Henry Jackson Society calls for the UK government to require mosques to reveal sources of overseas funding 
"Foreign funding for extremism in Britain primarily comes from Saudi Arabia, but the UK government should set up a public inquiry into all the funding sources from across the Gulf, a new report by the Henry Jackson Society has said." The Guardian, 5th July 2017.

This assertion by the Henry Jackson Society uses data appropriated from my biennial UK Mosque Statistics report to make claims that are pure speculative fiction. "The impact of this increased spending may well have been felt in Britain: in 2007, estimates put the number of mosques in Britain adhering to Salafism and Wahhabism at 68. Seven years later, the number of British mosques identified with Wahhabism had risen to 110."

Firstly the numbers: These are my counts of UK masjids with Salafi-oriented imams and managements. They are not 'militant' mosques in any definition and they are not in any way associated with any militancy, violence or criminal activity. Like all UK Salafis and most Salafis in that burgeoning movement, they are pietists who make very valid challenges to the complacent 'village Islam' of their own family elders with its absence of scholarship, perpertuation of superstition and total failure to explain itself to its own younger generations. The Salafi doctrinal analysis is that Islamic fiqh, practice of worship, has lost its connection with the Prophet (S) and his Companions (R). I disagree with that analysis, but I cannot dispute the validity of their motives in challenging stale, unaccountable and exclusive mosque management committees that year by year are further detached from the reality of Muslim life in the west.

Secondly, the funding: UK mosques are funded almost entirely from contributions sourced from the local neighbourhood. This is as true for marginal house conversions as it is for landmark projects. Only a very few of the 100-plus Salafi mosques are anything other than marginal developments, and even these are adaptations that have grown over several decades of incremental improvements. The typical funding profile of a UK masjid that has had any significant construction work done, adaptation or purpose-built, is 50%-plus of build costs paid for by small donations from the neighbourhood it serves, spread over 10 to 20 years, plus up to 45% paid for from a small number of wealthy businesses in that same neighbourhood, usually as gifts or 'karz-hasana' (religiously motivated loans, described virtuously in the Qur'an and to be repaid) and given only after the large volume, low value donations have been exhausted, plus perhaps 5% of build costs provided from systematic fund-raising drives around congregations of other mosques around the UK. This is just as true for Salafi-oriented mosques as it is for any of the others. And, like the majority of other UK mosques, the majority of Salafi ones are small, often temporary, house, shop or workshop conversions of marginal property at low cost and very limited budget. The nature of Salafi practice is such that they can budget lower than more orthodox Sunnis because they do not have the deferential attachment to a traditional regular imam who needs to be waged and housed, albeit at sub-continental rates.

There is almost never any funding of UK mosques from overseas. I was briefly fund-raising secretary of Croydon Mosque. My predecessor had secured a £30,000 gift from the Gulf as a contribution to its overall building spend of circa £1.5 million over 20 years. That gift was exceptional and was achieved through the notoriously radical, militant offices of Lord Wetherall, notable former Speaker and Tory MP for Croydon, on an official visit to the Gulf. When lesser persons approach any potential source of funds in the Arabian peninsula, the response is invariably begging belief at the risibility of the request: 'You have come from one of the wealthiest economies in the world, you are staying in a comfortable hotel (in Mecca, Madinah or wherever), for all UK Muslims' tribulations, you have a demonstrably higher level of education and economic well-being than most Muslims anywhere else in the world, and you expect us to donate money that you can perfectly well raise even in your own family!'

Yes Saudis and others do finance religious development programmes in many parts of the world, where there are large, poor communities of Muslims, and yes these projects do distort the allegiances of many of their beneficiaries. But the UK is not a case in point, and neither is anywhere else in any of the more advanced economies. Furthermore the Saudis do not have the human resources or at least people with sufficient inclination, to follow up on their infrastrusture projects with ideologically motivated imams and preachers. There are very few places outside of the Arab world where the imam of a mosque or other religious functionary is himself from the Middle East, least of all a Saudi. The growth of adherence to Saudi-influenced interpretations of Islamic practice are not through Saudi propagation, they are through non-Arab adulation and assimilation, and through deep dissatisfaction with the traditional and questionable alternatives. This dissatisfaction is spread through literature, but not literature from the Middle East, much of which is either poor quality and idiomaticly inapplicable, or very high quality standard works of classic scholars. Most of the critical Islamic literature actually comes from Britain and the USA! And it is paid for as modest 'vanity publishing' driven by local enthusiasts.

