In the UK today, some of our masjids (mosques) are employing imams, who are meant for the local community, but they are from back home like Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. And people are complaining, especially the Muslim youth. They say “well our imam is from back home and he doesn’t really understand us, what are we to do?”
An imam’s role is to be of service for the Muslim community in general, a spiritual leader, an adviser. An imam has to be able to relate to his community and understand the dynamics of the society he is in. Otherwise all he is be able to do, is lead the five daily prayers at his masjid and have only a select few who may approach him for advice. But unfortunately, this is the case for many of our imams today who are brought here from abroad. Many of them haven’t a clue about what is happening in British society, they know very little to no English, and so all they can do really is simply lead prayers, and also maybe give Friday sermons in their native language. This wouldn’t be great use of an imam. What about talking to the Muslim youth, encouraging them and advising them? Interacting with the wider community? Building bridges of common understanding with different ethnics and faiths etc?
My main concern is for the youth who are made to attend such masjids. How are they supposed to understand their role as Muslims, if the person who is talking to them cannot related to them, how are they meant to ask for advice? They wouldn’t even get sound advice from a person who doesn’t understand them.
I think it is a dishonest service to the community, to keep imams who are unable to fulfil what it comprehensively means to be an imam today in Britain. Because the community will suffer as a result, people will be dealing with problems and the imam may find it impossible to relate and help. I do not wish to offend anyone but what we provide must of the best use for our society. And the truth is, most of those imams brought here from back home, are of better service as imams, in the country and place they are from.
These are some of my thoughts on the issue of local imams from back home.
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