Sectarian chickens flock home to roost, eggshell thin security cracking open. 
Yahya Birt has very properly raised serious concerns about what looks like a witch-hunt by the Ministry of Justice or at least by the media on the MOJ's behalf, against the majority of its own Muslim Prison Chaplains due to their Deobandi origins. Playing the sectarian card: Britain’s Ministry of Justice is unfairly targeting Muslim prison chaplains. He specifically mentions the arch-sectarian Quilliam Foundation as the provider of ducking stools to prove the Wiccan intent of these perhaps 140 out of 200 Muslim chaplains.

Several ugly points arise from this development. Firstly is the extent to which sectarian influences from within the Muslim community have distorted Government's, and especially the major political parties' view of what constitutes extremism among Muslims. It is hard to imagine a less extreme, more safe-conservative, world-view than that of the largely Gujerati graduates of the half a dozen Deobandi Daar ul Uloom in the UK. Yet the anti-Deobandi sects, primarily the Bareilvi movement, have succeeded in pursuading gullible journalists and politicians that they themselves are the voice of moderation while their own children turn their backs on the mysteries of Bareilvi belief to join together and learn how to make the chemical bonds required for TATP.

Secondly is the complacency with which the Deobandi movement itself has continued its deference towards its own disengaged religious leadership with their heads in the sands of essentialist piety. Its Tablighi Jama'at grassroots maintain constant vigilance to ensure that the majority of UK masjids (moderate to a man) are the exclusive preserve of the Deobandi doctrines, oblivious to the frustrations of youth who want something more engaging than a lecture on the six points of tabligh ritually repeated every Thursday night. They remain oblivious to the increasingly underhand rearguard actions of Bareilvi "gatekeepers" and Biraderi votespinners who end up with council seats and directorships of entities such as Quilliam, the reciprocation of their own sectarian exclusiveness.

Thirdly is the irony that while the Deobandi spectrum is skewed well away from community engagement, among their intellectually capable and religiously schooled, it is these prison chaplains who will be far and away the most committed to engagement, the very ones who are being targetted for not being so. Furthermore, there should be no doubt that their experience of dealing with prison inmates will have forced upon them the need to be openly inclusive, anti-sectarian, and tolerant of all manner of deviations from the sanctified pure Islam of their safe upbringing. (This point is reinforced by a study that Yahya quotes in his blog, the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society’ research study on Muslim chaplaincy in Britain (2008–2011).)

Fourthly and finally, if the bulk of two thirds of the UK's Muslim chaplains are lost from that service, where on earth will they be replaced from? There is no credible 'liberal Islam' seminary training anyone. There is no credible Bareilvi seminary producing anyone but arch-sectarian Sufis, and actually only one of those. Again ironically, the best engaged, most knowledgeable and probably likely to be the most successful at turning lags back into civil citizens, are, yes, Salafis! Somehow I don't think that was what was intended.

In the absence of a credible and capable cadre of Muslim chaplains, there is every likelihood that extremist propagation in prisons will run unchecked and definitely unrecognised and uncountered. The outcome is that we all will be placed in substantially more danger from Muslim political violence due to this resoundingly stupid initiative. Who is to blame? Muslims may be tempted to blame the government, but in truth we ourselves are the origins of the sectarian powerplays that underly the policy.


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Methodical terror in Paris and Brussells 
This website and its publications have claimed from the outset, that it is Muslims who are the intended victims of Al Qaeda and latterly ISIS. That is not in any way an attempt to divert sympathy and support from the all too numerous non-Muslims who have suffered, it is a statement about the strategy followed by these groups and their spawn. Mehmood Naqshbandi, August 2006: "Terrorist groups exploit these tensions to achieve three quite explicit objectives: ... most pertinently, (iii) to try to drive a wedge between Muslims settled in the West and their host communities.
The last tactic is part of a strategy to ‘purify’ Islam by removing it from decadent Western influence, and to return to an international situation where the borders of
Islam are distinct (and therefore controllable) from the non-Muslim world, in defiance of globalisation of borders.

Now, thanks to an article by Shiraz Maher in this week's New Statesman, you can read it in ISIS's own words without risking that knock on the door at 4am:

'All of this falls into a strategy where IS wants to eradicate what it calls the “grayzone” of coexistence. Its aim is to divide the world along binary lines – Muslim and non-Muslim; Islam and non-Islam; black and white – with absolutely no room for any shades of grey.

“The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatise and adopt the kufri [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffar [disbelievers] without hardship, or they [migrate] to the Islamic State,” says an editorial in Dabiq magazine. “The option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.”

Atrocities such as the Paris attacks are designed to put a strain on the “grayzone”, thereby polarising Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike. Indeed, this is precisely what Islamic State said it hoped to achieve after the Malian-French radical Amedy Coulibaly declared, in a video released two days after his death, that he had participated in the Charlie Hebdo attacks on IS’s behalf. “The time had come for another event – magnified by the presence of the Caliphate on the global stage – to further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere,” Dabiq said.'

"Why Isis seeks a battle with Western nations - and why it can't be ignored", Shiraz Maher, 22 November 2015.