There are nine mosques in the UK that I know of that have had significant overseas funding: The previously-named 'Saddam Hussain Mosque' in Birmingham, on a whim of the eponymous donor in times when the UK had a very comfortable relationship with him; the Rabita in Goodge Street, London, which is explicitly the Saudis' Muslim World League office; Al Muntada in Fulham, which was very influential in cultivating Salafi-ism in London in the 1980s; Masjid at-Tawhid, the very personal project of Sohaib Hasan in Leyton; and the remainder being a scattering of mosques under the Al-Birr Foundation who, while nominally Salafi, are among the more liberal mosques in the UK. There is also King Fahad Academy in Ealing, whose issues and influences are well documented. All of these have substantial practical activities addressing and countering extremism and have done since they first realised that the challenges their Salafi adherents made against the Sunni mainstream, was making them targets of accusations of extremism. These accusations came and still come from intellectually lazy imams and management committees under threat to their complacent Indian sub-continental Islam, the Deobandis and especially the Bareilvis. The real problem is the delinquent failure of Bareilvi and Deobandi imams and scholars to provide an explanation of Islam that goes beyond what is required for a close-knit village in Sylhet, Mirpur or Surat.

What the Saudis have done, is open up Madinah University to numbers of enrollees to its Islamic Studies courses through the 1980s and 1990s. At minimal outlay by anyone, here they were taught the polemical Salafi doctrines of Abdul Aziz bin Baz and Nasruddin al Albani, themselves to a managed degree at odds with the Saudi establishment. For many of the students, especially from the UK, the tuition was largely second-hand and piecemeal, selected according to the excitement value of its divergence from Sunni orthodoxy. Second-hand because most of these students were notoriously poor performers and had little grasp of the Arabic lectures they attended. Nevertheless these returnees, graduating or often not, retain the kudos of having been "trained at Madinah University" and therefore highly influential among impressionable young Salafis and malcontents that had not made the trip. It is unfortunate, but the Saudi establishment has no means to regulate the claims of such British individuals.

So, if the UK Government has been reluctant to publish its findings over foreign funding of UK extremists, and, as I demonstrate above, there is zero-to-negligible funding channelled through UK Muslim institutions, what is the fuss about? In truth, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a very brittle structure. Its strength lies in an uneasy alliance in permanent tension between the decadent House of Saud and the peninsula's religious establishment. This alliance is rooted in the alliance between the polemical but orthodox Sunni scholar Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (the source of the intentionally derogatory term 'Wahhabi') and the peninsula's tribal warlord Muhammad ibn Saud. The alliance was rooted in their mutual hostility to Turkish Ottoman rule - the former because of its accretions of unislamic and decadent practices, the latter as a source of larcenous enrichment. Once political hegemony over the peninsula ceded to the Saudi tribe, in the 20th century, the political and military settlement required and gained religious legitimacy through the doctrinal alignment with the successors of ibn Abdul Wahhab's legacy. Religious legitimacy was essential because, of course, the territory includes Makkah and Madinah.

But not only is there a permanent tension between the theocracy and the monarchy, there are numerous schisms within both, and there are many peninsula families and tribes that would still challenge the legitimacy of the Saudi claims. Al Qaeda's clear goal was the overthrow of the Saudi regime. ISIS may have entrenched itself in Syria, but its ultimate fallback will be to disappear into Saudi Arabia and having demonstrated world-challenging capability once, its ultimate goal will also be to construct practical Islamic authority through usurpation of Makkah or Madinah. Once in place there, it will be extremely hard to challenge without world-shattering consequences. Meanwhile there is no shortage of disgruntled and often stupendously wealthy individuals who individually play off opposing peninsula factions, or create subtle or threatening embarrassments for the incumbent rulers, and thus strengthen their own positions in the increasingly likely eventuality of the fracturing of the House of Saud. Therewith would lie sources of terrorist funding, but it is not and doesn't need to be, a megabucks industry: the IRA Provos caused more carnage for longer, on a shoestring budget of US dollars. One thing it is not, is under the control of the Saudi state.

