The British Board of Scholars & Imams

Category: Statements

Open call to end Islamophobia faced by Muslim staff and students in Higher Education Institutions

Open call to end Islamophobia faced by Muslim staff and students in Higher Education Institutions

The recently published EHRC report (November 2020) has shown evidence of institutional and structural racism experienced by ethnic minority academics. Empirical research focusing on Muslims provides evidence of widespread experiences of Islamophobia (anti-Muslim discrimination) (Allen, 2014; Awan and Zempi, 2019).  Islamophobia has been reported in Higher Education (Scott-Bauman, 2019; Stevenson, 2018); NHS (Malik et al, 2019); and when seeking employment (Wykes, 2018).

In Higher Education, research confirms that Muslim staff and students, as well as those perceived to be Muslim, experience varying forms of Islamophobia which go beyond social exclusion (Hopkins, 2011; NUS, 2012). These include microaggression, increased surveillance and anti-Muslim prejudice. Muslims continue to report discriminatory incidences which are defined as Islamophobic (Saeed, 2018; Thomas, 2016). Since the ‘war on terror’, increased securitization relating to legislation and policies together with religious profiling of staff and students have become acceptable and regular at UK universities. Islamophobia is tolerated in HE, with increased incidences and non-existent institutional response procedures (Tyrer and Ahmad, 2006; Ullah, 2016).

Ramadan (2017) shows Muslim academics are casually associated with the discourse of terrorism by others on their campuses. Respondents recount being questioned by colleagues on local and global events which are framed in the public domain through the lens of ‘Muslim extremism’. Furthermore, Islamophobia is gendered, and visibly Muslim women academics experience a range of Islamophobic microaggressions in their interactions with staff and students (Ramadan, 2017; 2020).

A common finding across these studies is that Islamophobic incidences on campus continue to go largely unreported, unacknowledged and unchallenged. Thus, universities have become places of hostility for many staff and students who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim.

The anti-Islamophobia BBSI working group urges the Higher Education sector to urgently tackle Islamophobia on campus by:

  • Redressing the lack of recognition that Islamophobia is distinct from other forms of racism and needs to be challenged at all levels of the university.
  • Providing a consultation with Muslim students and staff to raise their concerns and involving them in framing campus-based policies and strategies.
  • When signing the ‘Race Equality Charter’ (REC) institutions should incorporate detailed assessment of what constitutes Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice.
  • Implementing REC assessment which investigates and addresses the impact of Islamophobia on academic appointments and promotions procedures.
  • Setting up robust reporting, complaints, grievance, and wider reporting procedures which specifically include recognition of Islamophobic behaviour, its consequences, and appropriate institutional responses.
  • Including well-developed anti-Islamophobia training for EDI postholders across all HE institutions.

Notes to Editors

  1. The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics.
  2. The BBSI supports Muslim academic staff and students and supports #IAM2020 Islamophobia Awareness Month 
  3. For further information, please contact info@bbsi.org.uk

 

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    BBSI GUIDANCE ON MADRASAS DURING LOCKDOWN UK 2.0

    BBSI GUIDANCE ON MADRASAS DURING LOCKDOWN UK 2.0

    BBSI GUIDANCE ON MADRASAS DURING LOCKDOWN UK 2.0

    From the exec summary of BBSI-G10 – Published on 8 Nov 2020

    There is latitude within the current wording of the guidance and regulations for madrassas, including in places of worship, to remain open for ‘reasonable and necessary education’. This may change if the regulations change. Madrassas should consider on their own facts whether this is the case for them, and liaise closely with their local authority and the police, as well as ensuring that the education can be delivered safely. Online education should carry on where possible.

    A more detailed discussion:

    The importance of education in our religion cannot be understated; the very first revelation received by the blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was to ‘read’, and the Quranic verses and hadiths about the merit of seeking knowledge are too plentiful to mention. This importance, not merely to the education of children (and adults), but also in terms of secondary benefits of freeing up parents and carers to seek work and income, as well as rest and respite, has also been recognised by the government.