ISIS has grabbed for themselves an important Muslim ethic, the principle that the dunya, the world, and everything in it, is of no value compared with the akhirah, the hereafter, and of no value compared with the worship of Allah alone. Muslims should have so little attachment to the dunya that they would be ready to leave it at any moment. This is not a fundamentalist ethic, it is the root of the principle of Islam, submission to the will of Allah. It is the principle which Sufis strive for no less than jihadis, real or cult-ist. The only difference is that ISIS has co-opted it into its own death-cult and applies it as a tool to exhort its followers into acts of violence that intentionally push the boundaries of human disgust. They are not mad, they are calculating. Their calculations are so cynically utilitarian that their followers earnestly believe they are making the ultimate sacrifice (and presume to gain the highest reward) in order to force Muslims 'back' to a life in conformity with the Shari'ah, or their absolutist, grim interpretation of it. The more they cause horror in their depravity, the less Muslims have inclination to seek a life in the West and the harder it will be to resist ISIS's exhortations to return to the Straight Path, or ISIS's twisted and mangled, soulless interpretation of it.

What that means for tackling ISIS and its progeny, is very significant. It means that whatever Western or Russian, or Iranian, or even local, forces do to remove ISIS from the territory it holds, and even if every single follower is killed, the idea will spread and grow in potency. So much has already happened - Iraq and post 9-11 Afghanistan drew in ten or a hundred times more militants than Bosnia; Syria and ISIS now draw in ten times again. The Dawlat of ISIS will probably evaporate, but its followers will disperse and filter into Saudi Arabia whence many of its supporters come from, and it poses an existentialist threat to that country's government which is weaker now than it has ever been. If ISIS's rump fights its final actions "defending" the Haramain, there will be few Muslims who will not feel compromised by not joining them. (An aside: The notion that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia backs ISIS is nonsense, but the numerous malcontents within KSA at every level, have no difficulty putting aside something to back them or presume to exploit them.)

So the bottom line is this: ISIS and its threat will not disappear, it will not even be contained, until every Muslim stands firm against ISIS and what it stands for. Not 'everyone including Muslims' but every Muslim ! This is not about Muslims condemning, saying, 'they are not of us', and it is not in the least about blaming Bush, Blair and co for the Iraq war: Saddam's removal was an opportunity for ISIS, not the root cause of ISIS. Yes if the Iraq invasion had not happened, the opportunity would not have come, perhaps, but only Allah knows. Muslims must on every level reject ISIS's death-cult perversion of the ethic of detachment from the world, and replace it with the detachment that says that jihad is to live in the world in the way of the Shari'ah and Sunnah, without it imposed on you, without you imposing it on others, fulfilling your duties to your neighbours, not least of which is that they should never have any reason to distrust you on any matter whatsoever. ISIS followers say they love death as we love life. The truth is that they are cowards that fear life in the way of the Sunnah, and fear not knowing how their deaths will be and the lifelong need to strengthen their imaan against doubt, and the possibility that they may now be wrong and that they might even live long enough to have remorse for their evil. Theirs is a death-cult which believes it can bring about that which Allah alone can bring about, including their own (worthless) deaths.

The struggle against extremism, militancy and 'jihadism' is not something Muslims 'have to put up with' or for Muslims to endure while governments take away the civil liberties of all of us and tabloid journalists demonise us, it is our own struggle. Not one of us should complain when we are told we are not condemning loudly enough, not doing enough to single out and expel 'extremists' from our midst. This website more than any other has provided demonstrable and factual evidence for the absence of extremist imams and preachers in our masjids; but the fight against ISIS and everything it has co-opted in the name of Islam, is our fight, Muslims' fight, and we will lose it unless we take it on with both hands.

And Allah alone knows best. Wa akhiru da'wana an al-hamdu li-Llahi rabb il-'alamin.


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UK Mosque Statistics for 2015 
The Mosques Statistics report for 2015 has just been published on my website, at

I have not yet completed the updated political-boundary-related data analysis; this will follow next month, insha'Allah. Also, there are a few refinements that I intend to apply to the document as published, which will also follow shortly, insha'Allah.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

There are currently 1695 actual masjids in the UK, up from 1640 in October 2014.
The actual changes include 84 premises that are now defunct - some of those will be places that have been long defunct that I have caught up with and corrected, but about half are places that communities have moved from, so while the net increase is 55 new masjids, actually there are about 100 new masjids that have been reported to in the last year of which about 40 are replacement premises.

About 460 masjids and organisations providing prayer space, are registered charities. (There are about 1100 organisations on the England and Wales Register of Charities that include the terms "Muslim" or "Islam" in their title or keywords.)

Deobandi-oriented masjids are still circa 43% of all UK masjids, with 25 more masjids thus associated in the last year.

Likewise Bareilvi-oriented masjids are still 24%, with 28 more.

Salafi-oriented masjids have increased from 7% to 8.6%, i.e. 155 masjids and 34 more than last year. Note the trend - there are significantly more new Salafi-oriented masjids than either of the old-guard 'mainstream', and this trend continues from the previous two years.

Most other identifiable orientations/flavours/denominations remain static. The number of non-denominational prayer rooms that I have recorded has shrunk considerably from 175 to 125 - this is down to more diligent checks on these often elusive locations.

