Although Muslim leadership in Britain has long been the focus of scholarly attention, discussion has tended to prioritise “official” Muslim leaders (Birt 2006; Geaves 2008; Ahmad and Evergeti 2010). However, what constitutes a “Muslim leader” is increasingly contested, revealing instead a diversity of authoritative ‘claim makers’ and representative positions (Jones et al. 2015). These contestations were a recurring theme throughout the Leadership, Authority and Representation in British Muslim Communities
conference (Gilliat-Ray and Timol 2019). Building upon these debates, this article considers how Muslim teachers can be considered Muslim leaders within their local contexts. This paper draws on qualitative research with 21 ‘Muslim RE teachers’ across England to consider how their experience and positioning as ‘role models’ for Muslim and non-Muslim pupils brought considerable influence to represent Muslims, affect school policy and practice, and shape “official” Islamic discourses in their local communities. I argue that their experience reflects what can be considered as ‘Muslim leadership’ on the broader scholarly terrain, but as a form of ‘tactical’ Muslim leadership by virtue of existing within the confines of “secular” institutions. As such, this article concludes by calling for the recognition of Muslim leadership beyond national, ‘strategic’ forms to more ‘tactical’, contextually bounded cases.
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