    Safety remains the key consideration. As with prayer and opening places of worship, our position is that cessation of such activities as congregational worship or education can only be countenanced because of an over-riding preventative (mani’) – here, maintaining the health of attendees and the community in general. As such, our position is dependent upon whether or not the preventative measures will actually achieve this end. It is recognised that we now know a lot more about the virus than we did six months ago, especially in terms of who is affected, how it spreads and how to mitigate transmission.

    In this, we rely on expert opinion, who now indicate that such gatherings are safe enough to be allowed. Hence a major difference between the first and second lockdown is that places of education – schools and universities – are open this time. However, this blanket permission has not been extended to out-of-school settings, such as madrassas.

    The BBSI fully recognise that religious education is just as important as (if not more so than) mainstream education, and continue to advocate for this position in the forums in which we are involved – although it should be noted that our taskforce does not advise directly on the question of education. This is the responsibility of Department for Education. Our position is that, given that education is important and schools are deemed safe enough to be open, madrassas should also be open as long as: (1) educational gatherings are deemed safe by the Public Health experts, and (2) they are sure that they can follow the government health and safety guidelines.

    However, there appears to have been significant confusion about whether madrassas can in fact remain open during this period of lockdown. This confusion is caused, it seems, by the apparent contradiction between the government guidelines and the wording of the legal regulation. In the most recent update, including the legislation that has been passed in parliament, it is apparent that the default position is that madrassas should not be open, except in particular exceptional circumstances: that they are providing “necessary and reasonable” “education”. The regulation is silent on what this means, and leaves the determination of whether this is the case up to interpretation by the providing bodies; the guidelines on the other hand provide examples which do not appear to be restrictive (ie: there may be other examples). The most important of these is that if the madrassa is providing an essential child-care service to parents who have to go out to work or study.

    As such, this is a legal test which each madrassa will need to look at on its own facts.  It should also be noted that this may well be resolved one way or another in updates to either guidance or regulations, and that ultimately it is the local authority that will determine how the rules are to be interpreted and understood. Our advice, therefore, is to liaise closely with the Local Authority and Police, and provide clear examples of the types of permitted activity occurring on one’s premises. In summary, there appears to be latitude within the wording of the guidance and regulations for madrassas, including in places of worship, to remain open for ‘reasonable and necessary education’. What precisely this entails should be a matter for discussion between madrassas and the local authority, unless and until the ambiguity in the central guidance is resolved.

    We will continue to advocate for the importance of religious education, as we are advocating for the centrality of places of worship and communal prayer. We would also encourage the use of online education where possible, and remind all of the importance of containing the spread of the virus, especially in our community which has been affected in an outsize way.