There are few political interests in the West that are served by undermining the Saudi state. Its contribution to a three-way balance of power between Israel, Iran and itself is crucial for all three countries and their allies to maintain their current political status quo. Of all the politically interested parties, the worst thing the UK could do for international stability would be to call out, not the Saudis' supposed funding of extremism, but the brittle weakness of the Saudi position, which would be exposed by any rigorous examination of Arabian peninsula terrorism funding. Political embarassment in an HMG official document on that scale could fundamentally undermine the status quo and ultimately give Al Qaeda, ISIS, or some as yet unknown entity, everything they desire together with open season on the Israelis and the Iranians alike. Is that really what the Henry Jackson Society wishes, or is their analysis as ignorant, lazy and stupid as reports such as the Guardian's seem to suggest?


[ view entry ] ( 5406 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 3 / 27126 )
The murder in Glasgow of Asad Shah 
The murder in Glasgow of an Ahmadiyya shopkeeper, Asad Shah, is a watershed event, if as it appears, it was motivated by anti-Ahmadi sentiment. In certain respects it is as significant for British Muslims as the indiscriminate murder of Londoners by the 7/7 bombers. The reason is that while anti-Ahmadiyya violence and murder is a recurring occurrence in Pakistan, and while Ahmadiyya/Muslim relationships in the UK have always been deeply, mutually hostile, there has never been any direct assault by any UK Muslim on any Ahmadiyya community member before, even less a brutal murder. Times are changing, and very much for the worse.

The propensity for UK Muslims to resort to and justify extreme violence has never been greater, and it is this factor alone that has changed to cause Asad Shah's murder. It might turn out that the murderer is someone who was inculcated with the vicious anti-Ahamadi beliefs of many 'activists' in Pakistan rather than here in the UK, but if that is the case, it still sets the change, and would, if true, beg serious questions of the murderer's UK-based associates unable to pull him back from his act. If the murderer has grown up here, in relative 'tolerance' in which the Ahmadiyya issue is generally treated with disdain, then the Glasgow murder must force the UK Muslim community to shake itself out of its apathetic, drugged stupor and fix its endemic sectarianism.

This is not about whether or not Ahmadiyya are Muslims - they have some very specific, unusual beliefs that are easily addressed - this is about the total failure of the UK Muslim community to have any kind of mutually respectful, intellectually informed, and collaboratively debated, discussion in any medium, of difference and diversity among ourselves. Because we cannot openly, honestly and respectfully discuss the actually miniscule differences that divide Bareilvis from Deobandis, or taqleedis from salafis, political Islam 'state-ists' from pietist 'quietists', or even Sunni from Shi'a, we habitually resort to polemics, hyperbolic claims about the despised-other's beliefs and practices. No other religion or belief system is so dysfunctionally failing in its ability to have sensible debates and discussions about its core beliefs. Even Richard Dawkins or Irshad Manji are willing and capable of having reasoned debate on an open platform.

Due to its delinquent inability to host informed, open, mutually tolerant and respectful, multi-sided debate, the UK Muslim community has completely failed to come to terms with the Ahamdiyya, and in hindsight perhaps an event like Asad Shah's murder was increasingly inevitable. But it is not trite to say that it should never have happened. The Ahmadiyya are a tiny community, about 25,000 people, heavily concentrated in Morden, south west London, which hosts its world headquarters. Its places of worship are the only ones of any religion where I have been prevented from entering, even after requesting an invitation. Its community is weirdly self-referential to the extent that it has the traits of a self-enforcing cult. It is not at all difficult to face down its curious claims, with both demographic facts and religious (Chrstian and Muslim) authority. Yet not only does it have a public profile massively exceeding its tiny presence, other than its own (actually profoundly troubling) exclusivity and intolerance of outsiders, it has numerous exemplars of quality community relations and engagement, not least Asad Shah. It is so far removed from the Muslim world that in the UK it has not a single case of anyone even remotely touched by extremist violence, except as a victim. And it even has one of its members, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, with the portfolio of Minister for Counter Extremism at the Home Office.

