Masjid Governance and Community Engagement - THIS SET OF PAGES IS STILL UNDER DEVELOPMENT, DECEMBER 2017

MuslimsInBritain.org's directory of UK masjids confronts the problematic issues of factional sects and cultural and ethnic exclusivity directly, by displaying each masjid's predominant sectarian 'theme', which at its most generous can be taken as that masjid's customery form of Islamic worship, but in most cases is also a debilitatingly exclusive determinant of who is allowed to perform or speak of anything beyond the basic salaah in that masjid. MuslimsInBritain.org also shows the cultural and ethnic reference point of each masjid's management committee. In spite of many masjids being managed by second- and third-generation committees, and with many masjids having been established in Britain for as much as half a century, it is disturbingly normal to find that the cultural ethos of the masjid is for it to be an ethnically exclusive outpost of an alien mother-country's province, and this ethnic exclusivity distinguishes it from neighbouring masjids. In an extreme case, the only difference between two masjids in one neighbourhood of Gloucester is that one is managed by the clan who hail from a particular city in Surat in India, and the other by a clan who several generations previously, farmed the lands around that city; and that is in spite of several generations in between having grown up in Southern and Eastern Africa before settling in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s.

It is vital to understand that there is not a single Masjid in the UK that does not welcome anyone, Muslim of whatever belief, or non-Muslim, attending for devotional purposes within reasonable bounds - the contrary would be considered outrageous. Even so, outrage is curtailed when one third of the UK's masjids - all South-Asian-managed - make no provision for women. Otherwise, the only entity one might consider that explicitly excludes Muslims from entering any of its premises is the tiny but vociferous Ahmadiyya religion that claims a questionable association with Islam.

While masjid managements' sectarianism and ethnic exclusivity are the two biggest obstacles that prevent masjids from addressing extremism effectively, there are many other aspects of masjid governance that show widespread and systematic failure to address the Muslim community's need for positive engagement between the masjids and both their local Muslim community and the non-Muslim neighbourhood in which they live.

The MuslimsInBritain.org Governance pages detail all the numerous things that every masjid must undertake before it can claim to be a responsible participant in the wider community. Failure to do so only demonstrates a failure of the UK's numerous masjids to recognise what outsiders regularly observe, that Muslims in Britain may be in the community but they are rarely of the community. These are the primary points of Governance and Engagement that must be addressed:

  1. Accountability of the management and trustees to the congregants and community;
  2. Accessibility of the facilities, to women, to the physically limited and sensorily impaired, to other language users than the dominant group, notably English;
  3. Inclusivity with full, safe and open access to all the masjid's facilities regardless of sect, ethnicity, gender or ability;
  4. Madrassas, teaching and supplementary services, e.g. shari'ah advice, run to competent, professional standards, with protection of the vulnerable entrenched;
  5. Converts and returnees to Islam provided with comprehensive, independent and objective support in a culturally appropriate context;
  6. Countering extremism provided by fully informed, competent, objective and realistic sources fully engaged with the responsible authorities;
  7. Local engagement with the neighbourhood and local agencies on a responsible, sensitive and inclusive level with mutual representation;
  8. Human investment in the masjid's resources, developing imams and staff to provide genuine pastoral services to the whole community.

1. Governance and Engagement: Summary and Rationale

Since near the beginning of the century, the Muslim community has been continually beset by demands that it acts to end extremism and political violence, removes radical preachers and brings its wayward offspring to heel. Closely related to these demands are complaints about the failure of the Muslim community to integrate and live by the norms of mainstream British society. The Muslim community has heard all these demands and complaints and looked around perplexed - with a very few well known and dealt-with exceptions, there are no radical, militant preachers and no mosques recruiting terrorists. Opinion polls show Muslims having stronger allegiance to British values than indigenous non-Muslims. Of course these are simplistic generalities, but mosques, masjids, struggle to think of what else could be done to improve matters. Yet again and again Muslim youths make terrorism-related headlines, entire families disappear to Syria, and Muslim men on the margins of society are imprisoned for revolting sex crimes. There are no 'big' things that the Muslim community can do - no mosque that should be closed, no imam that should be arrested for terrorist recruitment, no network of extremists that can be rolled up. But there are scores of 'small' things that can and should be done,which are neglected through complacency, or ignored because they interfere with supposedly stable mosque managements, or don't seem relevant to people who don't see the masjid the way outsiders do. The masjid is the public face of Islam, and the people who run it have a tremendous responsibility to present it and its services to a standard that meets the expectations of our society. In reality there are scores and scores of things that Muslims and Masjid Managements should do better. These numerous small changes knit together and combined with each other and across many masjids, can transform Muslim society in Britain and leave no space left for extremism and political violence to fester. This part of the MuslimsInBritain.org website, that analyses and guides community engagement and counter-extremism, provides masjids with the opportunity to show their very best efforts to the public, including the hundred and fifty thousand users who come here every month, and including numerous public bodies, politicians and journalists who make this site their first point of reference when Muslim community issues hit the news.

A masjid's community engagement and its ability to help tackle extremism, are opposite sides of the same coin.

  • The masjid that is closely integrated with its neighbourhood provides no space for those who want to hide from attention.
  • The masjid that treats different points of view with equal respect and tries to include all of them, leaves those whose views belong outside of civilisation, as the only ones that are left out, where everyone can see that they don't belong.
  • The masjid that manages its affairs openly, with full and transparent records, gives no one cause to undermine it or take people away from it except to something more dubious and unaccountable.
  • The masjid that shares its facilities and its skills with everyone, regardless of race or sect, is able to provide better quality services than the masjid which is run for the benefit of one sect or race or even gender.
  • The masjid that is able to understand and meet the needs of converts and other newcomers to the faith skilfully and impartially, attracts keen enthusiasts and keeps them from being misled towards sinister interpretations of Islam.
  • The masjid that has a supported strategy for dealing with extremism or exploitation can draw people back before they enter criminal activities - the masjid can protect and help instead of struggle to defend its reputation.
  • Even providing positive support for disability fosters an attitude of inclusivity and respect for others that undermines the exclusiveness and contempt for others that marks out extremists.
  • Madrassahs well run with modern standards of teaching and organisation leave children with a legacy of well-founded religious knowledge and equipped to reject dangerous interpretations.
  • Madrassahs, 'ask imam' services and 'shari'ah courts' that provide proper safeguards for their users protect against abuse, resentment and devious alternatives.
  • Masjids that put resources into developing their staff, equip them to be able to deal confidently and successfully with everyone outside the masjid, from those who are fulfilling their statutory duties through to those intent on subverting the faith.
  • Masjids that involve the neighbourhood in its affairs remove suspicion and hostility, and encourage mutual respect and reciprocal involvement by Muslims in the neighbourhood.
The following pages provide numerous suggestions about things that can be done to achieve all of this, shrinking the space left for trouble-makers and making them conspicuous. Each topic highlights how the masjid currently rates.