    BBSI GUIDANCE ON LOCKDOWN UK 2.0

    BBSI GUIDANCE ON LOCKDOWN UK 2.0

    BBSI GUIDANCE ON KEEPING MOSQUES OPEN FOR PRIVATE WORSHIP – BBSI-G10

    1. The various pieces of guidance are issued by central guidance, interpreted and enforced by local authorities, and then implemented by masajid. This means that there is a lot of scope for difference of interpretation and potential confusion.
    2. BBSI, being part of the government taskforce, have co-authored and signed a high-level inter-faith letter to the government that strongly reinforces the necessity of faith in the life of the community, and the centrality of the masajid in providing this. We also support the statements regarding this issued by various Muslim organisations. We are also working to establish collective worship as soon as possible and iron out any confusion arising from Government Guidance.
    3. During the November lockdown, masajid can remain open for individual worship, and where possible, we should continue to honour them whilst maintaining safety. We advise all masajid to notify the local authority and police of any permitted activity according to the Regulation to avoid any misunderstanding and misapplication of the Regulation.
    4. However, it has been made clear that, unfortunately, no communal worship allowed at all, including Jumua and both formal (Imam-led) and informal congregations. We advise all Masjids to follow the Regulation and Gov Guidance. Where there is apparent conflict with the Regulation and Gov Guidance, follow the Regulation, seek legal advice and clarification from the LA and Police. It is important for masajid to be aware of any dangers and concerns as a result of Covid19 both locally and nationally.
    5. There are no change to the regulations for funerals, and janaza congregations can occur with up to thirty participants.
    6. There is latitude within the current wording of the guidance and regulations for madrassas, including in places of worship, to remain open for ‘reasonable and necessary education’. This may change if the regulations change. Madrassas should consider on their own facts whether this is the case for them, and liaise closely with their local authority and the police, as well as ensuring that the education can be delivered safely. Online education should carry on where possible.
    7. Jumua cannot be performed virtually – see our previous guidance for details of this.
    8. We remind all believers that, notwithstanding the importance of our places of worship, it is a religious priority to maintain our own and others’ health, and we urge Muslims to continue to care for themselves and all members of the British community, and to keep safe.
    9. This is likely to be another very difficult period for all of us. We may well once again encounter deaths and serious illness in our community, the inability to perform our religious obligations, increasing isolation, worsening mental illness and extreme pressure on the NHS and its staff. Where there is an increase in infection rates, hospitalisation and deaths and the capacity of the NHS is overstretched to breaking point consider further voluntary limits of even permitted activity at the Masjid.
    10. Lastly, We ask Allah that all of us are given the taufiq to turn to Him in supplication, patience and worship.

    For full guidance please click BBSIG10 – Guidance on keeping mosques open – lockdown 2

    LOCKDOWN – UK 2.0

    LOCKDOWN – UK 2.0

    Public Announcement from The British Board of Scholars & Imams (BBSI)

    Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in consultation with community organisations, health and medical experts, the BBSI has been providing ethico-religious guidance to the community. At the outset of the pandemic, the BBSI, along with the other faith organisations, was invited to be part of the government’s taskforce. We have been and are actively liaising with the MHCLG government task force as advisory members to ensure that the eventual guidance reflects the needs of the Muslim community. We have also been liaising closely with many Muslim groups up and down the country to develop this.

    The closure of places of worship (including mosques) was inevitable during the first nationwide lockdown restrictions. The government since then has been working with faith communities to enable the guidance to reopen and open safely, providing clear operational guidance for ensuring that faith communities can continue to provide this essential service, whilst adhering to clear scientific and operational guidelines. These have been developed with faith organisations like the BBSI, as well as SAGE, to ensure that they are comprehensive but also – crucially – theologically non-prescriptive. We have also been working with medical experts and organisations to provide relevant guidance to the Muslim community – ensuring that both religious and spiritual needs are being met while safeguarding the community from any potential harm of covid-19.

    In the 72 hours since the Prime Minister’s announcement of another lockdown, the BBSI has been advocating for places of worship to be allowed to continue to hold congregations and to fulfil their spiritual and religious commitments. This is on the basis that they have proven to be both safe and ever more essential in our current crisis. We have raised the following points and will continue to do so at the relevant level:

    • Faith communities have gone above and beyond to make their worship and service covid-19 safe. It is our clear understanding that there is minimal evidence of any significant transmission in mosques that have been fully compliant with the co-produced guidance.
    • The paramount importance of social and spiritual connectedness for holistic spiritual, psychological and social wellbeing must be factored in while devising the guidance. Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, we have seen an increased number of the UK population (and worldwide) developing mental-health related difficulties. When the tier system was introduced, facilities like gyms were made an exception of for wellbeing reasons. It is our argument similar considerations should be factored in for places of worship.
    • We have strongly advised that the guidance does not account for the variation of forms of worship in the community. This is reflected in the language of regulations, that implicitly assumes that worship is (or should be) performed in a certain way, and demonstrates a subconscious bias that has real-world effects on how our places of worship are utilised.
    • We have also advised that it may have the undesired effect of disadvantaging certain faith communities over others, which is likely to subsequently lead to a sense of unfairness and being put upon. This is, of course, over and above the sense of diminishment of the importance of faith that many British faith groups felt was unfortunately on display in the announcement of the second lockdown. Furthermore, we have counselled that equalities legislation also needs to be borne in mind, to ensure that no one is being unduly disadvantaged.
    • In addition, we have advised that given the centrality of the scientific recommendation in driving guidance and regulations, that the government guidance should work towards nuancing the language such that it amounts to a set of exclusion criteria on the basis of health and safety evidence, rather than implicit pronouncements about how faith communities do or should perform acts of worship. In this way, the regulations will be explicitly faith neutral, and yet at the same time can be quite prescriptive about actions or circumstances that increase risk unacceptably. We are actively working with MHCLG to nuance the wording of the guidance to ensure this.

