By GRAHAME ANDERSON
The ‘Women in Mosques Development Programme’ is a six-month pilot training and mentoring scheme designed to support potential female leaders. It’s hoped the project will help women navigate their way through the boardrooms of mosques and other third sector organisations.
A Pilot Programme
This pilot programme is one of a number of 2018 initiatives planned by the Muslim Council of Britain to support capacity building of Muslim communities. It comes in the light of recent research carried out by the Charity Commission, revealing men outnumber women in all charity trustee boards by two to one. In fact, many of the UK’s mosques have few or no females at all on their trustee and management boards.
The initiative also comes after the Muslim Council of Britain recently launched ‘Better Mosques A Community Consultation’ – a nationwide project where anyone is welcome to submit their ideas on how mosques can become better in Britain today.
Encouraging Talented Women
It’s designed to accelerate 15 Muslim female leaders into mosque and third sector trustee and management roles using a number of methods. These include assigning a mentor to each individual, and networking with mosques and charities actively looking to recruit female trustees and managers. Students will also receive bespoke media and Charity Commission guidance training. There will also be visits to best practice mosques across the UK
Back in February more than 200 mosques across the UK opened their doors to people on of all faiths, on ‘Visit My Mosque Day’, facilitated by the Muslim Council of Britain, for the fourth year running.
Prime Minister, Theresa May, attended the Maidenhead Mosque explaining: “This was a great opportunity to learn about Islam and see that it’s a religion of peace”. The Leader of the Opposition paid a visit to a local Mosque in Finsbury Park, while the mosque at the centre of the Grenfell Tower response, Al-Manaar, welcomed London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who told the media: “This was a day to increase understanding and celebrate the important role mosques play in bringing the local community together.” The presence of all all three leaders was looked upon as also offering great encouragement to women.
Five new mosques have opened their doors in Bradford in the past year taking their number up to around the 110 mark. The city will also become home to the UK’s first mosque run by women, for women, if plans come to fruition. Of the 260,000 women in the city, some 70,000 are Muslim.
Dr Shuruq Naguib, Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Lancaster University has said in support of the project: “It’s quite ironic Muslim women who in the past really changed the landscape of many Muslim cities with mosques that they built from their own wealth, which they managed and governed as the endowers today in the 21stCentury can’t find a place in the mosque, neither in its management nor in its spiritual space.
“This mosque in Bradford is hopefully going to be a flagship, to show that a mosque is an egalitarian place, a place where men & women are welcome, but women are also encouraged to lead.”
Creating A Good Balance
Research carried in parliamentary briefing has shown at present in the UK around 15 per cent of women are involved in management of mosques. In the North 23 per cent of mosques have females on their board, compared with 28 per cent in the Midlands and 40 per cent in the South.
Many community leaders believe this lack of diversity in mosques is unacceptable. The MCB as a pro-active group thinks it’s essential for the management boards of mosques and third sector organisations in general to reflect the communities they serve in order to function effectively. They cite a responsibility to ensure an intolerant attitude to women should not given the oxygen to thrive in any community
Mujidat Mebude, Education Officer from Old Kent Road Mosque in London says, “My mosque values women and is open to all women from different backgrounds. Mobilising and training young women is vitally important to help develop beneficial services that our mosques provide across the country.”
Support From The General Secretary
Harun Khan, MCB Secretary-General, Harun Khan says: “Whilst the under representation of women in mosque management has been acknowledged for long enough, it’s time more tangible action is taken to ensure women are given equal and fair access in all aspects of mosque life.
“We are aware there are a growing number of Muslim activists who are leading their university Islamic societies, running campaigns and driving forward their local youth groups. It is time we celebrate the immense contributions Muslim women are already making to our institutions, and ensure these contributions are also appreciated and find a home in the many mosques up and down the UK too.”
Important Council Facts
The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
The scheme will be reviewed on its completion, and there are plans to launch a similar programme for men at a later date.
The ‘Women in Mosques Development Programme’will run between July and December 2018. Applicants can apply online by 30 April at www.mcb.org.uk/women-in-mosques