Accountability 2. The Need for Accountability

2.1 Accountability and extremism

www.MuslimsInBritain.org believes that lack of accountability and transparency in the control and running of UK mosques/masjids, is a major contributor to the alienation of many young Muslims and converts to Islam from the mainstream of Islam. While this is a general problem that undermines efforts to achieve better integration between Muslims and their institutions and wider society, of far more immediate concern is that lack of accountability in the running of masjids, contributes directly to extremism, as it undermines the authority of any counter-extremism message that most masjids claim to communicate. Alienated young Muslims justifying taking up militant positions use the common complaint, "They (imams, management, community leaders) don't speak for us, they didn't speak out about persecution of Muslims before, so why should we listen when they speak out against extremism now."

Lack of accountability and transparency also contributes to extremism indirectly, by enabling a particular ethnic or sectarian faction to maintain exclusive control over what kind of Islamic belief and practice is propagated in the masjid, even though they usually do so for well-intentioned reasons - they believe that keeping everything within a single sect or single ethnic dvision is the easiest and safest way to stop people deviating into extremism. Actually it has the opposite effect: Anyone and everyone in the local community whose beliefs or practices differ from that one version, is treated as an interfering problem capable of undermining the stability of the masjid, to be ostracised and briefed against. This way of treating any dissenter, common across nearly all masjids, allows militant extremists to camouflage themselves among the large number of respectable and positive dissenters. It thus also legitimises secretive discourse among any of those alienated by the masjid's management, so that no one can tell the difference between worthy and well-intentioned dissent and those intent on something militant.

2.2 Accountability, Masjid Stability and Exclusiveness

Most masjid management committees believe they need to keep their meetings and decisions private because they have to safeguard the integrity of the doctrines the masjid was set up to maintain. This is because masjid committees, almost always 'laity', lack the theological grounding to defend their beliefs intellectually. That is not an unreasonable supposition, as they will be happy to admit to being 'lay' members of the community, not trained 'alims,'ulema, religious scholars. They fear any openness will give way to abusive and confrontational situations that undermine the stability of the masjid. At worst, they fear that opening up access to running of the masjid could itself allow the masjid to be taken over by extremists. (In practice, the handful of instances of militant extremists taking control of a masjid occurred, in the case of Finbury Park because the original management and their congregation had drifted away from the area and the management had disagreed with, and sacked, two mainstream imams in succession - Abu Hamza al Misri's offer to step in, voluntarily, was naively accepted by them. In other cases the masjid itself was tiny and set up by and for a body of extremists without wider Muslim community involvement.)

Many masjids claim to be the Muslim community centre for their neighbourhood. But if they truly are the Muslim community hub that they claim, they have a clear obligation to dispense with factional and ethnic allegiances. Alternatively, many other masjids are set up explicitly to maintain a particular ethos or ethnic tradition. But it is no longer justifiable, if it ever was, for any masjid to continue to claim to preserve the traditions of a particular sect or ethnic community now that we have several generations of Muslims in the neighbourhood, with diverse opinions, beliefs, ethnic origins and languages.

Accordingly, it is imperative that masjids cease to be organised in obscure and exclusive ways, and that full and public accountability is instituted for the running of the masjid.

2.3 Objectives to Achieve Accountability

Most masjids start off as attempts by a small group of friends and neighbours to organise a place where they can perform regular salaah, or where their children can go after school to learn recitation of the Qur'an. Invariably that initial group expected the masjid to continue to represent the interpretations of Islamic practice that they were themselves adhered to. As the masjid becomes better established, inevitably it draws in people with more varied views, and as successive generations become involved, their views often shift away from those of the founders. But it is very rare for a masjid's ethos to evolve smoothly under these conflicting pressures, and many masjids try to hold on to the intentions of their founders through increasingly 'traditional' or obscure and unaccountable means of control.

Instead, masjids must ensure that the controlling entity is publicly constituted, with a clearly defined membership and accountable officers. Its activities and proceedings need to be open and recorded, and communicated to anyone with an interest. The masjid is a central community resource so the community must have a full say in its affairs. The masjid will continue over generations, so there must be an effective way to pass on responsibility to later generations. There must be no room for corruption or exploitation, and there must be a means by which disputes and complaints can be resolved fairly and transparently. Nothing must remain that leaves cause for suspicion that particular sects or individuals are favoured or that anyone is able to exploit the masjid or misappropriate its resources or money. The masjid's impact is very much in the public domain so records of its affairs must be open to all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Objective
1. Masjids must have a recognisable institutional identity.
2. Voting membership must be inclusive and open with minimal barriers.
3. Management committees must be elected, and for limited terms.
4. Membership voting must be fair and regular.
5. Member and committee proceedings must be independently observed, documented and published.
6. Any member must be able to raise a matter and have it discussed on record by committee.
7. Proceedings must be conducted in recognisable English and be open to all members.
8. Communications must be appropriate, inclusive and effective.
9. Committee decisions and vote records must be published.
10. Financial records, salaries, assets and their values must be published regularly.
11. Accounts must be independently audited.
12. Disputes must be handled openly, following a recognised process.
13. Benefits or favours given or received, such as big donations, must be published.
14. Youth must be given opportunity to have a full say in the masjid's affairs.

Accountability 3. Practicalities:

3.1 Constitution

The Constitution of an organisation is the document that defines the rules and processes by which it controls its affairs. Very many masjids exist without a constitution, usually due to their origins as an informal undertaking between associates who share very little beyond the desire to organise a place of worship. However some form of constitution is needed for the entity to gain any kind of legal status, to purchase a property or register as a charity or company. Even so, the property acquired by a masjid organisation, may often be owned by a single individual, often as an informal loan of its use. Sometimes, even though the organisation has a legal existence, e.g. as a charity, the people named in the property deed may be different to the people who believe they are running the organisation. (The An Noor Cultural and Community Centre in Acton provides an extreme example in which the imam was murdered by a fellow director in a dispute over ownership of the proprty rights).

Having a constitution is not in itself any guarantee of proper conduct. The constitution must be freely and easily available to everyone concerned with the masjid, and certainly not just registered "members", whoever they may be, but everyone who has an interest in the masjid's affairs, including the wider public. Even so, it is perfectly possible to compile a constitution that is structured in such a way as to disguise where real control lies, or to have a fully spelt out constitution that explicitly vests control in a very narrow and unrepresentative body, even a single person. Having such a constitution publicly available nevertheless makes clear where control lies, and raises the possibility of changing it for a more inclusive and representative structure.

