Special Issue "Leadership, Authority and Representation in British Muslim Communities"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 April 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Website
Guest Editor
School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK
Interests: Muslims in Britain; imam training; leadership; chaplaincy; secularization; sociology of Muslim communities; Islamic movements
Dr. Riyaz Timol
Website
Guest Editor
School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK
Interests: Muslims in Britain; secularization; sociology of Muslim communities; Islamic movements; intergenerational transmission; conversion / de-conversion; British Muslim identity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue explores issues of leadership within British Muslim communities. Leadership takes many forms. It includes liturgical and ritual leadership from imams (who may be paid, unpaid, or low-paid) and educational leadership from academics or those serving in madrassahs, seminaries and other kinds of private establishments.  It encompasses both women and men and is exercised in increasingly diverse ways, such as virtual forums online or Islamic television channels. Religious leadership is also provided by an elite group of professionals with expertise in Islamic law, who may carry the title ‘mufti’ or ‘ayatollah’, or by Sufi shaykhs who provide guidance for their disciples.

Political leadership has emerged via a number of British Muslims taking up positions within local and national governance, some of whom have acquired senior government positions such as the current Mayor of London Rt Hon Sadiq Khan or Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Alongside this, a range of regional and national organisations have developed to ‘represent’ the interests of Muslim communities in civil society, often headed by those with skills derived from a variety of public service and charitable roles. Bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain and their affiliates exercise national influence while various councils of mosques claim to advocate on behalf of broad regional congregations. Muslim leadership roles have seen further diversification in recent decades through incorporation into professions such as chaplaincy and youth work, while those British Muslims in senior positions within the media, or the third sector, often function as influential spokespeople. Others who have succeeded in the public eye, such as Sir Mo Farah CBE or Nadiya Hussain for example, act as ‘role models’ garnering followings among a wide cross-section of British society.

This special issue explores the myriad ways in which British Muslims exercise leadership in a range of sectors. As such, we welcome the submission of articles that explore the ways in which leadership roles are changing in relation to the broader development of British Muslim communities and organisations, alongside changes in British society more generally. We interpret ‘leadership’ broadly, but are especially interested in the work of salaried ‘Muslim religious professionals’, by which we mean those who derive their livelihood from their employment as imams, chaplains, Muslim youth workers, and so on. The work of those employed to train these leaders is also of interest.

By focussing on British Muslim community leadership, the articles in this volume will provide systematic focus on a topic that has hitherto been given rather diffuse consideration. It will complement historical work on community leadership (Birt 2008, Birt 2008, Geaves 2009), as well as more contemporary discussion about the training and role of imams and Muslim chaplains in Britain (Lewis 2002, Birt 2005, Birt 2006, Gilliat-Ray 2006, Gilliat-Ray 2008, Gilliat-Ray, Ali et al. 2013, Hafiz 2015). There is merit in exploring issues of leadership from an interdisciplinary perspective, in order that scholars of religion, sociology, political science, history, and Islamic Studies can bring synergistic focus to a topic of current academic and political debate.

This special issue is in conjunction with a conference organised in the Cardiff University. Please find detailed conference information by clicking on the link: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/islamukcentre/conference-on-leadership-authority-and-representation-in-british-muslim-communities/ .

Prof. Dr. Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Dr. Riyaz Timol
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Leadership
  • authority
  • representation
  • chaplaincy
  • institutions

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Women in Britain’s First Muslim Mosques: Hidden from History, but Not Without Influence
Religions 2020, 11(2), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020062 - 28 Jan 2020
Abstract
Two of the earliest Muslim communities in Britain evolved around the first mosques in Liverpool and Woking (both—1889). The history of these early British Muslims is being recovered but little is known about the women (usually converts) in these communities. This article will [...] Read more.