I have never indulged in a rant without attempting to formulate a solution. In this instance my solution is not a jot different to the problem of countering internal Muslim sectarianism:-

Step 1 Define Differences

I propose that a few key, local, knowledgeable, religiously respected people from the differing sects get together and pen some simple definitions of … not what their sect claims to be, because everyone claims to be the right sect …, but what distinguishes their own sect from the others. These definitions are shared with the other parties present and edited into a form of words that also reflects the other parties’ understanding of what the sect represents. We are trying to reach a common understanding of difference, not rightness, not justification. Then participants share these definitions with others to draw more factions in to the same process, until there is a common understanding of what each group represents that makes it different to the next group. This process was formulated for internal Muslim sectarianism, but, with humility borne of urgent necessity, should be extended to achieve mutually accepted definitions of the differences between Ahmadiyya and Muslims.

Step 2 Etiquettes of Tolerance

The next step is to agree a process by which each sect, in its own place of worship, refrains from referring to the other sects in any more malign terms than those of the definitions. In the background this requires coaching in tolerance and coaching in relevant Islamic history, beliefs and etiquettes. Participating masjids must actively promote the standard of behaviour among their regular attendees, their officers, their imams and madressah teachers and volunteer helpers.

Step 3 Publish and Promote the Definitions

The third step is (in its intra-Muslim formulation) to begin to open up access to masjid resources to non-management-backed factions and at the same time formalise the definitions. A set of behaviour protocols and the definitions is produced and displayed in each of the participating masjids. Visitors from other masjids, e.g. Tablighi Jama’ats, guest speakers etc. are required to take heed of the protocols and are encouraged to adopt the scheme. Hitherto dissenting individuals and factions that use the particular masjid are co-opted into accepting the definitions – this obviously requires tact, and it will also require direct encouragement from nearby bodies that the dissenters are happy with.

There is much, much more to this process to undermine endemic sectarian intolerance among Muslim sects, and I formulated it specifically to turn over the soil in which extremist dissent festers and grows into criminality. http://politics.muslimsinbritain.org/politics2.html#3.1

Up to now I have been reluctant to extend the model to include the Muslim/Ahmadiyya quarrels, because until now these have never manifested as criminality in the UK and are otherwise confined to a small part of Pakistan, and such is the disconnect among Muslims that any engagement of any kind with Ahmadiyya is regarded as a betrayal of Islam. But Asad Shah's murder changes that. The repercussions for all of the Muslim community, including those outside of the South Asian ethnicities who have probably never even heard of Ghluam Mirza Ahmed and his followers, are extremely serious. The Muslim community needs, for its own health and safety, a civilised relationship with the Ahmadiyya community regardless of their belief about us that we are hated munafiqeen who reject their messianic claims of Ghulam Mirza Ahmed, and our belief about them that their 140 year old messiah is an interloper. The Ahmadiyya story and belief is almost identical to the Baha'i story and belief, but in the UK we manage to avoid murdering Bahai'is and some even sit around the table with them at Inter Faith gatherings.


[ view entry ] ( 4635 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 2.9 / 28760 )
Sectarian chickens flock home to roost, eggshell thin security cracking open. 
Yahya Birt has very properly raised serious concerns about what looks like a witch-hunt by the Ministry of Justice or at least by the media on the MOJ's behalf, against the majority of its own Muslim Prison Chaplains due to their Deobandi origins. Playing the sectarian card: Britain’s Ministry of Justice is unfairly targeting Muslim prison chaplains. He specifically mentions the arch-sectarian Quilliam Foundation as the provider of ducking stools to prove the Wiccan intent of these perhaps 140 out of 200 Muslim chaplains.