The other side of the coin is the fact that it is essential for the long term health of the masjid that it maintains a stable and assured management structure. Many masjids have drawn up constitutions that are deliberately inflexible and intentionally narrow in control, and furthermore, hard to track down, as a defensive measure to prevent hostile take-overs by groups with differing ideas, regardless of whether the differences are benign or problematic. However it is perfectly possible to construct a constitution that both maintains stability and allows progressive change over time. The most practicable way to do this is by creating an Electoral College. In this system, to vote for key office holders, one must not only be a member, but also have fulfilled some additional criteria that require a commitment to the masjid over a period of time. If the electoral college is fixed in size, and previous members that have not kept up the additional commitments lose their ability to vote for key officers, it is possible to allow change to occur in the organisation in a measured way, with the opportunity for those who wish to retain the "old order", to renew their commitment and retain their voting rights.

Similarly, if office holders are required to have fixed terms of tenure and are subsequently ineligible to continue, it becomes possible to make a gradual shift in control of the organisation as long as the terms of tenure are staggered. Setting the inelegibility period to an appropriate time, allows the possibility for the incumbent old order to return if they can maintain sufficient support in the electoral college.

Complex rules and procedures such as these emphasise the need for the organisation to have a written constitution that is published openly. If there is any concern that the organisation could need to have a legally recognised existence, e.g. for the management of funds or ownership of property, then the constitution provides the first step to achieving that.

The masjid must have a published constitution that describes:
1. its legal status as an entity with responsibilities to the public,
2. its aims, particularly regarding religious propagation,
3. its criteria for membership and its forfeiture,
4. appointment and termination of officers, committee, trustees if any,
5. conduct of elections,
6. control of finances,
7. declarations of interests,
8. modes of communication and record keeping,
9. handling of grievances.

3.2 Registered Charity or Company

3.2.1 Registered Charity Status

Charity Status should be an appropriate status for most masjids. Exceptions will be those which are explicitly privately controlled ( see below Section 3.3.6 Private Membership for such cases). It brings a degree of independent scrutiny to the organisation's affairs, finances and activities through the Charity Commissions of Scotland and of England and Wales, as well as a recognisable public status. While this is an improvement, very often the charity itself is set up to be merely a holding entity for the assets of the organisation, and day to day running of the masjid is hardly affected by the charity's existence. Furthermore, the existence of a published set of charity aims and constitution does not of itself ensure that these are held to - the charity entity is very often run separately from the day to day running of the masjid. Furthermore, most constitutions and statements of aims are expressed in general, bland terms, so are hard to challenge. Trustees themselves will only be subject to scrutiny if there are very clear misdemeanours.

Around 2005 the Charity Commission conducted a positive campaign to encourage masjids and other Muslim organisations to register as charities, and the MuslimsInBritain.org website provided some assistance in this. However in 2014 the widely held opinion that the chairman of the Charity Commission, Sir William Shawcross, held partial and prejudiced views concerning Muslim charities, borne out by the hugely disproportionate number of CC investigations into Muslim charities, and by his personal history (In 2012, as a director at the conservative Henry Jackson Society, he claimed: "Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations." ibid.), has created a significant obstacle to encouragement of registration. It is to be hoped that the CC takes measures to reconstruct its relations with the Muslim community, for mutual and wider benefit.

3.2.2 Registered Company Status

As an alternative to charity status, the organisation can constitute itself as a registered company, limited either by shareholding or by guarantee. Again this allows some measure of independent scrutiny through obligations to submit audited accounts.

3.3 Membership and Franchise

'Membership' means the ability to vote for the masjid's management, executive and trustees, i.e. members are those who are eligible to join the voting franchise.

3.3.1 Membership restrictions

Islam is not restricted by gender, disability, race, ethnicity, language or economic circumstance, and neither should membership of a masjid's organising body be thus constrained. Some constraints on membership are essential to maintain the stability of the masjid's organisation. However stability must not be confused with exclusivity, and the fact that most UK masjids are run through exclusive memberships or without a published membership franchise at all, makes them places which prevent keen newcomers from becoming involved and absorbed. While open access to formal membership of a masjid is hardly an antidote to extremism, nevertheless its opposite, unresponsive and exclusive membership, contributes to newcomers' frequently expressed sense of alienation. Adding this to the sense of self-serving, racial and cultural exclusiveness found among the worshippers in many masjids, most newcomers drift away, and their experience justifies the extremists' claims that the Muslim mainstream is out of touch. Indeed most UK domestic extremist activity among Muslims includes many who have experienced this sense of exclusion before they become involved in dangerous activity. This is especially true among zealous converts to Islam. So membership must not be restricted by any of these criteria.

Instead, there are practical steps that masjids can take to achieve stability with open membership, and these involve the creation of an electoral college (see 3.4.8 Electoral Colleges below).

3.3.2 Financial barriers to entry

Membership fees must be modest, whether they are annual levies or initial joining fees. While fundraising is an important part of every masjid's activities, it should not be achieved through membership subscriptions. Following the dispersal around London boroughs of significant numbers of recently arrived Somalis and Eritreans in the 1990s, certain South London masjids took steps to restrict the supposed detrimental impact of this on their masjids. In these masjids, to vote for the committee members, one had to be a subscribing member. Recognising the general poverty of the new, Somalian arrivals, the masjid committees raised the annual subscription at a stroke, from £25 to £125, and introduced an initial joining fee of £250. Clearly this iniquitous change was intended to exclude people who would be keen to influence these prominent South London masjids and preserve the predominance of their Pakistani and Gujerati managements. The possibility of measures to promote inclusivity or a managed absorption, were never considered.

3.3.3 Sectarian and 'Faith'-based membership restrictions

Most people would expect to see a membership criterion associated with being a member of the Muslim faith. However this is not such a useful criterion as one might suppose. Firstly, and rather obviously, it is not subject to any kind of documentary 'provability'.

Secondly, elaborate conditional statements of faith are often used as membership restricting criteria for many of the stauncher adherents of the main sectarian groups (all Sunni) that maintain control in most UK masjids, i.e. the Bareilvi, Deobandi and Salafi factions. This issue is at the heart of what MuslimsInBritain.org sets out to tackle:- it is these groups, especially the two former, who are the most complacent about tackling extremism, being quickest to blame other, usually unnamed, entities for radicalisation, yet whose sectarian exclusiveness and mutual hostility create the very environment where extremists can cultivate the disillusioned and draw them to their own cause. Therefore, any explicit membership criterion or implicit condition that aims to restrict membership on sectarian grounds, must be rejected wholeheartedly. (This still leaves more general sectarian problems, such as adherents of disfavoured sects being denied the use of the masjid's facilities for anything other than salaah behind the ruling sect's imam.)

