No evidence imams radicalize British Muslims, says research

    There is no evidence that imams preaching at mosques are doing anything to radicalise young British Muslims, according to a research conducted by the University of Chester. The findings published on Friday contradict the British government’s controversial claim of blaming mosques as part of its strategy to defeat the threat of terrorism. But the research for BBC, surveying 300 mosques carried out by Chester University in north-west England, suggested some of the imams lack the language and skills to help tackle the threat from extremism. “Imams face competition from groups who wait outside mosques to hand out leaflets and are prepared to talk to young people in English about issues such as discrimination and UK foreign policy in the Middle East,” it said. The findings included that only 6 per cent of imams who preach at mosques speak English as a first language and almost 45 per cent had been in the UK for less than five years. The majority speak Urdu as a first language, with 50 per cent of imams from Pakistan, 20 per cent from Bangladesh and 15 per cent from India. Only 24 of the 300 imams surveyed were born and educated in the UK, which the report said did not reflect the percentage of British- born South Asian Muslims who represent more than half of Britain’s two million community. It also found that at Friday prayers, although 52 per cent of imams gave sermons in Urdu, the use of English was becoming more prevalent and suggested more investigation is required to assess the frequency and quality. The report’s author Professor Ron Geaves said the aim was to look at the ability of imams to adapt to modern Britain and that the study revealed “a deeply conservative body of individuals” qualified in the traditional Islamic curriculum. “Although there are social religious and political reasons that drive a need to transform the imamate to a 21st century British context there is as yet little sign of the mosque imams or their employers being ready to professionalise,” Geaves said. Before stepping down from power last month, Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled plans to provide significant funding to train imams in Britain and change the teaching of Islam at UK universities. “We need to do to encourage the right intellectual and academic debate,” Blair said at the opening of a two-day international conference on Islam in London on June 4. It came after Attorney General Lord Goldsmith announced that specialist prosecutors were beginning to work with police officers to improve how they target extremist preachers. The government also separately announced the creation Faith and Social Cohesion Unit at the Charity Commission, aimed to strengthen governance in mosques to make them less susceptible to takeover by minority groups.

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