Several ugly points arise from this development. Firstly is the extent to which sectarian influences from within the Muslim community have distorted Government's, and especially the major political parties' view of what constitutes extremism among Muslims. It is hard to imagine a less extreme, more safe-conservative, world-view than that of the largely Gujerati graduates of the half a dozen Deobandi Daar ul Uloom in the UK. Yet the anti-Deobandi sects, primarily the Bareilvi movement, have succeeded in pursuading gullible journalists and politicians that they themselves are the voice of moderation while their own children turn their backs on the mysteries of Bareilvi belief to join together and learn how to make the chemical bonds required for TATP.

Secondly is the complacency with which the Deobandi movement itself has continued its deference towards its own disengaged religious leadership with their heads in the sands of essentialist piety. Its Tablighi Jama'at grassroots maintain constant vigilance to ensure that the majority of UK masjids (moderate to a man) are the exclusive preserve of the Deobandi doctrines, oblivious to the frustrations of youth who want something more engaging than a lecture on the six points of tabligh ritually repeated every Thursday night. They remain oblivious to the increasingly underhand rearguard actions of Bareilvi "gatekeepers" and Biraderi votespinners who end up with council seats and directorships of entities such as Quilliam, the reciprocation of their own sectarian exclusiveness.

Thirdly is the irony that while the Deobandi spectrum is skewed well away from community engagement, among their intellectually capable and religiously schooled, it is these prison chaplains who will be far and away the most committed to engagement, the very ones who are being targetted for not being so. Furthermore, there should be no doubt that their experience of dealing with prison inmates will have forced upon them the need to be openly inclusive, anti-sectarian, and tolerant of all manner of deviations from the sanctified pure Islam of their safe upbringing. (This point is reinforced by a study that Yahya quotes in his blog, the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society’ research study on Muslim chaplaincy in Britain (2008–2011).)

Fourthly and finally, if the bulk of two thirds of the UK's Muslim chaplains are lost from that service, where on earth will they be replaced from? There is no credible 'liberal Islam' seminary training anyone. There is no credible Bareilvi seminary producing anyone but arch-sectarian Sufis, and actually only one of those. Again ironically, the best engaged, most knowledgeable and probably likely to be the most successful at turning lags back into civil citizens, are, yes, Salafis! Somehow I don't think that was what was intended.

In the absence of a credible and capable cadre of Muslim chaplains, there is every likelihood that extremist propagation in prisons will run unchecked and definitely unrecognised and uncountered. The outcome is that we all will be placed in substantially more danger from Muslim political violence due to this resoundingly stupid initiative. Who is to blame? Muslims may be tempted to blame the government, but in truth we ourselves are the origins of the sectarian powerplays that underly the policy.


[ view entry ] ( 4950 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 3 / 24351 )
Methodical terror in Paris and Brussells 
This website and its publications have claimed from the outset, that it is Muslims who are the intended victims of Al Qaeda and latterly ISIS. That is not in any way an attempt to divert sympathy and support from the all too numerous non-Muslims who have suffered, it is a statement about the strategy followed by these groups and their spawn. Mehmood Naqshbandi, August 2006: "Terrorist groups exploit these tensions to achieve three quite explicit objectives: ... most pertinently, (iii) to try to drive a wedge between Muslims settled in the West and their host communities.
The last tactic is part of a strategy to ‘purify’ Islam by removing it from decadent Western influence, and to return to an international situation where the borders of
Islam are distinct (and therefore controllable) from the non-Muslim world, in defiance of globalisation of borders.

Now, thanks to an article by Shiraz Maher in this week's New Statesman, you can read it in ISIS's own words without risking that knock on the door at 4am:

'All of this falls into a strategy where IS wants to eradicate what it calls the “grayzone” of coexistence. Its aim is to divide the world along binary lines – Muslim and non-Muslim; Islam and non-Islam; black and white – with absolutely no room for any shades of grey.

“The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatise and adopt the kufri [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffar [disbelievers] without hardship, or they [migrate] to the Islamic State,” says an editorial in Dabiq magazine. “The option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.”