Thirdly, faith-based criteria are often used with intent to exclude specific groups, most commonly in relation to the Qadiani/Ahmadiyya sect, yet as noted, such criteria cannot be 'proven' in any meaningful or even indisputable way. Such membership conditions actually play into the hands of Ahmadiyya claims of discrimination against them by Muslims. (Note that in reality the only place in the UK where Muslims are physically excluded on account of their religion, is the Ahmadiyya HQ in Morden, Surrey, where a posse of gatekeepers wait at the entrance on Friday gatherings, counting their members in, and preventing any group of Muslims from using their facility - not that any ever have, but the supposed threat attenuates their sense of being a persecuted sect . Far better to take people's faith allegiances and membership intentions at their word; doing so will demonstrate clearly that it is the Ahmadiyya who are a peculiarly exclusive sect, until such time as they change their ways and practice the inclusivity they preach so earnestly.

Finally, extending the membership of the masjid to interested (non-Muslim) neighbours of the masjid, could be used as a means of building stronger links with the community. Much of the contention that frequestly occurs between masjids and their neighbourhoods, arises from the sense that the Muslim community is somehow alien to the locality, itself a consequence of the often poor level of communication between the masjid's users and the rest of the local community. Extending some form of membership to the (predominantly non-Muslim) neighbourhood would be a novel and adventurous way of engaging more closely, of establishing that the neighbours are a stakeholder in the community's resources, and perhaps even as the basis of da'wah. This may be one aspect where restrictions on membership may reasonably apply, obviously so if there are matters of strong contention. Restrictions might include, including only a small number of addresses immediately adjacent to the masjid, or a limit to the number of such members, or a limit to the extent of constitutional rights, but the stronger the restrictions, the less the value in such an initiative. One approach might be to define a committee post reserved for the neighbourhood representative, and allow neighbours to vote for that person.

3.3.4 Geographical boundaries to the franchise

More difficult is to determine limitations on membership based on geography or level of involvement. The people who use the masjid in the early morning, evening and weekends, i.e. the people who live in the neighbourhood, are very likely to be altogether different from those who use it during working hours, and especially therefore, for the main weekly event, Friday Jumu'ah salaah. This is especially true in the larger conurbations with both centrally located masjids and suburban ones. This difference is clearly demonstrated for example , where most of the masjids in Central London have first-generation, Bangladeshi imams with barely a word of useable English, addressing Friday congregations made up of overflowing crowds of the most cosmopolitan and articulate of sophisticated, second or third generation, UK Muslims. Clearly there are very different interests between the latter and their inner-city dwelling hosts, the latter anxious not to lose their fragile grip on their local community centre cum mosque.

3.3.5 Institutionalising electoral franchises

In the 1980s, there were several, widely reported, incidents of blunt stand-offs between rival parties aiming for control of particular masjids. For example, in Southend, a small group of Bareilvi-oriented local Pakistani men had establshed a masjid in a derelict church. An equally small number of other Muslims in the area preferred the Islamic Movement ideas of Abul'Ala Maudoodi. For a few years they co-existed, partitioning the building so as to avoid each other completely. Eventually a resolution was achieved involving the Electoral Reform Society and a period in which membership was canvassed, running up to an election for control of the masjid. The far better organised Maudoodi-ist faction garnered more support, though not from Maudoodi enthusiasts, and it took over twenty years before a Bareilvi-oriented masjid was re-established in Southend. One reason for the prevalence of secretiveness is for capacity-strapped masjids to avoid these sorts of debilitating conflicts.

So while the formalisation of membership and franchise is worthy, the control that winning factions impose, will probably reinforce absolute rule. Without all the additional elements described in this section, the masjid will fail to meet the need for a faction-free, mutually respecting, plural institution.

3.3.6 'Private' membership

Some masjids were founded explicitly as centres for the propagation of the ideas of a particular group, and as such, consider themselves 'private' and not subject to any obligations towards the wider community outside their own clique. In healthier circumstances, such a presumption may be reasonable; after all, many clubs and societies, religious, social or otherwise, all exist with perfectly natural restictions on admission, and membership prerequisites for getting involved. Most Christian churches and other faiths are completely transparent about which particular denomination they adhere to, and this is completely acceptable. The difference for Muslims is on several levels and highlights the corrosive power of covert sectarianism that exists in the UK's Muslim communities. Firstly, there are not supposed to be divisions among the Muslim Ummah. The hadeeth well-known among Muslims that describes seventy three sects, firqas among Muslims, seventy two of which would be in the hellfire (except for "the people of my Way and my Followers", ahl as-Sunnah wa'al Jama'at), makes any suggestion of division a taboo subject. Not only extremists, but most 'mainstream' sects, play around the concept to imply to their followers that there cannot be any negotiation or compromise with other sects. Even our own MuslimsInBritain.org website is discreet enough about the issue to describe the differences (that are blatantly obvious), coyly, as 'themes' rather than denominations or sects, to avoid raising the presumption that only one of them is the ahl an-Najaat or successful sect.

Secondly, most schemes for establishing a masjid, dwell heavily on its use as a community centre, and draw on donations from across the local Muslim community. It is only the jealously controlling founding committee that determine that once up and running, it will be run in a manner that suits only one firqa, or one ethnicity, or indeed, one gender. Very few Muslim religious organisations are internally self-supporting; almost all rely for most of their funding from contributions by the local Muslim community. It follows that the community will have been let down if the institution is permitted to retain exclusiveness in its management and control.

Thirdly, in a similar manner, it is commonplace for the organisers to draw as much benefit as they can from concessions accorded to community and religious bodies, such as claiming a prerogative over the re-use of redundant church and community halls, planning permission requests that dwell upon community benefit, favourable terms of leasing from the local authority, charitable status achieved stressing community aims, etc. In the case of an entity that in reality exists to promote the interests of an exclusive sect or the singular views of its founders, such concessions will have been misappropriated.

For these reasons, although many masjids may believe they can justify a claim of being privately run, in truth, this is rarely the case. Where the claim is made, in order to head off pressures for the masjid to honour its community and neighbourhood responsibilities, it should either be robustly challenged, or the controlling entity should be divested of any concessions that are predicated on it being a 'community' organisation, such as preferential treatment by the local authority, charitable status except for its limited scope, or any position of influence as a representative body in the community.

Even if a particular masjid's claim to exclusive 'private' status is appropriate, that in no way exonerates it from many collective responsibilities, especially those where the masjid has an impact on community cohesion or on countering extremism. At the very least, in line with its 'private' status, there should be a private individual, typically the property owner or lease-holder, publicly named with public contact information, who will take personal responsibility for anything that happens on the premises or by association with the controlling organisation. That is the very least, and in reality, such organisations should recognise and fulfil just as much of their public responsibilities as the supposedly 'open' cmmunity organisations; they cannot shrug off collective responsibility for the Muslim communiies' numerous and catastrophic failings.

