Why one in every five UK Muslim families uses this website. 
In 2013 it is now eight years since the MuslimsInBritain.org website was launched in the summer of 2006. In Ramadhaan of 2013 the site had 165,000 visitors at the start of the fast and 165,000 again at the end of the fasting month, an astonishing performance. While many of you will have come back repeatedly to the directory, it would not be unreasonable to claim that one in ten of all UK Muslims use the site, or one in every five Muslim families. (As a professional statistician among other things, I am well aware that you can cut these numbers in lots of ways, but the gross numbers are still impressive and form an uninterrupted linear increase every year, with bigger peaks every year at Ramadhaan and the Eids.)

I get a steady stream of emails to the website, mostly around the masjid directory and its Google Maps feature, variously submitting corrections, asking for more information or assistance of one kind or another, so I have started this blog, the MiB-blog, as a place in which I can respond to these requests publicly, passing on requests to the community, or explaining the directory's rationale. But most importantly for me, it provides a place where I can remind everyone what I set out to achieve on the MiB.org website as a whole. There are many things wrong with the Muslim community in Britain, and especially with its mosques, its masjids. I wrote the Muslims In Britain Guide in 2005 to help make the community, warts and all, more understandable to outsiders. I have written and spoken extensively about extremism, militancy and disaffected youth, and some of this work is published on the website too. Even though my work in these areas has been going on for three decades, in almost every masjid I still see exactly the same complacency and inability to engage as I discovered when I myself first came into Islam, way back in 1982.

Meanwhile the consequences of the failings of our masjids, their imams and especially their managements, continues to be the main factor driving away Muslims on the edge of the community, driving them away into militancy, violence and disaster after disaster, the consequnces of which we all have to endure. How many masjids in the UK feature an indigenous imam or management committee member? Basically none whatsoever. How many incidents of 'terrorist' violence or its threat in the UK have featured a convert Muslim? Almost every single one. Every mosque in the UK rightly claims after every such incident, "we knew nothing of this, they took no part in our mosque", yet what kind of excuse is that? Who else has also been so ignored, so overlooked that you still no nothing of it?

The principles of Islam are so simple, so easy to explain, that even the least educated Muslim family can tell you of how they have shared their knowledge with their non-Muslim neighbours. Yet when you come across Muslims who choose a different masjid to you because they disagree with the imam or the practices of the masjid you prefer, have you ever tried to get a clear, sensible explanation from a Muslim scholar? How is it that no imam, no Muslim scholar, is able explain to his own congregation and to newcomers as well, what other Muslims believe, without descending into acrimonious bile? Do they seriously expect us to trust them (never mind respect them) when they claim that intelligent Muslims in rival masjids openly practice obvious polytheism, or have the canon of Islam so fundamentally wrong that they manifestly disbelieve in the contents of the Qur'an?

The MiB.org website has continually sought to challenge the masjids, their imams and their managements on these issues. It highlights the absurdity of masjids denying their own sectaranism and communalism while slandering that of others. By emphasising the extent to which this happens, by quantifying it and showing it graphically, we seek to force the problem out into the open. We demand that Muslims, imams, masjid managements, advocates of factions, all cease their shameful exclusivity and learn to speak of each other with mutual respect, discover tolerance of differences (the very same attribute that you demand wider society grants towards you!), and make space for each other and each others' practices inside your masjids. Islam is not denominational, but you have made it thus for all to see, and then you have the insolence to claim that you are not sectarian, that "everyone is welcome in our mosque". Yes, everyone is welcome, just so long as they sit on their hands and stay silent and do nothing except what you permit in 'your' masjid.

Unlike other websites and directories, several of which have sprung up recently with copies of MiB.org data, MiB.org does not exist to promote its author's professional business or advertising space, even less to earn money from the service. Nor has it any interest in currying favour with masjids and their managements, we will remain vigorously independent and report what we see and what we are told in good faith by masjid users in preference to what masjid managements want us to say, and yes, among that will be unpleasant criticism: respect where it is due, but we do not submit to complacency, especially not the sort of complacency that is disguised as deferential ettiquette. The stakes are too high, many lives have been lost and others ruined by long prison sentences, and in every case there are masjid managers, imams and advocates of factions who could have stepped in instead of freezing out, long before any legal boundary had been crossed by the dissenters. It is true that very few Muslims are capable of tackling extremism effectively, but everyone can work to create a healthier environment so that you don't need to get to the point of freezing them out. Insha Allah this blog will supplement the main MiB website by highlighting examples of good and bad practice, with the aim of educating its users so that you can go back to your local masjids and suggest to them how they could do things better. It is your masjid, your community and your own future at stake.

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