Atrocities such as the Paris attacks are designed to put a strain on the “grayzone”, thereby polarising Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike. Indeed, this is precisely what Islamic State said it hoped to achieve after the Malian-French radical Amedy Coulibaly declared, in a video released two days after his death, that he had participated in the Charlie Hebdo attacks on IS’s behalf. “The time had come for another event – magnified by the presence of the Caliphate on the global stage – to further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere,” Dabiq said.'

"Why Isis seeks a battle with Western nations - and why it can't be ignored", Shiraz Maher, 22 November 2015.

ISIS has grabbed for themselves an important Muslim ethic, the principle that the dunya, the world, and everything in it, is of no value compared with the akhirah, the hereafter, and of no value compared with the worship of Allah alone. Muslims should have so little attachment to the dunya that they would be ready to leave it at any moment. This is not a fundamentalist ethic, it is the root of the principle of Islam, submission to the will of Allah. It is the principle which Sufis strive for no less than jihadis, real or cult-ist. The only difference is that ISIS has co-opted it into its own death-cult and applies it as a tool to exhort its followers into acts of violence that intentionally push the boundaries of human disgust. They are not mad, they are calculating. Their calculations are so cynically utilitarian that their followers earnestly believe they are making the ultimate sacrifice (and presume to gain the highest reward) in order to force Muslims 'back' to a life in conformity with the Shari'ah, or their absolutist, grim interpretation of it. The more they cause horror in their depravity, the less Muslims have inclination to seek a life in the West and the harder it will be to resist ISIS's exhortations to return to the Straight Path, or ISIS's twisted and mangled, soulless interpretation of it.

What that means for tackling ISIS and its progeny, is very significant. It means that whatever Western or Russian, or Iranian, or even local, forces do to remove ISIS from the territory it holds, and even if every single follower is killed, the idea will spread and grow in potency. So much has already happened - Iraq and post 9-11 Afghanistan drew in ten or a hundred times more militants than Bosnia; Syria and ISIS now draw in ten times again. The Dawlat of ISIS will probably evaporate, but its followers will disperse and filter into Saudi Arabia whence many of its supporters come from, and it poses an existentialist threat to that country's government which is weaker now than it has ever been. If ISIS's rump fights its final actions "defending" the Haramain, there will be few Muslims who will not feel compromised by not joining them. (An aside: The notion that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia backs ISIS is nonsense, but the numerous malcontents within KSA at every level, have no difficulty putting aside something to back them or presume to exploit them.)

So the bottom line is this: ISIS and its threat will not disappear, it will not even be contained, until every Muslim stands firm against ISIS and what it stands for. Not 'everyone including Muslims' but every Muslim ! This is not about Muslims condemning, saying, 'they are not of us', and it is not in the least about blaming Bush, Blair and co for the Iraq war: Saddam's removal was an opportunity for ISIS, not the root cause of ISIS. Yes if the Iraq invasion had not happened, the opportunity would not have come, perhaps, but only Allah knows. Muslims must on every level reject ISIS's death-cult perversion of the ethic of detachment from the world, and replace it with the detachment that says that jihad is to live in the world in the way of the Shari'ah and Sunnah, without it imposed on you, without you imposing it on others, fulfilling your duties to your neighbours, not least of which is that they should never have any reason to distrust you on any matter whatsoever. ISIS followers say they love death as we love life. The truth is that they are cowards that fear life in the way of the Sunnah, and fear not knowing how their deaths will be and the lifelong need to strengthen their imaan against doubt, and the possibility that they may now be wrong and that they might even live long enough to have remorse for their evil. Theirs is a death-cult which believes it can bring about that which Allah alone can bring about, including their own (worthless) deaths.

The struggle against extremism, militancy and 'jihadism' is not something Muslims 'have to put up with' or for Muslims to endure while governments take away the civil liberties of all of us and tabloid journalists demonise us, it is our own struggle. Not one of us should complain when we are told we are not condemning loudly enough, not doing enough to single out and expel 'extremists' from our midst. This website more than any other has provided demonstrable and factual evidence for the absence of extremist imams and preachers in our masjids; but the fight against ISIS and everything it has co-opted in the name of Islam, is our fight, Muslims' fight, and we will lose it unless we take it on with both hands.

And Allah alone knows best. Wa akhiru da'wana an al-hamdu li-Llahi rabb il-'alamin.


[ view entry ] ( 3323 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 2.9 / 28357 )
UK Mosque Statistics for 2015 
The MuslimsInBritain.org Mosques Statistics report for 2015 has just been published on my website, at www.MuslimsInBritain.org/resources/masjid_report.pdf.

I have not yet completed the updated political-boundary-related data analysis; this will follow next month, insha'Allah. Also, there are a few refinements that I intend to apply to the document as published, which will also follow shortly, insha'Allah.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

There are currently 1695 actual masjids in the UK, up from 1640 in October 2014.
The actual changes include 84 premises that are now defunct - some of those will be places that have been long defunct that I have caught up with and corrected, but about half are places that communities have moved from, so while the net increase is 55 new masjids, actually there are about 100 new masjids that have been reported to MuslimsInBritain.org in the last year of which about 40 are replacement premises.

About 460 masjids and organisations providing prayer space, are registered charities. (There are about 1100 organisations on the England and Wales Register of Charities that include the terms "Muslim" or "Islam" in their title or keywords.)

Deobandi-oriented masjids are still circa 43% of all UK masjids, with 25 more masjids thus associated in the last year.

Likewise Bareilvi-oriented masjids are still 24%, with 28 more.

Salafi-oriented masjids have increased from 7% to 8.6%, i.e. 155 masjids and 34 more than last year. Note the trend - there are significantly more new Salafi-oriented masjids than either of the old-guard 'mainstream', and this trend continues from the previous two years.

Most other identifiable orientations/flavours/denominations remain static. The number of non-denominational prayer rooms that I have recorded has shrunk considerably from 175 to 125 - this is down to more diligent checks on these often elusive locations.

This year I have introduced a few categories to cover those very few masjids who are able to justify their claims to be non-sectarian, and have recorded 5 "Inclusive, unaffiliated Sunni", 3 "Exclusive, unaffiliated Sunni" (who methodically ban all practices and events in their masjids except salaah), and 4 "Modernist" (who entertain interpretations of Islamic practice that are controversially distant from orthodox interpretations - these are all intolerant of alternatives to their own idiosyncratic practices).

Women's access to masjids is met by 70% of UK masjids, 100% for Shi'a, 95% for Salafi and 92% for "Arabic mainstream Sunni", (i.e. native Arab-speaking imams and managements who practice taqleed-oriented fiqh). However only 50% of Deobandi masjids, and 83% of Bareilvi ones, provide for women. This Deobandi figure is a drop from last year, but arises from my better understanding of the substantial Bangladeshi Deobandi influenced masjids. Very few Bangladeshi masjids of any persuasion have facilities for women, and this ethnic factor is one of the refinements I will be introducing to the report soon, insha'Allah.

My Muslim Council of Britain affiliates analysis shows that the MCB does entertain a diverse range of affiliates, but only 10% of Deobandi masjids have affiliated, though they are 40% of the MCB's masjid affiliates. 73% of 'Islamic Movement', Maudoodi-inspired masjids are affiliates, but are only 19% of the MCB's masjid affiliate composition. The MCB's claimed total of affiliates still includes 22 masjid organisations that are actually defunct,long-gone. The bottom line is that the MCB claims the affiliations of 197 or 12% of the UK's masjids.

On the other hand, while the British Muslim Forum is 99% Bareilvi, there has been no sign of activity from the BMF for many years. Recent claims in the press for an individual to be heading the "Muslim Forum", might be signs of a revival, but there has been no evidence of any actual entity by that name, or revival of the BMF either, that has crossed MuslimsInBritain.org's path. Were it functioning, the BMF would be claiming 231 affiliates, 14%; but apart from an open letter after the 7/7 bombing, there is next to no other evidence of the BMF's existence.