Two of the earliest Muslim communities in Britain evolved around the first mosques in Liverpool and Woking (both—1889). The history of these early British Muslims is being recovered but little is known about the women (usually converts) in these communities. This article will draw upon original findings from archival research, to examine ‘leadership’ that women in these communities undertook and their influence in shaping their nascent British Muslim communities. The practical, theological and philosophical negotiations around gender roles, female leadership, and veiling and the social contexts within which they took place are examined. By uncovering historical responses to issues that remain topical in British Muslim communities, this article provides historical grounding for contemporary debates about female Muslim leadership in British Muslim communities. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Towards Contextualized Islamic Leadership: Paraguiding and the Universities and Muslim Seminaries Project (UMSEP)
Religions 2019, 10(12), 662; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120662 - 05 Dec 2019
Abstract
The Universities and Muslim Seminaries Project (UMSEP) addresses three key issues in the narrative of Muslim communal identity and religious leadership in Britain today: firstly, the need for the accreditation of Darul Ulooms (Muslim seminaries) and external validation of their programmes; secondly, understanding [...] Read more.
The Universities and Muslim Seminaries Project (UMSEP) addresses three key issues in the narrative of Muslim communal identity and religious leadership in Britain today: firstly, the need for the accreditation of Darul Ulooms (Muslim seminaries) and external validation of their programmes; secondly, understanding the career trajectories of Darul Uloom graduates, and exploring good practice; thirdly, understanding emerging leadership models in the British Muslim community. This project is a community-led, positive response to a large Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded research project (Re/presenting Islam on campus) conducted between 2015–2018, which identified discrimination against Muslim staff and students and the politicization of their identity due to counter terror securitisation measures. The community project summarized here in interim form proposes powerful and informed antidotes to discrimination: pathways to mutual recognition in higher education. We used interviews, workshops, and surveys and triangulated our findings to draw our draft conclusions. Firstly, we found enough interest in universities and Darul Ulooms to proceed with accreditation for an Islamic course with the same standing as a degree. Secondly, we identified barriers to career pathways for Muslims. Thirdly, we developed new models of Muslim community leadership, most notably Muslim chaplaincy with spiritual components: a career path with specific significance for Muslim women. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Shedding Light on the Modalities of Authority in a Dar al-Uloom, or Religious Seminary, in Britain
Religions 2019, 10(12), 653; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120653 - 29 Nov 2019
Abstract
‘God is the Light of the heavens and the earth…’ (Quran, 24:35.) This article sheds light on the modalities of authority that exist in a traditional religious seminary or Dar al-Uloom (hereon abbreviated to DU) in modern Britain. Based on unprecedented insider access [...] Read more.
‘God is the Light of the heavens and the earth…’ (Quran, 24:35.) This article sheds light on the modalities of authority that exist in a traditional religious seminary or Dar al-Uloom (hereon abbreviated to DU) in modern Britain. Based on unprecedented insider access and detailed ethnography, the paper considers how two groups of teachers, the senior and the younger generation, acquire and shine their authoritative light in unique ways. The article asserts that within the senior teachers an elect group of ‘luminaries’ exemplify a deep level of learning combined with practice and embodiment, while the remaining teachers are granted authority by virtue of the Prophetic light, or Hadith, they radiate. The younger generation of British-born teachers, however, are the torchbearers at the leading edge of directing the DU. While it may take time for them to acquire the social and symbolic capital of the senior teachers, operationally, they are the ones illuminating the way forward. The paper discusses the implications of the changing nature of authority within the DU is likely to have for Muslims in Britain. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Muslim Higher Education and Training Institutions (METIs) and Islamic Studies Provision in Universities in Britain: An Analysis of Training Provision for Muslim Religious Leadership after 9/11
Religions 2019, 10(11), 623; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110623 - 11 Nov 2019
Abstract
The training of Imams and Muslim religious leaders has received much interest in the post-9/11 era, resulting in a vast amount of research and publications on the topic. The present work explores this literature with the aim of analysing key debates found therein. [...] Read more.