This year I have introduced a few categories to cover those very few masjids who are able to justify their claims to be non-sectarian, and have recorded 5 "Inclusive, unaffiliated Sunni", 3 "Exclusive, unaffiliated Sunni" (who methodically ban all practices and events in their masjids except salaah), and 4 "Modernist" (who entertain interpretations of Islamic practice that are controversially distant from orthodox interpretations - these are all intolerant of alternatives to their own idiosyncratic practices).

Women's access to masjids is met by 70% of UK masjids, 100% for Shi'a, 95% for Salafi and 92% for "Arabic mainstream Sunni", (i.e. native Arab-speaking imams and managements who practice taqleed-oriented fiqh). However only 50% of Deobandi masjids, and 83% of Bareilvi ones, provide for women. This Deobandi figure is a drop from last year, but arises from my better understanding of the substantial Bangladeshi Deobandi influenced masjids. Very few Bangladeshi masjids of any persuasion have facilities for women, and this ethnic factor is one of the refinements I will be introducing to the report soon, insha'Allah.

My Muslim Council of Britain affiliates analysis shows that the MCB does entertain a diverse range of affiliates, but only 10% of Deobandi masjids have affiliated, though they are 40% of the MCB's masjid affiliates. 73% of 'Islamic Movement', Maudoodi-inspired masjids are affiliates, but are only 19% of the MCB's masjid affiliate composition. The MCB's claimed total of affiliates still includes 22 masjid organisations that are actually defunct,long-gone. The bottom line is that the MCB claims the affiliations of 197 or 12% of the UK's masjids.

On the other hand, while the British Muslim Forum is 99% Bareilvi, there has been no sign of activity from the BMF for many years. Recent claims in the press for an individual to be heading the "Muslim Forum", might be signs of a revival, but there has been no evidence of any actual entity by that name, or revival of the BMF either, that has crossed's path. Were it functioning, the BMF would be claiming 231 affiliates, 14%; but apart from an open letter after the 7/7 bombing, there is next to no other evidence of the BMF's existence.

Meanwhile MINAB, which is very cagey about just who its affiliates are, has a non-functional website but claims 600 affiliates on Wikipedia. Based on data it published and then withdrew in 2011, I have identified just 93.

I have generated breakdowns of affiliates for some local groups, in particular Bradford and Tower Hamlets Councils of Mosques - the latter has one Bareilvi affiliate out of 54, the only one in Tower Hamlets, but 5 of the 7 Sufi Fultoli-influenced masjids there, demonstrating the significance of that body which is little known outside of Bangladeshi communities.

One significant change I have introduced is to rationalise my data on masjid managements' cultural/ethnic orientation. I only have this for about half the UK's masjids, but I have standardised it and associated it with regions as well. I would be the first to accept that it is contraversial - as generations pass, more of the people in charge of masjids are people who have been born in and identify primarily with the UK culturally. However I strongly contend that along with factional sectarian exclusiveness, cultural exclusiveness makes the masjid a very alienating place for neophytes, for users from other cultures, and especially for converts. I believe that such alienation is the principle reason for on the one hand, converts and neophytes turning to alternative narratives, including extreme ones, rejecting 'orthodoxy', and on the other hand, masjid managements claiming with total sincerity that they are totally opposed to extremism and violence, honestly denying they have any sign of it in their masjid, yet are completely flummoxed when families and children from their own neighbourhood community turn up in court on terrorism charges, or in Syria or Afghanistan.

Anyway, the masjid management ethnic association statistics show:

86.2% of UK masjids are exclusively managed by committees entirely culturally from the Indian subcontinent. I expect this figure to be bigger still when I identify more such data - it is only the more diverse managements that have more accessible inmformation that makes a point of their cultural diversity.
2.1% of UK masjids have committees or trustees made up from people from more than one continent.
Just a mere 6 masjids, 0.3%, have any converts/reverts at all, even just one, involved in running the masjid. After more than three generations in the UK, innumerable conversions/shahadahs, and abundant capable and articulate people to draw upon, that figure must be a national scandal for Muslims who consider the UK to be their future.

4 masjids have specific Saudi influence in their management, and 20, 1.9%, have Arabian peninsula or Levantine interests, including just one UK masjid with a single Syrian person involved. That last is a very significant consideration for the burgeoning refugee crisis as Asia Minor collapses. Likewise, there are 4 masjids with Kurdish influence.

Finally, about 800 masjids of the 1047 thus analysed, have committees and trustees that are exclusively Pakistani, or exclusively Bangladeshi, or exclusively Gujerati. The remaining 600-700 un-analysed, are most likely to be added to that last total.

Britain's 32 biggest masjids are listed - no special surprise and no change on previous years except removal of an erroneously overstated entry.

I have generated a breakdown of masjid sizes that corresponds approximately to house conversions, commercial conversions and new-builds, and 1000+ institutions, with last year's data to compare. There have been no changes at the big end, almost all new locations are around the 50 to 200 people sizes. This could either be because there is little demand for creating major masjids, or that major masjid projects have been regularly blocked. However, from a planning perspective, the organic growth of masjid projects from small to medium to large, has significant ramifications in residential areas where they start as house or small shop conversions.