    The BBSI, along with other faith communities, are part of the government taskforce in an advisory capacity. Our responsibility is to advise the relevant stakeholders to consider the variations of the faith communities we have in the UK so that they can fulfil their social and spiritual activities. We wish to acknowledge the tireless work of MHCLG in both listening to faith groups and advocating for the centrality of faith in getting us all through this pandemic. In the end, though, it is up to the relevant decision-makers to make the final call.

    We have – and will continue to do – what we can, while working with medical and scientific experts and other faith groups. On behalf of the Muslim community, we will also be writing directly to the Prime Minister. We want to reassure the Muslim community that we have been working proactively in the best interest of our community, while trying to provide contextual guidance so that we all are able to fulfil our religious, social and spiritual activities. We pray for your continued support in doing so.

    BBSI STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN FRANCE

    BBSI STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN FRANCE

    In the Name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each! May his peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad, mercy to all humanity.

    1.To the Muslim community of France: our message to you, and indeed to Muslims the world over, is one of solidarity. We feel your sense of persecution, being unable to speak in your own defence for fear of prosecution and having the indignity of suffering the mockery of the Prophet whom we hold most sacred writ large on the sides of buildings.

    You are in our hearts and prayers. In asserting this, we stand with the fair-minded of all stripes, who seek to uphold justice, human rights and a common sense of humanity. This is an opportunity for those committed to justice to build bridges with each other on a national and international level across religious and ethnic differences.

    The scapegoating of Jewish communities in the last century led to a human catastrophe that we are yet to recover from. Discourses around Islam and Muslims in Europe are worryingly starting to mirror those made in Nazi Germany about Jews. We need urgent collective action to change that discourse immediately.

    2.To the French people and government: the heinous attacks in Paris and Nice are utterly deplorable and there is no justification for them. The same applies to Kenza and Amel, the veiled Muslim women stabbed not a day after the murder of Samuel Paty and the day before Vincent, Simone and the unnamed elderly lady. This cycle of violence must stop.

    Defending the honour of the Prophet Muhammad does not give license to murder innocents and is entirely abhorrent to Islamic and human values, as well being entirely alien to the Prophetic Way. We vehemently reject the acts, no matter what the perpetrators claim. We sincerely pray that their family members find peace and consolation in this darkest of times.

    Yet laïcité does not only entail separation of religion and state, but also insists that all citizens are equal. We call upon the French government to ensure equal and fair treatment for all its citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation and background.

    Freedom of speech is a virtue when the powerless are able to address the powerful without fear. But when it is used by a powerful majority to single out a disenfranchised and powerless minority, ritually humiliate them with mockery of that which they hold most dear, and criminalise their subsequent protests, it is no longer freedom of speech. It is now simply bullying, and it is not becoming of responsible leadership.

    We all – every culture and group without exception – have that which we hold ‘sacred’: that which we cherish above all else and to which no dishonour will be tolerated. This may be, for example, a set of principles, a hallowed memory, or a symbol of collective identity. Each of these is held sacrosanct by that group, and their emotional connection to it is so strong that appeals to ‘freedom to insult it’ will pale into insignificance. For Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad is all of these together, and still more.