The training of Imams and Muslim religious leaders has received much interest in the post-9/11 era, resulting in a vast amount of research and publications on the topic. The present work explores this literature with the aim of analysing key debates found therein. It finds that throughout the literature there is a pervasive demand for reform of the training and education provided by Muslim higher education and training institutions (METIs) and Islamic studies programmes at universities in the shape of a synthesis of the two pedagogic models. Such demands are founded on the claim that each is lacking in the appositeness of its provision apropos of the British Muslim population. This article calls for an alternative approach to the issue, namely, that the university and the METI each be accorded independence and freedom in its pedagogic ethos and practice (or else risk losing its identity), and a combined education from both instead be promoted as a holistic training model for Muslim religious leadership. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Guidance as ‘Women’s Work’: A New Generation of Female Islamic Authorities in Britain
Religions 2019, 10(11), 601; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110601 - 30 Oct 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This article is about a new publicly visible generation of female Islamic authorities in the UK and the ways in which they make sense of what it means to be a female authority within largely male-dominated structures of knowledge production. These authorities are [...] Read more.
This article is about a new publicly visible generation of female Islamic authorities in the UK and the ways in which they make sense of what it means to be a female authority within largely male-dominated structures of knowledge production. These authorities are setting up their own institutes and emphasising the importance of drawing from within the Islamic tradition while contextualising it in the British context. On the one hand, they stress their unique ability as women to provide personal and collective guidance, based on relationships of empathy and care, that addresses the needs of Muslim women in Britain. On the other hand, they recognise the limitations of presenting guidance as ‘women’s work’, and they seek to pluralise their roles or to present gender as irrelevant in their work. By navigating between accepting, pluralising and transcending female modes of authority, they carve out legitimate spaces for themselves as female leaders while developing and imagining new understandings of Islamic knowledge and plural models of pious leadership. I argue that these multiple ways of making sense of their experiences move us away from theorising female religious leadership solely through binary tropes, such as liberal/orthodox Islam, resistance/compliance, enabling/constraining, which continue to shape research in the field. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Structures of Organisation and Loci of Authority in a Glocal Islamic Movement: The Tablighi Jama’at in Britain
Religions 2019, 10(10), 573; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100573 - 14 Oct 2019
Abstract
The Tablighi Jama’at (TJ) is widely regarded as the largest grassroots Islamic revival movement in the world, but it remains significantly under-researched. This paper, based on sustained ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2013 and 2015, provides a comprehensive overview of the movement’s organisational structures [...] Read more.
The Tablighi Jama’at (TJ) is widely regarded as the largest grassroots Islamic revival movement in the world, but it remains significantly under-researched. This paper, based on sustained ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2013 and 2015, provides a comprehensive overview of the movement’s organisational structures and loci of authority in Britain. It describes how different levels of the movement interact, from the local and regional to the national and international, to constitute a truly glocal movement. TJ’s European headquarters, located in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, is identified as a centralised hub that for several decades has co-ordinated the movement’s activities in the West through the devoted leadership of Hafiz Muhammad Patel (1926–2016) and ongoing contact with the global spiritual centre in Nizamuddin, New Delhi. TJ’s simultaneous links with hundreds of mosques across the country, largely—though not exclusively—of Deobandi orientation, are also described. The functioning of its regional centres of operation in Birmingham, Blackburn, Glasgow, Leicester and London is elaborated with reference to key weekly meetings convened on-site and the “routing” of numerous TJ groups to various British mosques each weekend. Although TJ’s leadership has recently become embroiled in schism, the paper argues for the successful establishment of a robust institutional infrastructure in Britain which has facilitated the movement’s transmission to a generation of British-born activists. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
In Search of Sylhet—The Fultoli Tradition in Britain
Religions 2019, 10(10), 572; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100572 - 12 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article presents a case study of the Fultoli tradition, an expression of Islam dominant amongst Bangladeshi migrants to the UK, but which in general terms has failed to communicate itself to British-born Muslims. It is also a denominational identity that has been [...] Read more.