Lastly I continue to publish the numbers of unique visitors to the website, and this continues to grow steadily. The directory underwent some major changes earlier this year to make it suitable for mobile devices, and traffic has grown to around 150,000 unique visitors per month. This large number, along with the statistic that states that I now claim and report first-hand knowledge of 887 out of 1834 places of Muslim worship (and 652 others with multiple corroboratory sources), and a library of several thousand photographs covering about 600 masjids, I hope emphasises the quality and credibility of the data I have sourced personally, and from a band of helpful supporters, and from the amorphous 'crowd' who submit a steady flow of arbitrary updates and corrections. Many thanks to any of you that have assisted with this project, and may you receive the benefit that accrues through helping others establish and run the masjids, and especially helping those who need to find a place to perform their ritual salaah, the ability to do so with safety and confidence.

The directory is of course on the website, at

Mehmood Naqshbandi
23rd September 2015


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The Muslim Vote and Marginal Constituencies 
Can The Muslim vote upset any Westminster candidates?

There are 36 Westminster constituencies where the 2010 election majority is less than the number of mosque spaces, by at least 1000, and another 17 where that number is at least 100. Mosque spaces do not equate to voters, or even, to be honest, to people. However they are quite a good proxy for the potential for a Bradford West effect, where George Galloway turned the established candidates' presumptions about ethnic minority voting upside-down. So what is the impact of the Muslim vote? Is it homogeneous and party-loyal? (No! - see for yourself.) And how do you reach it?

Does it matter? When the mainstream parties overlook the cultural influences that sway many in their constituencies, the results can be a shock to their complacency, as George Galloway demonstrated, but they can also be profoundly disturbing, as today's finding on Lutfur Rahman's exploitation of the Bangladeshi Tower Hamlets vote demonstrated, "The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have been involved in vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist." So it does matter - if only a few have privileged access to a substantial part of the electorate, that is corruption. Countering corruption, gives everyone, here and now, access to that pert of the electorate. Here is Lutfur Rahman's erstwhile constituency, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Use our search tool to pick every mosque in any other local authority if you please.

And here is an Excel spreadsheet with the 53 constituencies and the data. It opens with a link for each constituency to the Google Map of the mosques/masjids in that constituency. This spreadsheet was updated on 9th May to change the hyperlinks to account for a recent change to the website's programs. (Note that Excel should give you a warning about unsecure internet links - if you are unhappy, try the search directly on the search feature instead, or download the much bigger PDF statistical report that compiles.)

The numbers are from the October 2014 release of the Statistics report, and the links to the live data will have some discrepancies with this due to the live list showing only the grade A, B and C data e.g. Bradford West has 48 places on the map list, and 53 below including grade D and E, though all are shown as rich-data landmarks on the map, so you aren't missing anything. More dramatically, Poplar and Limehouse has 22 on the statistics, but 33 grade A, B and C on the map, plus 1 grade D and 3 defunct, due to some recent groundwork by in the area.

Here's the simple list:

Constituency Mosques Total Winning Balance of Incumbent Member, 2014
Mosque Party Mosque capacity
Capacity over majority
Bradford West 53 40841 Lab>Rsp 35078 George Galloway (Respect)
Bradford East 29 22608 LD 22243 David Ward (LD)
Birmingham, Ladywood 42 30302 Lab 20197 Shabana Mahmood (L)
Birmingham, Hall Green 38 19145 Lab 15346 Roger Godsiff (L)
Blackburn 45 24365 Lab 14509 Jack Straw (L)
Leicester South 34 21435 Lab 12627 Jon Ashworth (L)
Dewsbury 21 13885 Con 12359 Simon Reevell (C)
Luton South 18 13390 Lab 11061 Gavin Shuker (L)
Rochdale 17 11800 Lab 10911 Simon Danczuk (L)
Walsall South 19 12390 Lab 10635 Valerie Vaz (L)
Birmingham, Yardley 13 10540 LD 7538 John Hemming (LD)
Oldham E & Saddleworth 13 6570 Lab 6467 Debbie Abrahams (L)
Manchester, Gorton 16 12130 Lab 5427 Gerald Kaufman (L)
Batley and Spen 17 9800 Lab 5394 Mike Wood (L)
Wolverhampton SW 5 5810 Con 5119 Paul Uppal (C)
Sheffield Central 13 5185 Lab 5020 Paul Blomfield (L)
Birmingham, Hodge Hill 42 14885 Lab 4583 Liam Byrne (L)
Bethnal Green and Bow 24 16050 Lab 4476 Rushanara Ali (L)
Brent Central 8 5400 LD 4055 Sarah Teather (LD)
Hampstead and Kilburn 7 4050 Lab 4008 Glenda Jackson (L)
Westminster North 4 5870 Lab 3744 Karen Buck (L)
Halifax 10 5095 Lab 3623 Linda Riordan (L)
Pendle 13 5960 Con 2375 Andrew Stephenson (C)
Burnley 10 4150 LD 2332 Gordon Birtwistle (LD)
Brentford and Isleworth 6 4130 Con 2172 Mary Macleod (C)
Dudley North 2 2800 Lab 2151 Ian Austin (L)
Bury North 6 4000 Con 1757 David Nuttall (C)
Bedford 7 2970 Con 1617 Richard Fuller (C)
Harrow East 4 5000 Con 1597 Bob Blackman (C)
Peterborough 7 6400 Con 1539 Stewart Jackson (C)
Southampton, Test 6 3870 Lab 1457 Alan Whitehead
Hyndburn 12 4490 Lab 1400 Graham Jones (L)
Lancaster and Fleetwood 6 1660 Con 1327 Eric Ollerenshaw (C)
Poplar and Limehouse 22 7250 Lab 1220 Jim Fitzpatrick (L)
Tooting 4 3550 Lab 1026 Sadiq Khan (L)
Keighley 7 3950 Con 1010 Kris Hopkins (C)
Nottingham East 14 7800 Lab 831 Chris Leslie (L)
Kingston upon Hull Nth 2 1450 Lab 809 Diana Johnson (L)
Leeds North East 5 5350 Lab 805 Fabian Hamilton (L)
Bolton North East 10 4860 Lab 776 David Crausby (L)
Hendon 2 880 Con 774 Matthew Offord (C)
Swansea West 4 1210 Lab 706 Geraint Davies (L)
Norwich South 4 950 LD 640 Simon Wright (LD)
Edinburgh South 3 900 Lab 584 Ian Murray (L)
Watford 3 1850 Con 425 Richard Harrington (C)
Nottingham South 8 2170 Lab 398 Lilian Greenwood (L)
Wakefield 4 2000 Lab 387 Mary Creagh (L)
Stockton South 3 650 Con 318 James Wharton (C)
Thurrock 1 330 Con 238 Jackie Doyle-Price (C)
Sherwood 1 400 Con 186 Mark Spencer (C)
Huddersfield 10 4630 Lab 158 Barry Sheerman (L)
Bolton West 1 200 Lab 108 Julie Hilling (L)