    Of course, people should not be killed in the name of free speech, nor should Mosques be closed down to protect it. What will make a difference is careful and considered dialogue between ideas and people, civilisations and cultures. As the twentieth century shows, particularly the legacies of colonialism, ramming ideas down people’s throats only hardens their resolve. Ideas should be, and always have been, accepted on their merits. The world needs cool headed leadership.

    3.To Muslims all over the world: we encourage you to celebrate the astounding, beautiful and unutterably noble man that was Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his message, who forgave his enemies when he had both the power and the right to punish them, who saw the potential beauty in the worst of people and found hope in the most hopeless of situations.

    Let us demonstrate, through our own lives, character and actions, the impression he has made on us, and how his qualities have imprinted on our souls. Let us stand for the oppressed, support the dispossessed, and be the voices of those who cannot be heard. Let the hurt and pain in our hearts be transformed with grief and pity for the rejection and mockery of those blind to his beauty. For this was the way of our Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, whose blessed example we seek to follow. Let us honour him in a way that would make him proud of us, seeking his intercession on the Day of Reckoning and his companionship in Paradise.

    ‘Equate not evil with good, but rather respond (to evil) in a way that is more beautiful, and you will find – unexpectedly – that those between whom and you there was enmity become now like your bosom friends. Yet none shall attain this except those who persevere with patience and determination…’ (Quran 41:34)

     

    BBSI Statement on Mosque Re-opening

    BBSI Statement on Mosque Re-opening

    In the Name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each! And peace and blessings upon the Best of Creation, Muhammad al-Mustafa, his family and companions.

    Summary:

    1. Mosques have been allowed to re-open from 15th June for individual prayer, but NOT congregational prayer yet.
    2. The BBSI continues to work with the government to allow for congregational prayers to be held as soon and as safely as possible.
    3. Before Mosques re-open to the public, they must ensure risk assessment is carried out etc.
    4. This guidance applies only in England. Scotland, Wales and N Ireland should refer to their own governmental advice.

    Since the middle of Ramadan, the BBSI, on behalf of the Muslim community, has been working diligently on the government task force and liaising widely with various Mosque Councils and Muslim organisations. We have advocated for the centrality of spirituality in the lives of individuals, and thus ensuring the opening of our sacred places of worship as safely and as soon as possible.

    The Government has now announced that places of worship will be allowed to open on the 15th of June for individual worship only, though not congregational prayers. Though this is not everything that we were advocating for, it is a positive step in the right direction. We continue to advocate for a stepwise approach that will permit congregational worship in a safe manner, and are hopeful that this will follow soon.

    It should be noted, however, that this positive step comes with challenges. Foremost of these is ensuring that attendance at our mosques is safe. We are seeking clarification from the government about the health and safety regulations that will permit the safe use of places of worship, along with any accompanying guidance. This is so mosques and communities can plan their next steps in line with regulations, and also so we can feedback comments and suggestions to the government.

    Equally important is the ability of individual mosques to ensure that worshippers keep to statutory requirements, which we recognise will be a significant challenge for some. We continue to be mindful that the Muslim community has suffered disproportionately from the COVID pandemic, and remind all that our eagerness to return to the mosques should not be at the expense of the lives of our congregants or their families.

    In light of this we are urging mosques, trustees, Imams, committee members and the community to immediately carry out risk assessment and contingency plans at a local level, in close collaboration with Local Authorities and other relevant agencies. We must ensure that these are all in line with the government policies. We will continue to work with Mosque Councils and Muslim organisations to facilitate this and work towards further steps in the safe and timely opening of our mosques. We pray we remain in your duas in this endeavour.

    Standing up against Racism

    Standing up against Racism

    In the name of God, merciful to all, compassionate to each! 

    Many of us have observed with increasing consternation and dismay the events following the appalling murder of George Floyd, a tragic incident which is yet another example of the historic discrimination and racism that black people have and continue to suffer from. We pray for the family of the deceased and send our deepest and heartfelt condolences.