Membership Conditions
1. Membership must be open to anyone, regardless of gender, disability, race, ethnicity, language or economic circumstance.
2. Membership fees must be modest, whether they are annual levies or initial joining fees.
3. Membership must not be qualified by a sectarian condition.
4. Any geographical restriction on membership must take into account people who work locally but live elsewhere.
5. Independent bodies that oversee membership and elections must not reinforce a dominant faction.
6. 'Private' organisations must not be permitted to claim community status or community support.

3.4 Elections

Elections should be used to determine who is appointed to any representative position in the masjid, i.e. its management committee, trustees if these exist, and members of an electoral college if this structure is used (see [Electoral Colleges - hyperlink] below). Membership only provides a stable framework for an electoral suffrage if the basis for membership is fair, and only if the ability to vote and to stand as a candidate for a place on the management committee is regularly and frequently exercised.

Some would make a rejoinder that elections are unIslamic. While the mechanisms for ensuring ballots are fair and verifiable have improved over time, there is little of essence to distinguish the way in which the first generation of Muslims appointed its leadership from more modern expressions of the popular will. In their time, the popular will was expressed in support for those who manifest close adherence to the Sunnah, and there is no reason why a masjid's electing body should not also use the same criteria in favouring one candidate over another through the ballot box. At the very least, there are many aspects of adherence to the Sunnah, which aspects will be present to differing degrees in different individuals.

3.4.1 Publicise elections

Many masjids have detailed constitutions, but do not publicise their elections. In this way they avoid accountability and transparency. Instead, notice of general meetings that include elections, should be published widely, including among those who are ineligible to vote. Notices should be posted in the masjid and its lobby, the ladies section, the masjid's website, circulated by email and post. Observers should be encouraged and welcomed, and should include invitations to non-Muslim neighbours and interested parties from the local authority.

3.4.2 Limit the term of office

The period for which a post is held by a single individual should be limited, say to two successive elections, to avoid inertia that will prevent the position from being filled by anyone else. A voting membership ceiling of an electoral college can be used to prevent elections from merely rotating the same people among different posts (see 3.4.8 Electoral Colleges below).

3.4.3 Removal of officers

The constitution should lay down clear rules by which a committee member or trustee can be removed from his post. As well as some definition of what constitutes proper and improper conduct, these rules should include the ability of the membership to invoke the rules in order to remove someone from post and a new election to take place, e.g. through a specific number of members to agree to make the demand.

3.4.4 Eligibility criteria to vote must be published.

The constitution must state the eligibility criteria for members to be able to vote. Conditions may apply that include or exclude, for example, newly enrolled members, or members who have failed to attend a minimum number of previous general meetings. These conditions may provide a buffer against a sudden influx from a destabilising faction. Committee members, or those standing down from the management committee, may be deemed ineligible to vote: this measure would work against inertia of a self-serving management committee.

3.4.5 Safeguard ballots

Formalising the electoral process and introducing secret ballots raises the prospect of more underhand methods of exercising unaccountable control, such as ballot-stuffing. Numbering individual ballot papers does not undermine the secrecy of the ballot, and allows a tally to be kept of ballot papers issued, including postal votes, and votes cast and counted.

3.4.6 Record and publish results

Election results must of course be recorded. Records must include counts of numbers of ballot papers issued, numbers returned, spoilt (i.e. any uncountable) votes, and of course votes for each candidate. The records must be published on all relevant media - noticeboards, the masjid's website, newsletters, etc., and the ballot papers kept available for inspection on request for a period covering at least the elected terms of office of the candidates.

3.4.7 Women voting and posts for women, secret ballots, proxies and postal votes

In those masjids where there are organised elections for committee posts, the usual format is for a general meeting of members, usually in the masjid itself, and usually through anonymous voting slips issued at the meeting. This provides some form of secret ballot, and the issue of slips at the meeting provides some protection against ballot stuffing. However, even where membership is open to women and the masjid is open to women, it is most unusual for more than a tiny number of women to be involved in such a meeting and election. Masjid conventions invariably define separate congregational areas for men and for women in the two-thirds of UK masjids that have facilities for both. Therefore the opportunities for participation, canvassing, and voting itself, are severely constrained for women, regardless of what the written constitution may say. For reasons of inclusivity it is therefore valuable to provide some form of postal, absentee vote. To make this transparent and avoid the risk of postal voting permitting election rigging, the names of those making postal votes should be available for inspection. ('Postal votes' do not actually need to be postal if the franchise for the masjid is reasonably local. No one should be voting who is so removed from the locality of the masjid that they or their delegate cannot actually pick up or deliver the ballot paper at the masjid, in a sealed and numbered envelope, perhaps with a specific rubber stamp that indicates its nature.)

The possibility of specific committee posts for women has mixed benefit - setting an expectation that the particular post is reserved for women carries with it a corollary that the remaining posts are reserved for men.

3.4.8 Electoral Colleges

3.4.8.1 Stability and Control

One method of overcoming the difficulties of establishing the voting franchise, i.e. who the membership electorate should be, is to establish an electoral college with a fixed number of members, say 100. Only these members may vote, which makes the college stable in terms of the status quo. However members may lose their membership and be replaced, which allows the electorate a limited degree of change. A newly emerging faction would have to compete for vacated electoral college places, so would make limited inroads on the established membership at successive annual meetings. One way in which existing members may forfeit their membership of the electoral college is through non-attendance at a qualifying number of intermediate general meetings. If general meetings are held quarterly, and annual general meetings (AGMs) obviously annually, failure to attend 2 out of the year's previous 4 general meetings might cause the person's membership to be forfeited. (In places where the masjid includes large numbers of users who work nearby but live elsewhere, such people can be accommodated by arranging two of the four annual meetings on a weekday at the end of the working day.)

Since there are limited places in the electoral college, elections would normally have to be performed for all of the intending new members. Elections would be by voting by the residual current members of the college, so this would again place a strong measure of control over any pressure to change the masjid's management, would allow contending parties the opportunity to campaign and make their case, which they would have to do openly to the electoral college members, and do so over a period of a few years during which their intentions, commitment and abilities would all be measurable by the membership. Such a method provides a high degree of stability, imposes transparency, but also provides an inbuilt means of achieving change.