© Mehmood Naqshbandi 2015,

‘n/a’ – Not Available. Religious affiliation data is not published for Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Let's be clear what we are measuring here. The number of spaces in a mosque is a slightly subjective measure. For most prayers, the numbers attending will be small, even minute. For Friday Jumu'ah salaah, however, most masjids are full. Many are heaving; many have two, and some even three, sittings for Friday salaah. But a third of UK masjids have no facilities for women, and even those that do, have very few women attending. (A few of those even state, "no space for women at Jumu'ah", because they give priority to the crowds of men wanting to make Jumu'ah.) So these numbers are a proxy for the local male Muslim populations. Salaah is encumbent on adults, not children, so the numbers attending who are too young to vote, will be a very small proportion of the congregations. Not all nominal Muslims are conscientious practitioners, and not all will be present for every Friday Jumu'ah.

But in spite of these caveats, and arguably because of them, the numbers of spaces in UK mosques is a reasonable approximation to the number of adult males that see the political world through a consciously Muslim perspective, and can be doubled to include an approximation of a comparable number of like-minded Muslim women. (Just to test that out, if we assume that half of the Census Muslim population is eligible to vote (parents, over-18 children, grandparents), only in two of the 53 constituencies does the mosque capacity exceed half the residing Muslim populations, due to minor anomalies on where the masjids have been built. See the spreadsheet for the comparisons with local populations.)

In case you are unfamiliar with the website, you can find all the mosques/masjids in any UK constituency or ward by searching for the constituency or ward by name or part of its name in the search feature. If you don't know the name, just search on the relevant town or county. The results will include a link to each kind of match, e.g. searching for 'bradford' gives:
Search results for "bradford"

Towns: Bradford(80)
Localities: (central Bradford)(2)
Boroughs: Bradford(88)
Constituencies: Bradford East(28), Bradford South(3), Bradford West(48)
Wards: Bradford Moor(9)
Name and Address Matches(3)
where the number in brackets is the number of mosques or places such as hired halls included.

When you select a result, you will get the map page and a list of mosques or a summary for the area. You can then pick the individual mosques in the results:
Browse by constituency (specified for all mosques)
Browse by ward (specified for all mosques)
Easier to try than to explain!

The map loads with a landmark for each mosque, with colour and other codes to show its cultural affiliations, scaled to its size, etc. Click on the landmark to reveal a wealth of information - contacts, website, photos, charity link, and Google Streetview of the front door, and Bing 3D view.

Note that Google Maps has to load over two thousand landmarks, so this may be slow on old computers, and if you are accessing the search from a mobile phone, if you have allowed it to use your position, it will show you your nearest mosques instead.

Keep in mind that the mosque directory has very rich features, such as several thousand original photographs (we visit the mosques we list!), multiple checks for accuracy, and pinpoint location data, plus a Satnav download. Many other mosque directories are crude copies of data, without the technical skills or coverage to keep their data up to date, whereas we have been collecting this data since the late 1980s, update several times a week, and have detailed local histories to understand the local context.