This article presents a case study of the Fultoli tradition, an expression of Islam dominant amongst Bangladeshi migrants to the UK, but which in general terms has failed to communicate itself to British-born Muslims. It is also a denominational identity that has been overlooked in academic literature on British Muslims, and regularly mischaracterized. To correct this, the article presents an overview of Fultolir Sahib, the late founder of the tradition, and the theological distinctiveness of his teachings, before considering its movement to Britain. A varied methodological approach is adopted in order to explore the topic, combining a textual exploration of Fultoli sources with qualitative interviews with members of the Fultoli tradition, and also autoethnography drawing upon the authors’ (who were both raised by Fultoli parents) experience of the tradition. The article argues that Fultolir Sahib’s authority is constructed in an idiom that is inaccessible to British-born Muslims and that Fultoli institutions have failed to create leaders capable of preserving the tradition. It concludes that despite the diminishing numbers of Fultolis in Britain, it is still important for academics to recognize their unique role in the landscape of Muslim denominational diversity. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Conflicting Paradigms of Religious and Bureaucratic Authority in a British Mosque
Religions 2019, 10(10), 564; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100564 - 30 Sep 2019
Abstract
This article analyses an on-going conflict between two groups (Bargil and Kardal) over the management of a mosque located in an area near London. Based on fourteen months of intensive fieldwork, including participant observation, informal chats and semi-structured interviews, this article offers an [...] Read more.
This article analyses an on-going conflict between two groups (Bargil and Kardal) over the management of a mosque located in an area near London. Based on fourteen months of intensive fieldwork, including participant observation, informal chats and semi-structured interviews, this article offers an in-depth and original account of the transformations taking place in mosques concerning the role of imams and mosque committee members. By analysing the object of conflict, the organisational structure, the dynamic of the groups and its leaders, as well as the process of bureaucratisation of mosques as a material condition, I intend to scrutinise the role and status of the imam and mosque committee members. The primary aim of this article is to re-examine and challenge the narrative of decline in religious authority (in Western mosques) propounded by some scholars as being the result of individualisation and the rise of new religious figures outside traditional institutions. I suggest that rather than experiencing a decline in imams’ religious authority, mosques have become controlled by the bureaucratic authority of the committee members. In other words, imams’ religious authority is still exercised, yet only within the bureaucratic framework set by the committee members. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Answering for Islam: Journalistic and Islamic Conceptions of Authority
Religions 2019, 10(7), 435; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070435 - 16 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Media representations of Muslims in Britain have often disappointed both faith practitioners and scholars. Imputed failings include distorting beliefs or practices, essentialising the faith, and amplifying voices that are not representative of Islam. This last factor hinges on questions of authority: what journalists [...] Read more.
Media representations of Muslims in Britain have often disappointed both faith practitioners and scholars. Imputed failings include distorting beliefs or practices, essentialising the faith, and amplifying voices that are not representative of Islam. This last factor hinges on questions of authority: what journalists and Muslims recognise as authority can differ in important ways. Drawing on studies of journalism practice, prior professional experience, and ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews in Scotland, I discuss the conventional preference among journalists for “official sources” and the problems this can present in terms of hierarchy in Islam. I contrast this with a less-studied imperative, also present in newsrooms, for “real people”. This category matches well with Islam’s decentralised tradition and presents an opportunity to understand how different kinds of sources are presented in media coverage. It is possible for journalists to ensure that these differing claims to authority are represented properly, though this requires knowledge and responsibility. Full article
Open AccessArticle
“I Feel as Though I’m Doing the Job of the Imam for Them”: Considering ‘Tactical’ Muslim Leadership Through the Case of ‘Muslim RE Teachers’
Religions 2019, 10(7), 420; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070420 - 09 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Loci of Leadership: The Quasi-Judicial Authority of Shariah Tribunals in the British Muslim Community
Religions 2019, 10(7), 406; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070406 - 27 Jun 2019
Abstract
Leadership and authority were two central themes in the mission statement of the first ever Shariah tribunal to emerge in the UK. When the Islamic Shariah Council was established in 1982, it noted that its founding meeting had been attended by Muslim scholars [...] Read more.
Leadership and authority were two central themes in the mission statement of the first ever Shariah tribunal to emerge in the UK. When the Islamic Shariah Council was established in 1982, it noted that its founding meeting had been attended by Muslim scholars from a number of mosques in the UK who represented the major schools of Islamic law. This ensured in its own words that it was widely accepted as an authoritative body with regards to Islamic law and that it was therefore able to cater to the basic religious needs of the Muslim community. Since their emergence in the 1980s, Shariah tribunals have played an important role in guiding the Muslim community through the provision of religious services. This paper seeks to enrich the literature on Shariah tribunals by critically assessing how such tribunals have used their expertise in Islamic law to wield quasi-judicial authority in the British Muslim community, within a legal system which does not directly grant legal jurisdiction to religious tribunals. The paper highlights the distinctive characteristics of the authority which Shariah tribunals exercise as religious institutions, which distinguish them from the secular courts of the state despite the judicial functions which both share in common. Full article
Open AccessArticle
British Muslims Navigating between Individualism and Traditional Authority
Religions 2019, 10(6), 354; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060354 - 30 May 2019
Abstract
According to some sociologists, one of the hallmarks of modernity is the end of ‘pre-determined’ identities and its replacement with bricolage projects in which people literally create ‘do-it-yourself’ identities. This has also significantly impacted the religious sphere, where it has been argued that [...] Read more.
According to some sociologists, one of the hallmarks of modernity is the end of ‘pre-determined’ identities and its replacement with bricolage projects in which people literally create ‘do-it-yourself’ identities. This has also significantly impacted the religious sphere, where it has been argued that traditional authorities are constantly undermined by individualistic cultures, print media, rising literacy rates and, more recently, the internet. Through analysing online discussions, this article explores how some young, devout British Muslims navigate between individualism and their own personal understanding of Islam on the one hand and following traditional religious authority figures on the other. This article argues that British Muslims who are consciously trying to practise their faith are neither following traditional religious authoritative figures or institutions blindly nor fully rationalising and individualising their faith. Rather, they are involved in a complex process of choosing and self-restricting themselves to certain scholars that they believe are representative of Islam and thereafter critically engaging with the scholar and his or her verdicts by adding in their own opinions, experiences and even Islamic textual evidence. While this illustrates how religious authority is transforming in the age of new media, the persistent engagement with scholars also indicates how they still play a significant role in the shaping of Islam in Britain. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Mosques as Gendered Spaces: The Complexity of Women’s Compliance with, And Resistance to, Dominant Gender Norms, And the Importance of Male Allies
Religions 2019, 10(5), 321; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050321 - 14 May 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Women’s presence and role in contemporary mosques in Western Europe is debated within and outside Muslim communities, but research on this topic is scarce. Applying a feminist lens on religion and gender, this article situates the mosque as a socially constituted space that [...] Read more.
Women’s presence and role in contemporary mosques in Western Europe is debated within and outside Muslim communities, but research on this topic is scarce. Applying a feminist lens on religion and gender, this article situates the mosque as a socially constituted space that both enables and constrains Western European Muslim women’s religious formation, identity-making, participation, belonging, and activism. Informed by qualitative interviews with twenty Muslim women residing in Norway and the United Kingdom, the article argues that women’s reflexive engagement simultaneously expresses compliance with, and challenges to, male power and authority in the mosque. It contends that a complex practice of accommodation and resistance to “traditional” gender norms is rooted in the women’s discursive positioning of “authentic Islam” as gender equal. While men typically inhabit positions of religious and organizational power in mosques, the article also suggests the importance of male allies in women’s struggles for inclusion in the mosque. Full article

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Open AccessObituary
Fuad Nahdi, Q-News, and the Forging of British Islam: Some Personal Reflections
Religions 2020, 11(5), 220; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11050220 - 29 Apr 2020
Abstract
This obituary offers some personal memories of Fuad Nahdi (1957–2020), based on my interactions with him, as well as some reflections on the historic importance of Q-News, the British Muslim periodical Nahdi founded, which was published between 1992 and 2006, partly based [...] Read more.
This obituary offers some personal memories of Fuad Nahdi (1957–2020), based on my interactions with him, as well as some reflections on the historic importance of Q-News, the British Muslim periodical Nahdi founded, which was published between 1992 and 2006, partly based on short impromptu interviews done with some who worked on the magazine with Nahdi. In Q-News, Nahdi created the most consequential UK Muslim publication of its day and helped shape how a whole generation of young Muslims saw their identity and faith. He should be remembered alongside Abdullah Quilliam (1856–1932) and Dr Kalim Siddiqui (1931–1996) as among the great journalists-cum-activists that British Islam has produced. Full article
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