3.4.8.2 Assured Limits for Committee Members

Under the electoral college system, what holds good for the membership is equally good for the management committee. The principle is extended thus: Candidates for management committee posts (or trustees, etc.) must be drawn from current (and not new) members of the electoral college or incumbents who have not completed the maximum number of terms of office. Voting for the committee posts is done by the electoral college only (that is what it exists for, of course). Voting should exclude newly added members - they have to prove their commitment through attendence of the requisite number of general meetings as described above. It also excludes any longer term members who have similarly defaulted on their attendence. Crucially, on winning the ballot for a committee post, the successful candidate also forfeits membership of the electoral college. Eventually, after completing the maximum number of terms of office on the management committee, or being voted off the committee, the now former committee members can re-apply for membership of the electoral college. This additional element creates a degree of dynamism that decisively separates management committee from its coterie of supporters in the electoral college, and means that a management committee members's record in office carries over for a number of years; this works effectively against both stagnation of the committee and ping-pong between two quarrelling factions.

3.4.8.3 Assured Places for Minority Interests

There is an additional benefit that stems directly from the electoral college structure. It becomes possible to reserve a minimum or a maximum number of electoral college membership places for particular interests: women's representation, cultivation of youth involvement, non-Muslim neighbours, or (though it stretches the principle of faction inclusivity) supporters of a well-defined sect within the community. This last case might be a temporary measure to provide reassurance to an incumbent body of interest who want to open the masjid's affairs up, but who fear a takeover. Over time, such a constitutionally defined factional rump could be made to diminish, on condition that some conditions for stability are maintained. A progressive masjid may wish to reserve a minimum number of electoral council places for women. A masjid aware of the need to cultivate an upcoming generation, may reserve a maximum number of places for under-18s, but give them full membership rights and responsibilities, instead of ghetto-ising youth in a youth subcommittee or shadow body with minimal responsibilities. Finally, this may be the most effective way of cultivating relationships with the non-Muslim neighbourhood: offer them a stake in the running of the masjid through a limited number of voting membership places. If the suggestion of a committee place for a neighbour is also taken up, it is an open question whether this element of the electoral college would vote for only the non-Muslim neighbour or for all of the committee, and vice versa, whether the Muslim, remainder of the electoral college votes for the neighbourhood committee member. The most inclusive and engaged option would be to allow both and both: Neighbours with a stake in the control of the masjid, quite possibly the most effective way to debunk the notion of 'extremist preachers' in 'extremist mosques'; and Muslim worshippers with a need to justify the masjid's requirements to their neighbours.

Conducting Elections
1. Rules for the conduct of elections must be written into the constitution and published.
2. Elections must be held at regular and reasonably frequent intervals.
3. Criteria must exist by which an elected officer must stand down and be ineligible for re-election.
4. This must include provision for forcible removal due to misconduct.
5. Notice of forthcoming elections must be published, with their venue.
6. Eligibility criteria to vote must be published.
7. Ballot paper distribution and control must be exercised.
8. Records of the election process must be kept and published.
9. Arrangements for proxy or postal voting must be transparent.
10. Effective and inclusive arrangements must exist for women to vote.

3.5 Effective and Inclusive Communications

Communications: Minutes, decisions, correspondence

Few masjids develop channels of effective communication except where they provide a means to talk down to the masjid's users and community. It is exceptionally rare for masjids to invite contributions from their community, such is the fear of providing an opening for dissent to be vocalised.

3.5.1 Use of English Language

In spite of three generations of Muslims having lived in the UK in significant numbers, many masjids are run by, and largely for, first generation migrants. That means that many management committees are elderly, with not a very sophisticated command of English, in spite of the passage of time. For a variety of reasons, none of them particularly good, imams and madrassah teachers themselves are also usually first-generation migrants, often relatively recent ones. (They are cheaper to employ, and there are few trained or untrained imams among those who have grown up in the UK who are willing to work for the low pay, poor conditions and rigid control offered by most management committees.) Increasingly masjids are recognising the need to communicate in public in English, due to jama'ats, congregations, being ethnically heterogenous. However due to the lack of trust by their managements and desire to control proceedings rigorously, the people put forward to speak are very often simply the least poorly spoken of the same detached older generation. Furthermore, proceedings involving control of the masjid are often conducted in the dominant clan's ethnic language both for their own convenience and as a way of retaining privacy and withholding control from other groups.

In short, failure to communicate effectively in English persists because it is one of the means by which control of the masjid is limited to a select few. It is therefore imperative for this to change and for clear and intelligible use of English to be the standard for all masjid-related communication in the UK, if masjids are at all serious about becoming accountable to their congregations. In context, the same could apply to Welsh and Gaelic, though there isn't known to be a body of unrepresented Muslims with Welsh or Gaelic mother tongue. This issue is not to be confused with the use of Arabic in acts of worship: Qur'anic Arabic is mandated for recitation of salaah and the Jumu'ah Khutbah, and of course any other formal recitation of the Qur'an. (Translation of Qur'anic verses into the vernacular is, by definition, translation and not the original text, and therefore fails to meet the definition of revealed divine text. Translations of all Qur'anic and ceremonial recitations are almost always readily available.)

3.5.2 Audio-Visual Media

Just as recordings of visiting speakers and other events are now commonplace, serious consideration should be given to the use of audio or audio-visual media for recording and communicating proceedings of masjid meetings. Initial concerns over privacy of communication and intrusiveness of recording media should be allayed by the fact that the affairsof the masjid should very much be part of the public domain, and the participants therein should therefore rightly be subject to scrutiny by the community. Concerns over photographic imagery have not prevented even the more conservative jama'ats from publishing speeches of eminent visting 'alims on YouTube and Facebook. Visual representation is not necessary and can be arranged to be optional for those who wish. Electronic AV media is vastly more convenient than written media for record taking, and much easier to demonstrate as authentic. It is rather less easy for searching and preserving structure of proceedings, however, but these can be constructed retrospectively.

3.5.3 Accommodating Disability

Provision for disability is a topic in its own right and is covered in more depth in the Inclusivity section of this work. However a major part of disability inclusion concerns effective communication, and visual, hearing and speech impairment form major elements of disability. Hearing impairment especially, is widespread and regularly overlooked. It is quite normal for masjids to have Public Address, PA, systems, but far too many are so poorly installed or managed that their output is barely intelligible due to distortion or poor acoustics. There are probably plenty of willing amateur technicians able to address the problem, but for many people with little awareness of or concern for hearing impairment, the noise from the PA, or its absence, is all that is needed to signify the beginning or end of the rote-delivered khutbah or the takbir of a salaah. It would be feasible for a group of experienced people to organise and finance the provision and maintenance of effective PA across many masjids in an area as an act of sadaqah.

Induction loops are a standard solution to assist hearing aids, but the sparse, open layout of the musallah makes this technology impractical for most purposes in a masjid.

Having an audio record of masjid proceedings is actually a benefit to anyone but the most severe hearing loss, as it permits the listener to adjust the amplified audio output to his or her specific need. Substantial hearing loss should of course be compensated by visual media, i.e. written records of masjid communications.