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Why a comprehensive theological response to ISIS is desperately needed. 
Mehdi Hasan has published a critique of the article by Graeme Wood in the Atlantic ("What ISIS Really wants"), How Islamic is Islamic State? in the New Statesman this week, with the rhetorical implication that it is really not Islamic at all (Mehdi's byline, "The conventional wisdom suggests a violent reading of the Quran is at the heart of Islamic State's political violence – but it's wrong."). When the Atlantic article appeared, I described it as important because it highlights the aspects of ISIS that appeal to its potential recruits. However Mehdi Hasan considers that Wood's article is intended to support the illiberal view that the problem with ISIS is actually a problem that the West has with Islam, and that it is poorly researched. My endorsement of Wood's Atlantic article is that the key information he does present, does demonstrate ISIS's use of millenarian and faux-Salafi theology. Mehdi Hasan points out that in reality ISIS is a cobbled together allegiance of AQ splinters, former Ba'athists and organised criminal gangs, not a theological movement. He is probably right, but Ba'athism doesn't have a following in the West, and organised crime is, one might say, a law unto itself. The arguments, rationale and propaganda that draw Western Muslims to ISIS, are very much a theological problem that Muslims must face down, and which ISIS has manipulated intelligently.

I would probably agree with much of what Mehdi Hasan has written elsewhere, and the citations he makes in this New Statesman article include ones that I would strongly endorse. Mehdi Hasan expresses strong scepticism of Wood's assertion that ISIS's violence has theological roots: he quotes Wood, “The religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”. Yes, Mehdi Hasan is right insofar as ISIS's theology is not congruent to mainstream Sunni Islam, nor even to Salafi theological representations. But Graeme Wood's article, or the one I cited by Hassan Hassan of a similar nature, is important because ISIS's audience is not mainstream Sunni scholars, it is those who are already deeply distrustful of the Muslim establishment. It is a big audience, it comprises, in every masjid in Britain, educated second or third generation young Muslims who despair of the kindergarten level of instruction that is the limit of what their local imam can provide. It is the idealistic convert who has been sold an idea of Islam as the pure way of life, achievable by strict adherence to easily accessible translations of Qur'an and Hadeeth, and corrupted by tribalistic politics of elderly Asian mosque committees. In France, it is an audience of autodidactic religious revivalists who are repulsed by highly secularised North African elders that are sycophants of a populist culture that rejects them.

The rationale that ISIS communicates through its acolytes to potential recruits is couched in religious terms, with references to Islamic sources: the Qur'an, Hadeeth and the Seerah of the Salaf as-Saliheen. So if they are to be won back, the potential recruits deserve, and are in desperate need of, firmly rooted Islamic rebuttals. Those rebuttals need to come from the mimbars of their masjids in Tower Hamlets and Saltley, and from their peers and elders in UK schools and colleges, not in some wholesome but obscure and dismissive intellectual reasoning from Al Azhar or Cambridge. Those attracted to ISIS from European and especially UK cities, not only do not have the depth of classical, orthodox Sunni, theological learning, they are actually deeply sceptical of its purveyors, and their local imams and alims have the poorest record imaginable of being able to communicate such knowledge. On the other hand, throughout the UK, and actually throughout Europe for slightly different reasons, those same newer generations, neophytes and converts to Islam, have had two or three decades of exposure to home-grown theology, from varying Salafi and proto-Salafi advocates, Hizb-ut-Tahrir propagators, vociferous catch-me-if-you-can militants in the very pliable Muhajiroun mould, and actually, including numerous purveyors of an ultra-lberal Islam that find Islamic justifications for khutbah in vernacular and female imams at Jumu'ah, and all those who thumb through books of knowledge to find justifications for their own gripes against their own local Muslim 'establishment'. All these people and their audiences, are completely familiar with the methods of propagation that ISIS uses. They are familiar with the doomsday warnings for the non-compliant, the extraordinary depth, range and co-optability of Islamic sources, the morbid dwelling on the state of Muslims in 'the final days', and the possibility that ISIS might be part of that showdown.

All ISIS needs to do, and has done, is to put forward more cogent arguments in their own favour, in a format and with sources that the recipients are familiar with, for numbers, on the periphery, small but steadily growing and very significant, to be persuaded that ISIS is on their side, that the horror and fear expressed by popular media is evidence of ISIS's robust stand against a West that despises Islam. In our academic and analytical comfort we can state the obvious about ISIS's cynicism, its manipulation, its internal contradictions and sheer mendacity. But for young Muslims especially, and those who are troubled by the dischordant clash between their own lives, the ideals of a simple Muslim way of life, the corruption and decadence of the society they are growing up in, and especially the compromises and hypocrisy of their own parents, the ISIS message offers a resolution.

Mehdi Hasan's first point is about the lack of religious knowledge among ISIS's groundlings, 'According to François, “It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” And the former hostage revealed to a startled Amanpour: “We didn’t even have the Quran. They didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”'

Mehdi Hasan is scathing of Wood's sources: "Bernard Haykel of Princeton University, the only scholar of Islam whom Wood bothered to interview, described Muslims who considered Isis to be un-Islamic, or anti-Islamic, as “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion”, and declared that the hand-choppers and throat-slitters of Isis “have just as much legitimacy” as any other Muslims, because Islam is “what Muslims do and how they interpret their texts”. Mehdi Hasan and others should disagree with this insofar as orthodoxy by definition is that which places its authority in a widely accepted and long maintained corpus of religious material. The problem is, as I stated in my endorsement of the Wood article, that ISIS has been very successful at recruiting the unorthodox, radical, militant dissenters: not the intellectual dissenters but the unfulfilled ones. It has done so by exploiting the methods that Salafis have been practising among Islam's western diaspora for nearly three decades, and which are therefore familiar, challenging, methods of discourse for their recruits. They were methods that succeeded in the original wave of Salafi revival two or three decades ago, precisely because they challenged orthodoxy, they called out the traditional scholars of islam, the imams and alims of innumerable masjids away from the centres of Islamic learning. And the Hanafi, Shafi'i, even Hanbali imams and alims had no training in standing up for orthodox Sunni Islam, whatever its preferred flavour, Deobandi, Bareilvi, al Azhar, or even the rigidly conforming Saudi-employed scholars of orthodoxy.

