British imams are planning to set up their first national council to issue religious rulings and form a united voice on issues such as terrorism, Islamophobia, gay rights and climate change.
It will be the first central religious authority for British Muslims, delivering edicts on Islamic doctrine and providing a national voice on social issues, the Times reports.
It would clearly state that “regressive cultural practices” such as forced marriages and “honor killings” have no place in Islam or British society.
It will also have a voice on issues that affect the Muslim community such as climate change, mental health and obesity.
Unlike the Church of England, there is no hierarchical structure to Islam in Britain, as most mosques operate independently. According to Qari Asim, chief imam of the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, many are crying out for leadership.
“There’s a lack of an authoritative public voice to speak out on issues such as terrorism and Islamophobia,” he said. He added that young Muslims “want to see more clarity.”
He told the newspaper that imams from groups such as the British Muslim Forum and Imams Online were discussing setting up a theological group of senior imams to deal with “interpretational issues.” Imams from different denominations would be nominated to this board by their mosques.
Asim, who described Thursday’s terrorist attack in Barcelona as depraved, said an imams’ board would include conservative views but take a progressive stance. He said there would be mixed feelings about the board, but there was a need for a sensible voice.
“The board must take a progressive stance that is in line with Islamic principles and embedded in a British context. For instance, Islam strictly prohibits ‘honor killing’ and forced marriages, but misogynistic cultures have disempowered women.
“The board must also champion and be proactive on issues that affect the Muslim community as much as the remainder of the community, for example climate change and taboo issues such as mental health and obesity.”
The board could insist that gay Muslims “should not be persecuted or ostracized,” he added.
Existing bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the dormant Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board are umbrella bodies and do not rule on religious doctrine.