Visual impairment presents other easily addressed challenges in the masjid, again explored in more depth in the Inclusivity section of this work. However in respect of effective communication, masjids can address partial visual impairment through large and clear print documents and signage, and can address serious impairment through provision of auditory material and, again, quality PA.

To summarise, there are simple actions any masjid can take to ensure that its communication with the community and its congregations, is clear, effective and inclusive. Taking these actions is an important step towards ensuring that the masjid is accountable to its users and the neighbourhood.

Effective and Inclusive Communications
1. Masjids must communicate all proceedings, announcements, records etc. in intelligible English. Translations into other languages should be as required.
2. There must be multiple appropriate channels of communication: noticeboards, announcements, newsletters, website postings, etc.
3. All formal proceedings, including any occasion when a decision is made concerning use of the masjid and its facilities, money or resources, must be recorded in writing including the names of those participating in the decision.
4. Records must be readily available through all appropriate media:
  • masjid noticeboards in men's and women's sections and public areas such as entrance halls,
  • newsletters and other circulars,
  • website postings, etc.
5. Due notice must be provided of all significant meetings (conditions for holding meetings must be written into the constitution).
6. Audio or Audio-Visual media should be used for verifiable records of proceedings.
7. Web media should be considered for publishing records, e.g. masjid websites, email, 'social media'.
8. Organisers must be able to make provision for audial or visual impairment requirements whenever requested, and should consider this provision routinely.
9. PA and AV technology in the masjid complex must be effective.

3.6 Management Meetings and Records

Open record keeping is fundamental to Accountability.

For any organisation to be recognised as accountable to its membership, there have to be records of all undertakings, including records of the individuals responsible for each decision made. The records must be easily available to anyone who wants to see them. The points have already made that the way the organisation is run and responsibilities of its managing body must be explicitly recorded in the constitution, that communications must be open, inclusive and in intelligible English at least. But these aspects are ineffective unless all aspects of record keeping are complete, are properly maintained, and be open to view on demand.

3.6.1 Membership Records

For many Muslims, the idea of a published list of members of a masjid is a difficult concept to accept. More or less anyone is free to come and go in any masjid when it is open, without any kind of record of who they are except possibly for security CCTV. This may lead some to be concerned over infringement of privacy if masjid membership is public. However, most masjids with any kind of representational control will already have lists of members, and transparency and accountability demands that everyone should know whether or not those who appointed them can be accounted for. It is important for everyone, Muslim users of the masjid, the neighbourhood, politicians and the media to recognise that users of a masjid are very, very often (emphatically) not the people who organise and run it. Likewise it is essential for those who claim a stake in the running of the masjid, to recognise the public, community and neighbourhood responsibilities that go with this. If anyone is discouraged from membership through the existence of public records of members' names, then it is right to suppose that those discouraged have interests that do not align with the interests of the masjid as a community resource. MuslimsInBritain.org is unique in provising an independent assessment of individual masjids' characteristic forms and style of Islamic worship, which is of course closely associated with the particular theological sect with which the masjid is identified. Some regard this as contentious, and the ability to associate membership of a particular masjid with allegiance to a particular sect, more so. One of the aims of MuslimsInBritain.org is to encourage masjids towards pluralism and against sectarianism, so making a list of members available to any reasonable request would provide an incentive towards the masjid adopting a less theologically specific and more inclusive religious ethos.

3.6.2 Records of Elections, Constitution, Meetings

Record keeping will be ineffective if the records themselves are not accessible. Therefore records must be readily available through all appropriate media:

  • masjid noticeboards in men's and women's sections and public areas such as entrance halls;

  • newsletters and other circulars;

  • website postings, etc.

Due notice must be provided of all significant meetings, and conditions for holding meetings must be written into the constitution. It is essential that anyone and everyone who has an interest in the management, running and services provided by the masjid, should have the opportunity to debate with and challenge those who run the masjid. There must be constitutional rules that make clear how and how frequently such meetings take place, with detailed provisions for the period of notice and channels of communication to be used to announce the meeting and its agenda.

Web media should be considered for publishing records, e.g. masjid websites, email, social media. The ubiquity and range of web-based media available provides multiple formats that leave no excuses for full and effective communication - the masjid's website for documentary material, Facebook for documentary, audio-visual and brief alert/status/reminder messages, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc. for the latter as well, YouTube for audio-visual records of events e.g. of management meetings as well as general meetings, blog platforms for all of these, etc. These media are more than adequate to cover different languages and for mediation to include visually or audially impaired.

Published records should include meeting notices, agendas, and especially minutes of meetings, attendance records and voting records of management committee members and other officers and appointees. Meeting notices and agendas are pretty obvious, but just as important for transparency of conduct and openness to the membership, is the minutes of meetings, the records of what business was conducted in committee and in any other meetings that determine how the masjid is run. Attendance records and voting records are not trivial either - people elect and appoint committee members so that their interests can be upheld - there is no reason why members should be denied the ability to scrutinise whether or not their appointees are fulfilling members' expectations. Secret ballots are valuable in open, general meetings, but committee meetings held in secret are all too easily abused. Even if observers are permitted to attend, a record should be kept for all interested parties to consult, and observers add value only if they can verify that the records are accurate.

3.6.4 Records of Correspondence and Disputes

One of the biggest problems that faces masjids is dealing with the discontent that lingers from poorly resolved disputes. Many disputes arise from differences of opinion over some aspect of Islamic practice or through failure to accommodate particular ethnic interests. Others commonly arise through suspicion about an individual's use or misuse of the masjid's assets or some personal animosity between key individuals running the masjid and other users. Whether the matter is spurious or iniquitous or significant, leaving such matters to linger as gossip, or dealing with it in anything less than a transparent manner, undermines the authority of those in charge of the masjid and plays into the hands of people intent on drawing people away towards some less wholesome goal; in short it provides openings that extremists can exploit.

It is therefore important that all correspondence between responsible individuals on behalf of the masjid, and other people, is available for inspection. Again, the point is that the masjid is a public facility with public responsibilities, and any communication or correspondence with it should be taken for granted as being public. Every masjid should have a disputes resolution procedure, and this is covered later in this section. Meanwhile, recognition that all correspondence between the masjid and its officers, and external parties, must be placed open for inspection by anyone.

3.6.5 Records of Assets and Finances

One of the most important aspects of transparency is around control of the masjid's assets and finances, especially as these may be subverted in a variety of unattributable ways. The need for proper accounts is covered later, but in regard to transparency of records specifically, open records must be kept and available for inspection, of all details pertaining to use of the masjid:

  • telephone records;
  • facilities bookings;
  • bills and expenditure;
  • receipts from collections, donations, subscriptions, madrassah fees, etc.;
  • financial accounts themselves;
  • including audit records, fund raising, assets and investments, loans and their repayments;
  • records of any loans or preferential favours that involve the masjid's assets or liabilities, and who was involved in making the favour and who benefited from it;
  • salaries and retainers paid to staff: imams, madrassah teachers, caretaker, etc.