Now that Islamic orthodoxy has been seen to fail to counter the challenges thrown down in reasonable matters by reasonable Salafis, the field is wide open to anyone, faux-Salafi, who can use the same methods to drive rather more fantastic demands. Their usually young, often disaffected, too often dissatisfied convert, audiences know that orthodox alims and imams are mute. If they weren't already mute from the absence of counter arguments, they are most certainly muted by governments and media hounds for whom any discussion of anything but the "politically correct, ... cotton-candy view of their own religion” is tantamount to endorsing extremism.

Hasan's first witness is Mark Sageman. "Few experts have done more to try to understand the mindset of the young men and women who aspire to join the blood-drenched ranks of groups such as Isis and al-Qaeda than Sageman. [...] in his acclaimed works Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad, [that] closely analysed the biographies of several hundred terrorists." I agree.

Hasan on Sageman: '“Religion has a role but it is a role of justification,” he tells me. “It’s not why they do this [or] why young people go there.”' [If I quoted much more of Sageman here I would be pirating Hasan's work, but ... ] 'For converts to Islam in particular, he adds, “Identity is important to them. They have . . . invested a lot of their own efforts and identity [...] They see other Muslims being slaughtered [and say], ‘I need to protect my community.’” Hasan again: "(A recent study found that converts to Islam were involved in 31 per cent of Muslim terrorism convictions in the UK between 2001 and 2010.)" Indeed, a fact that continues to stress till we hyperventilate!

More essential wisdom from Sageman, quoted by Hasan: '“You don’t have the most religious folks going there,” he points out. Isis fighters from the west, in particular, “tend to have rediscovered Islam as teenagers, or as converts”; they are angry, or even bored, young men ..."' and crucially, referencing 'the Lebanese-American former FBI agent Ali H Soufan, "I knew far more of the Quran than they did [...] the limits of their knowledge enabled me and my colleagues to use their claimed piousness against them.”' This is exactly MuslimsInBritain's point about why a cogent, comprehensive and cross-factional theological rebuttal is desperately needed. It isn't coming from our supposed 'alims and imams, they only know why, as Deobandis, the Bareilvis are 'qabr pujaris', or why, as Bareilvis, the Deobandis are 'ghustaq-e-Rasool', and anyone who isn't a Bareilvi is a 'Wahabbi' and in the pay of Saudi Arabia's Waqf Ministry. (Actually the most potent and well presented sectarian Salafi literature is written by mother-tongue English converts and published in the UK.) If the rebuttal of ISIS ever comes, it must be one hundred percent clear that it is uniform across Islam and that its authors can and will argue it through to every Muslim malcontent in the land. If instead it simply becomes a line of division, the polarisation of the Muslim community will actually and substantially increase support for ISIS.

Hasan's next witness is Restricted, who revealed him/her/itself to the Guardian in 2008, probably because it was a vital message that needed to be understood in public, and is still not understood by much of the media or even the security commentariat (probably because they would no longer be able to justify their sometimes idiotic and usually wrong pronouncements made for jackpot consultancy fees). This time I will quote Hasan quoting the Guardian:
“Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could . . . be regarded as religious novices.” The MI5 analysts noted the disproportionate number of converts and the high propensity for “drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes [...] A well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.” Quite right, if I say so myself! Again, that is actually why the Graeme Wood article, and the Weiss and Hassan study, are so important: Orthodox, mainstream Muslim alims and imams continue to fail to provide anything more than primary-school madrassah, learn-by-rote instruction in Islamic belief and practice. For converts and neophytes, the field is wide open and well populated with offers of instruction, help and guidance from anyone with a soapbox to exhort from. A very few of these are managed by a very few of the larger mosques, but even these are hidebound by the mosque's own approved sectarian allegiances. The internet provides a more accessible and readily available medium. What are now known as self-radicalisation and on-line radicalisation, and which is now recognised to be the norm for most European-based Muslims undertaking an extremist action, are actually subsets of the process of radicalisation I have been describing continuously for the twelve years that I have been contributing to analysis and understanding of violent extremism among Muslims. The Security Service document makes plain that those motivated to extremist violence are not able to be profiled through common, objective characteristics. The concepts of self- and on-line radicalisation undermine the security establishment's notion of a conveyor belt to extremism or an underground network of recruiting agents. The missing factor in European Muslim radicalisation is the one that I have continually been expounding, the 'push' factor, which is far stronger than the 'pull' factor, and it consists of disaffected neophytes' repeated and deep-felt rejection of and by, the European Muslim mainstream.

