Where Are Britain's Modern Mosques?Saturday, June 18, 2011 Read more → community, Current-Affairs, masjid, opinions, uk In the name of God, entirely Compassionate, especially Merciful | Peace be with you
Why is good Quranic education so hard to find in Britain?
According to the Guardian, the third generation of British Muslims still don't have mosques that teach "compassion and citizenship".
Next month a 59-year-old mosque imam will appear before Bradford magistrates charged with ten counts of assault on children. Despite decades in this country, why haven't we managed to provide decent Qur'an lessons for our children?
I was taught Urdu at home but my younger brother and I were dispatched to a draughty mosque to learn Arabic so we could read the Qur'an as we should. It was terrifying anyway but then we were ordered to stand in a line with our hands outstretched. I watched in horror as the maulvi sahib came round with a cane, thwacking everyone.
I didn't understand why – nobody had done anything wrong. I lasted a week even though my dad had told the mosque leaders not to hit us. A girl who lived on our street told me she had her bum pinched by a young imam. Another imam beat a boy so badly his leg was broken. I spent another few weeks in a damp cellar with other girls rocking back and forth, while upstairs the boys also learned parrot fashion, then another mosque in a house and finally at the home of a kindly Pakistani woman.
When I was older I went into Waterstone's and saw a copy of the Qur'an in English. Mesmerised I took it home and read passages such as "Whoso is removed from the fire and is made to enter Paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion." For the first time I saw lyricism and beauty.
But reading the Qur'an in English wasn't deemed "proper". We had to read it in Arabic even though we didn't understand the language. "You're not English," my mother would say scornfully. But I'm not Arab either. It's disheartening to think the Duchess of Cambridge probably knows more Arabic than me. On top of that whenever I placed it on the shelf in my room it would be removed and placed in the uppermost corner of the house where it was more "respectful". It literally felt out of reach.When my son was born I assumed that times would have changed. Bradford is one of the most heavily populated Muslim cities in the country. But don't be fooled by the burqas and beards: there may be a lot of Muslims here but it is harder to find Islam.
When he was about seven or eight, we went to different mosques – or madrassas. "We have a strict 'no hitting' policy," said one imam as we toured the rooms. The children had no qualms, however, about hitting each other, while the teacher sat quivering in the corner.
At other mosques the imams didn't speak English. We had an imam come round the neighbourhood delivering lessons with all the speed and enthusiasm of someone delivering toxic pizzas. Eventually we found, through a friend of a friend, a mosque where the imams were young and British-born. They taught Arabic like Arabs, with beautiful pronunciation. At last, we sighed. They even had a computer suite and provided end-of-term reports. It was perfect.
There was no hand-shaking – obviously – but much hand-wringing when I saw that little girls were being brought to the mosque with their faces covered. Even the Taliban would balk at that, even in Afghanistan they wait until the girls have hit puberty before forcing them to cover up. "It's wrong," I told my mother, who replied, "Yes, but they have a computer suite and end-of-term reports!"
They also had a policy of not hitting children. But in the end my son was kicked out for having the wrong hairstyle and thus began another round of mosque-hunting. He now reads at the home of an elderly Pakistani gentleman. I wanted my son, now 15, to see his faith as a lifejacket, not a straitjacket, like we did.
I thought by now we'd have modern mosques where the third generation of British Muslims would learn about compassion and how to be fine, upstanding citizens, incorporating the best of British and Islamic values. But five decades on, the choice is between a mosque where the imam doesn't speak English and hits the children or one where they speak English but insist seven-year-old girls cover their faces. And frankly, that's no choice at all.