With open exposition of all costs and revenues, it becomes easier for the community to recognise the support it needs to give the masjid. It also makes it possible to judge whether projects such as new buildings or investments in income-generating property are cost-effective or providing preferential benefits to some people and not others.

3.6.6 Beneficial Use of a Masjid's Assets

One peculiar aspect of a voluntary association such as the organisation running a masjid, is the possibility that some of the assets of the masjid, acquired through generous support from the community, or from public resources, may be misappropriated for the benefit of an individual instead of for the community. This can happen with the more obscure organisations and also, through individual patronage, with otherwise well-managed undertakings. The shocking example mentioned at the start of this Accountability section involved the murder of the imam of a West London masjid by a man who controlled the management of the masjid but not the lease by which the valuable real-estate property of the masjid had been acquired from the local authority. The murder was committed to overcome resistance by the imam to misappropriation of the land holdings. In a more obscure example, a South London local authority provided a limited term lease for a shop and flat site, to an individual who had initiated a masjid at the site. After initial interest dwindled, the individual continued for many years to let out the accommodation for his own remuneration. More subtle examples might occur when a particular religious faction is favoured with the use of the masjid's meeting space, or a premises' retail frontage is made available to a business at a favourable rate. It is vital for the health of an organisation such as a masjid, that all account is kept of the beneficial use of the masjid's assets by third parties, including who in the masjid's management has authorised the use, and that the account is made public.

3.6.7 Records of the Sources of a Masjid's Funding

UK mosques are funded almost entirely from contributions sourced from the local neighbourhood. This is as true for marginal house conversions as it is for landmark projects. The typical funding profile of a UK masjid that has had any significant construction work done, adaptation or purpose-built, is 50%-plus of build costs paid for by small donations from the neighbourhood it serves, spread over 10 to 20 years, plus up to 45% paid for from a small number of wealthy businesses in that same neighbourhood, usually as gifts or 'karz-hasana' (religiously motivated loans, described virtuously in the Qur'an and to be repaid) and given only after the large volume, low value donations have been exhausted, plus perhaps 5% of build costs provided from systematic fund-raising drives around congregations of other mosques around the UK. There is almost never any funding of UK mosques from overseas. When approaches are made to any potential source of funds in the Arabian peninsula, the response is invariably begging belief at the risibility of the request: 'You have come from one of the wealthiest economies in the world, you are staying in a comfortable hotel (in Mecca, Madinah or wherever), for all UK Muslims' tribulations, you have a demonstrably higher level of education and economic well-being than most Muslims anywhere else in the world, and you expect us to donate money that you can perfectly well raise even in your own family!'

While the foregoing is well understood among the Muslim community, there is a frequently repeated supposition in the more hostile media that the demonstrably successful achievement of masjids established in nearly every populous part of the UK is the sinister consequence of funding by external interests seeking to influence the nature of Islam in Britain. Publishing clear records of the sources of all significant funding in both the capital and running costs of a masjid is the only way to provide evidence of the baselessness of the claims of foreign funding subverting Islam in Britain. Without this, hostile insinuations of foreign interference undermine the authority of British Muslim institutions and their spokespeople.

Management Meetings and Records
1. Records of Assets and Finances must be complete and fully specified.
2. Audio or Audio-Visual media should be used for verifiable records of proceedings.
3. Scope of record-keeping must include:
            •         Membership lists and candidate lists, including candidates for membership of an electoral college where this applies;
4.         •         Election counts and results;
5.         •         Constitutional documents;
6.         •         Meeting notices, agendas, minutes especially, attendance and voting records of management committees;
7.         •         Correspondence;
8.         •         Disputes and complaints, and steps in their resolution;
9.         •         Responsibility for and use of the masjid's assets, including website editing, phone accounts etc.;
10.       •         Accounts;
11.       •         Ownership and donor source of all significant assets and funds, and any privilege or benefit received by the donor or owner;
12. Membership records should be available for scrutiny.
13. All formal proceedings, including any occasion when a decision is made concerning use of the masjid and its facilities, money or resources, must be recorded in writing including the names of those participating in the decision.
14. Records must be readily available through all appropriate media:
  • masjid noticeboards in men's and women's sections and public areas such as entrance halls,
  • newsletters and other circulars,
  • website postings, etc.
15. Due notice must be provided of all significant meetings (conditions for holding meetings must be written into the constitution).

3.7 Disputes and Grievances

Dispute resolution and grievance procedures are vital to the health of the masjid.

A very large part of what MuslimsInBritain.org is about, is bringing daylight into the wideranging issues of grievances and disputes among the Muslim community about how masjids are run and who for, with a very strong emphasis on the way in which these problems are exploited by those who wish to subvert the community to promote extremism. It is essential that every masjid has a transparent and fair procedure for dealing with grievances. There are many areas in which grievances may arise, and the approach to resolving them will differ between them. Some areas where disputes, suspicions or complaints commonly arise, are:

  • masjid funds being misappropriated
  • favouritism by the management
  • undue influence of individuals in the masjid's affairs
  • unfair dealings towards a particular theological doctrine

A grievance and dispute resolution process needs to be in place before any dispute actually arises, else when it is set up it will be subverted to suit the interests of the dominant party. It must be published, so that people know they can call upon it if they need to. If the matter is sufficiently serious, for example abuse of children attending madrassah, or embezzlement of masjid funds, then it ought to be obvious that the matter must be passed to the police as soon as its seriousness is apparent, and definitely not dealt with through some internal process. However there are many situations where disputes arise over use of the masjid's facilities or preferential treatment of some group and detrimental treatment of another, where allowing the dispute to fester undermines confidence in the masjid. MuslimsInBritain.org has published its directory of masjids for over a decade, and receives a steady trickle of correspondence expressing many different causes for complaint against masjids listed on the website. Only those involved directly with the masjid actually have any power to resolve such problems.

Disputes and Grievances Procedure
1. The masjid must have a disputes and greivances resolution process in place.
2. The process must be published and posted clearly for anyone in need of it to reference.
3. The process must be placed in the hands of individuals who are clearly independent of those in authority in the masjid.
4. Record-keeping must include correspondence and records of disputes and complaints, and steps in their resolution.
5. The process should include escalation to an agreed external party if involved parties cannot agree on the indepence of the internal arbitrator.

Accountability 4. Resources list, text and links

Work in progress - Resources to assist with compliant Accountability.