing Muslims: Unblocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All', commissioned by the Citizens UK charity, reports that many imams are born and educated overseas, preventing Islamic communities in the country from integrating.
"The management committees of a number of the UK's mosques need to better understand, and respond to, modern British life," said the report, produced at the end of an 18month inquiry chaired by former UK attorney general Dominic Grieve.
"It is of great importance that British-born imams, who have a good understanding of British culture and who fluently speak English, are encouraged and appointed in preference to overseas alternatives," it notes.
The central remit of the inquiry was to examine how the participation of Muslims in public and community life could be improved across Britain.
The 76-page report published today says "British Muslim experiences are more diverse than is often assumed".
"Mosques should invest in British-born imams who are to be paid a decent living wage, funded by Muslim institutions in the UK, and equipped with pastoral skills so they are able to deal with the challenges facing British Muslims," it says.
The inquiry found a lack of integration between Muslims and the majority white British population was most apparent in areas of high deprivation, "which points to the need to address structural barriers, including a lack of economic opportunities and discrimination".
"Polls demonstrate significant scepticism across British society about the integration, and even the shared allegiance, of British Muslim fellow citizens," Grieve said at the report launch.
"In turn, British Muslims have mixed views about the extent to which they have equal status or access to equal opportunities within the UK. This dynamic creates the risk of a downward spiral of mutual suspicion and incomprehension, which makes the need for action to break down barriers and bring people together even more necessary," he said.
The report suggests that British Muslim umbrella bodies must introduce voluntary standards for mosques and Islamic centres that address issues of governance and equal access to leadership opportunities for youth and women.