    Islam – from its very scriptural basis – is clearly against racism and explicitly discusses issues of ethnic and colour difference, as well as the essential humanity that binds all of us together. The BBSI, however, recognises that prejudice and racial discrimination is widespread in societies and that proactive measures need to be taken to confront this issue.

    Eradicating racism from our society will not be achieved by simple citations of scripture or identifying black Muslim figures in our history. We as the BBSI recognise that it requires deep introspection, learning and education, reaching out, listening to, and working with black communities, and religious transformation on an individual and communal level.

    We, as imams, scholars and academics are dedicated to playing our part in this by providing spiritual leadership in standing against oppression and instilling Islamic values of concern and active respect for one another. We urge scholars and leaders in the community to do the same.

    We pray for peace, justice and harmony for the world. And we implore the Almighty to shower us with His eternal grace and ceaseless mercy.

    BBSI Guidelines for the Eid Prayer

    BBSI Guidelines for the Eid Prayer

    The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics formed to facilitate scholarly intra-Muslim research and dialogue. Our aim is to provide authoritative ethico-theological guidance and leadership on matters relevant to Muslims, whilst promoting wider community welfare. It primarily seeks to do this by developing theological leadership that can authentically represent the rich scholarly inheritance of Islam, whilst responding flexibly to the context of modern times. Its ultimate aim is to both serve and represent the Muslim community in an ethical, inclusive, professional, and scholar-led way.

    The BBSI especially takes seriously the responsibility to provide theologically grounded, practically focussed, holistic and – above all – cool-headed and far-sighted guidance to the community in times of generalised anxiety and panic.  This advice should be read in conjunction with previous BBSI guidance (BBSIG02 and BBSIG05).

    Due to the current lockdown restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, public performance of Eid and  Jumu’a prayers, both of which involve large congregations, are currently suspended across the country – whether performance in mosques and community centres or in open areas. It is understood that this will be distressing to very many people, given the social and religious significance of the Eid prayer. Unfortunately, though the BBSI – along with other faith communities – is engaged in current discussions with Public Health England and HM Government, it is extremely unlikely that lockdown restrictions will be relaxed sufficiently in time to allow public and open performance of the Eid prayer.

    To read the full guidance please click BBSI0G8 – Guidance for Eid

    Mental Health and Covid-19

    Mental Health and Covid-19

    The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics formed to facilitate scholarly intra-Muslim research and dialogue. Our aim is to provide authoritative ethico-theological guidance and leadership on matters relevant to Muslims, whilst promoting wider community welfare. It primarily seeks to do this by developing theological leadership that can authentically represent the rich scholarly inheritance of Islam, whilst responding flexibly to the context of modern times. Its ultimate aim is to both serve and represent the Muslim community in an ethical, inclusive, professional and scholar-led way. The BBSI especially takes seriously the responsibility to provide theologically grounded, practically focussed, holistic and – above all – cool-headed and far-sighted guidance to the community in times of generalised anxiety and panic.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a mental health pandemic. Paul Farmer, the chief executive of mental health Charity Mind said: “We are facing one of the toughest ever times for our mental wellbeing as a nation”.

    This report features comprehensive guidance on managing our mental health for front-line staff, volunteers and the those in social isolation. The content of the report is informed by a synthesis of contemporary psychology and the Islamic tradition

    To read the full report please click BBSIG07 – Mental health and Covid-19

    A Matter of Life and Death

    A Matter of Life and Death

    The Ethics of Resource Distribution, Intensive Care and Treatment Choices in the Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic

    BBSIG-06

    This guidance will lay out an ethical framework, sourced from the Islamic tradition, which can guide Muslim stakeholders in their decision-making regarding resource allocation and end-of-life care.  It will address patient/family-level, clinician-level, and policy-maker level considerations, while recognising that every decision should be contextual and multi-faceted.

    To read and download the full guidance in pdf please click Matter of Life & Death – BBSIG-06