Meanwhile MINAB, which is very cagey about just who its affiliates are, has a non-functional website but claims 600 affiliates on Wikipedia. Based on data it published and then withdrew in 2011, I have identified just 93.

I have generated breakdowns of affiliates for some local groups, in particular Bradford and Tower Hamlets Councils of Mosques - the latter has one Bareilvi affiliate out of 54, the only one in Tower Hamlets, but 5 of the 7 Sufi Fultoli-influenced masjids there, demonstrating the significance of that body which is little known outside of Bangladeshi communities.

One significant change I have introduced is to rationalise my data on masjid managements' cultural/ethnic orientation. I only have this for about half the UK's masjids, but I have standardised it and associated it with regions as well. I would be the first to accept that it is contraversial - as generations pass, more of the people in charge of masjids are people who have been born in and identify primarily with the UK culturally. However I strongly contend that along with factional sectarian exclusiveness, cultural exclusiveness makes the masjid a very alienating place for neophytes, for users from other cultures, and especially for converts. I believe that such alienation is the principle reason for on the one hand, converts and neophytes turning to alternative narratives, including extreme ones, rejecting 'orthodoxy', and on the other hand, masjid managements claiming with total sincerity that they are totally opposed to extremism and violence, honestly denying they have any sign of it in their masjid, yet are completely flummoxed when families and children from their own neighbourhood community turn up in court on terrorism charges, or in Syria or Afghanistan.

Anyway, the masjid management ethnic association statistics show:

86.2% of UK masjids are exclusively managed by committees entirely culturally from the Indian subcontinent. I expect this figure to be bigger still when I identify more such data - it is only the more diverse managements that have more accessible inmformation that makes a point of their cultural diversity.
2.1% of UK masjids have committees or trustees made up from people from more than one continent.
Just a mere 6 masjids, 0.3%, have any converts/reverts at all, even just one, involved in running the masjid. After more than three generations in the UK, innumerable conversions/shahadahs, and abundant capable and articulate people to draw upon, that figure must be a national scandal for Muslims who consider the UK to be their future.

4 masjids have specific Saudi influence in their management, and 20, 1.9%, have Arabian peninsula or Levantine interests, including just one UK masjid with a single Syrian person involved. That last is a very significant consideration for the burgeoning refugee crisis as Asia Minor collapses. Likewise, there are 4 masjids with Kurdish influence.

Finally, about 800 masjids of the 1047 thus analysed, have committees and trustees that are exclusively Pakistani, or exclusively Bangladeshi, or exclusively Gujerati. The remaining 600-700 un-analysed, are most likely to be added to that last total.

Britain's 32 biggest masjids are listed - no special surprise and no change on previous years except removal of an erroneously overstated entry.

I have generated a breakdown of masjid sizes that corresponds approximately to house conversions, commercial conversions and new-builds, and 1000+ institutions, with last year's data to compare. There have been no changes at the big end, almost all new locations are around the 50 to 200 people sizes. This could either be because there is little demand for creating major masjids, or that major masjid projects have been regularly blocked. However, from a planning perspective, the organic growth of masjid projects from small to medium to large, has significant ramifications in residential areas where they start as house or small shop conversions.

Lastly I continue to publish the numbers of unique visitors to the website, and this continues to grow steadily. The directory underwent some major changes earlier this year to make it suitable for mobile devices, and traffic has grown to around 150,000 unique visitors per month. This large number, along with the statistic that states that I now claim and report first-hand knowledge of 887 out of 1834 places of Muslim worship (and 652 others with multiple corroboratory sources), and a library of several thousand photographs covering about 600 masjids, I hope emphasises the quality and credibility of the data I have sourced personally, and from a band of helpful supporters, and from the amorphous 'crowd' who submit a steady flow of arbitrary updates and corrections. Many thanks to any of you that have assisted with this project, and may you receive the benefit that accrues through helping others establish and run the masjids, and especially helping those who need to find a place to perform their ritual salaah, the ability to do so with safety and confidence.

The directory is of course on the website, at


Mehmood Naqshbandi
23rd September 2015


[ view entry ] ( 4233 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 3 / 28150 )

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Next> Last>>