Mehdi Hasan's next witness illustrates this perfectly: "... Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, the two young British Muslim men from Birmingham who were convicted on terrorism charges in 2014 after travelling to fight in Syria, bought copies of Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies from Amazon prior to their departure. Religious novices, indeed." They had grown up in traditional, Punjabi/Kashmiri communities in Pakistani-migrant Birmingham, and their orthodox education in Islam was so deficient that they had to start again as self-declared 'dummies'. What Hasan's anecdote does not explore, is what was it that made them decide not to take advice from the well-entrenched Muslim establishment. Handsworth's Muslim landscape is evenly divided between the two mutually loathing Bareilvi and Deobandi factions, both mainstream (8 mosques, 4 of each). It is because that well-entrenched Muslim establishment was too busy pronouncing takfir against each other based on an obscure 19th century quarrel, to have time to study the needs of their own children.

Hasan returns to Sageman, and again the point Hasan makes is right, and his conclusion from it is wrong. "Sageman ... says we have to locate terrorism and extremism in local conflicts rather than in grand or sweeping ideological narratives ..." He is referring to the roots of the ISIS crisis in Iraq and Syria, but what matters for our own safety and Muslims' future in Europe, is the faux-Salafi Islamic theology medium that ISISuses to attract its most potent operators from relatively comfortable London, Birmingham or Marseilles communities. It is the local conflicts there which matter, and the local conflicts in Handsworth and Tower Hamlets, in Sparkbrook and Beeston, in Derby and Dewsbury, is between disaffected Muslim youth and converts, and the complacent, self-satisfied Muslim establishment.

Mehdi Hasan cites MI6's Richard Barrett, again the focus being on the support for ISIS from within Syria and Iraq, and again while it is undoubtedly true that their motivations are often far from religious, “Acting in the name of Islam means that, for the ignorant at least, the groups have some legitimacy for their actions . . . They can pretend it is not just about power and money.” And again, for those signing up to ISIS from Europe, it most certainly isn't about power and money, it is about the perception of a legitimised jihad.

Hasan does turn to the orthodox Muslim establishment personified by the widely respected convert scholar, Abdul Hakim Murad in Cambridge. Unfortunately, Murad is a caricature of the distracted, idealistically liberal Muslim scholar that couldn't be more distant from the street-corner Islam that informs ISIS's recruits. Abdul Hakim Murad rightly differentiates between theological Salafi-ism and those who use the Salafi methods to perpetuate and deepen discord. 'Salafists tend to be apolitical, whereas groups such as Isis are intensely political. Even the traditionalist Murad, who has little time for what he has deemed the “cult-like universe of the Salafist mindset”, agrees that the rise of extremism within the movement is a consequence, rather than a cause, of violence and conflict.'

Probably the strongest of Mehdi Hasan's arguments is one of the points made by militant-turned-Sufi, Canadian Mubin Shaikh, who argues that, 'it is dangerous to grant Isis any kind of theological legitimacy amid efforts to formulate a coherent “countering violent extremism” (CVE) strategy in the west. “It is quite possibly a fatal blow in that regard because, essentially, it is telling Muslims to condemn that which is Islamic.” It is, he says, a “schizophrenic approach to CVE which will never succeed”.' But that is rather different from what is asking for. I am not asking to counter theology with theology: that would be as polarising (and therefore defeating) as trying to define 'moderate' ('good') from 'radical' ('bad') Muslims. wants to see 'alims and imams formulate between them, across their sects, a clear and comprehensive, wide-ranging debunking of ISIS's millenarian cult theology and have that propagated to every local mosque, madrassah, school and informal gathering. The material must unpick sectarian differences and not be weakened by the highest common factor on which sects currently agree. Crucially, those who use the confrontational devices that Salafis exploited in challenging the hegemony of village Islam in the UK's masjids, must recognise the damage those methodshave done and the way they are successfully exploited by ISIS. And equally crucially, the material must be accompanied by a determined effort to educate the two thousand or more alims and imams in the UK who currently are unable to propagate anything beyond madrassah basics and the Deobandi/Bareilvi/"Wahabbi" rant.

Hasan turns to the pollster, Dalia Mogahed and asks, 'What about Haykel’s claim that Isis fighters are constantly quoting Quranic verses and the hadith, or traditions from the life of the Prophet, and that they “mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion and they do it all the time”? Why do they do that if they don’t believe this stuff – if it isn’t sincere? “The Quran [and] hadith according to whom?” she responds. “As interpreted by whom? As understood by whom?”' Rhetorical question in reply, but it has an answer all the same: according to those who have legitimised this manner of discourse that popularises challenges to mainstream Sunni orthodoxy: the street-corner preacher, the disaffected neophyte, the alienated convert. Precisely the people who deserve a response in terms they understand. '“Islam’s authorities have loudly and unanimously declared Isis un-Islamic.” Because of this, “Making a claim that violates normative principles of a philosophy, as defined by those with the authority to decide, is illegitimate.”' Pious words, but they merely strengthen the self-righteousness of the disaffected. 'For Mogahed, ... “a violent reading of the Quran is not leading to political violence. Political violence is leading to a violent reading of the Quran.”' Clever wordplay, but I would extend it, "Political violence [in Syria and Iraq] is leading to a violent reading of the Qur'an [on Commercial Road, E1].”'

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