Share this page
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Rate this post

Faith and worship remain important for the lives of many in Britain and people are not shy of making this allegiance known – in the 2011 Census of England and Wales , 67% of the population ticked their allegiance to one of the 6 major faiths.  Moreover, an analysis of the responses of those who preferred to provide their own description indicates an amazing range of non-traditional faiths. A sense of the sacred is therefore very much present in society today, albeit with a drop in numbers of those self-declaring as ‘Christian’  in the traditional sense.  About 27% of the population in the Census’s ‘White’ ethnic category ticked ‘no religion’, but this was the selection for only 8% in the other ethnic categories (Black, Asian, other non-white ethnics).  This is borne out in the landscape, with  mosques and Black Majority Churches increasingly visible in our towns and cities.

While there is no single list of mosques, estimates vary from 1,500 to 2,000.  There are also multi-faith rooms in a variety of public venues such as airports and hospitals;  the larger commercial enterprises and some government departments and agencies have set aside quiet rooms for employees.  The first generation of mosques of the 1950s and ’60s were of a make-shift nature,  located in converted terraced houses [see image – a scene outside the first East London Mosque on Commercial Road, Whitechapel, from the 1960s]  cinema halls, fire stations and  closed down churches. By the 1990s there were purpose-built mosques, serving both as a place of worship and a community hub for the increasing Muslim population.  The third-generation mosques of today are exciting ventures, both architecturally and in their vision to be of service to their neighbourhood.

There is a popular impulse among Muslim-watchers to label mosques – for example as Deobandi, Barelwi, Sufi – much like an Victorian entomologist would hold up and exotic specimen for display. This sort of analysis misses the wider point that a Muslim can comfortably pray in any one of them, because the format of prayer  is broadly similar, and  the central creed of monotheism and finality of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him,  is unquestioned, regardless of denominational or other allegiances.

A mosque is not comparable to a CoE parish church.  The CoE  is of course  Britain’s established religious body, with a role enshrined in our unwritten constitution.  Muslims do not covet this status, because it lives alongside a tradition of religious pluralism which we value, but it is important to remember that the network of  mosques has emerged by dint of self-help,  local  initiatives and a tradition of charity-giving, rather than any inherited land or wealth to pay for building maintenance, salaries and other expenses.

The social landscape has changed in recent decades,  not just after 7/7 but following cuts in public sector expenditure. Mosques have recognised the importance of opening their doors to remove concerns and suspicions, while also offering a safety net for the vulnerable.  Large and small mosques  from Southampton to Glasgow participated in MCB’s recent VisitMyMosque Day, and for many Britons it was the first time they had crossed a mosque threshold. The mosque network is an important partner in the dissemination of information for the public good, with   mosques affiliated to the MCB in the past providing information on voter registration , healthy living and new legislation  to their congregations.  Mosques have a role to play in providing or facilitating   pastoral care and counselling services, particularly to young people at a time when local government is cutting back on youth services. Mosques, with perhaps only one or two exceptions now rectified, serve as centres of  moderation and community cohesion in difficult times.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •