Sunday, 14 October 2012

Muslim Communities in Nottingham - Reports

BFTF recently became aware of two fascinating reports on the Muslim Communities in Nottingham.

Firstly there is as report on the "Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham", commissioned by Nottingham Council and published in 2009.

And secondly there is a report entitled "Understanding and Appreciating Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham", again commissioned by Nottingham City Council and published in 2009.

It is perhaps worth looking at these reports in a little more detail...

"Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham"
This report contains a SPECTACULARLY complicated schematic map of Muslim communities in Nottingham, broken down by ethnicity and school of thought.

"Understanding and Appreciating Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham"
This report is pretty much worth its weight in gold as it comprehensively describes the issues facing the Muslim communities in Nottingham, together with the dysfunctional way they operate and recommendations on what should be done to rectify the situation.

Some of the most interesting points are shown below:

Religious Leaders and Muslim Community Engagement...In general, Nottingham‟s Muslim religious leaders provide an effective channel of engagement into the communities they serve. However, we found particularly amongst local religious elders, a general reluctance and in some cases a refusal to engage with Muslims outside the confines of their respective Muslim Maslaq or practice...

Biraderi...These systems traditionally play an instrumental role in arranging marriages, conflict resolution, organising joint commercial activities, selecting community and Masaajid leadership, and vitally in consolidating support for sponsorship of Local Councillors and community leaders...However, when associated with other factors such as deprivation, alienation, and poor socio-economic expectations, these systems can be exploited in a negative context

Muslim CouncillorsOf the Muslim councillors we interviewed, most were keen to disassociate themselves from Nottingham‟s Masaajid, religious structures and groupings. Many were critical of faith-based schools and highlighted theologically based divisions to explain their preference for a secular based mainstream approach to tackling issues effecting Muslim communities...However, as we heard overwhelmingly in feedback gathered during focus groups and interviews, most Pakistani heritage Muslim councillors were perceived by their respective communities as being sponsored and elected through Birardari based support networks...Further, due to the perception that Muslim councillors‟ primary allegiances were determined by their personal Birardari affiliations, almost all were viewed as being self-serving and unrepresentative of wider Muslim opinion and needs.

Support for younger people...amongst religious, community and civic elders [there was] a reluctance to give up their positions to younger generations. The common response from both religious and civic elders was that the young were not “ready” to take up leadership positions. When asked to identify any prospective young leaders, most “couldn‟t or wouldn‟t”, despite some being involved in projects or programmes supporting the development of young Muslim leaders...

Community Centres...We heard suggestions that some centres were run as a “one man show” – precipitating rivalries, conflict and accusations of corruption and pilfering. Another commonly expressed concern was related to the appointment of family and fellow Birardari members onto management committees and other positions of influence

Exclusion of Women...As in other parts of the country, we heard from Muslim women in Nottingham who feel that their voices are not heard. They seemed to distance themselves from mainstream society, the Council in particular. And they are excluded from the majority of Masaajid in the city. They have no confidence in the traditional community leadership, nor that of the Council.

Council Consultation...[community] leaders were highly critical of the Council‟s current approach. There was a general distrust, suspicion and doubts about the Council‟s sincerity and commitment in relation to engagement with Nottingham‟s Muslim communities.

Some of the Recommendations: The Council needs to...
i)ensure it is aware of (and has up to date contact details for) all the key groups and individuals across Nottingham‟s Muslim communities. Of particular concern is the lack of information held by the Council at present and this needs to be remedied urgently;
ii) encourage individuals from groups not currently actively engaged in civic life to become more involved by setting up new channels of communication and engagement and other initiatives.
iii) work with the faith communities in the City to encourage Imams (and other faith leaders, where appropriate) to speak English and become more closely engaged with the wider life of the City.

Update 15 Feb 2013
Following a dialogue described here received the following response from Nottingham Council on how the reports recommendations had been implemented (response has been edited slightly for conciseness) :
Community Engagement:
Community Development Workers (Previously 3, now 1) worked with a huge range of groups from women’s groups providing sewing classes to mosques doing work with young men. Work with many of these groups, particularly ones with a focus on women’s issues continues.

The Muslim Communities Steering Group (MCSG), and sub groups on Youth and Women did a lot of work to look at the different parts of the Muslim community and to look at ways to engage with them.

We now have a central database (Digits) which includes both Mosques and Community Groups and can be searched by relevant ‘fields’ (e.g. Faith) to enable the Council to mail out to a targeted groups.

We are currently working to improve our relationship with groups providing services to young men in particular and to broaden our reach across all faith groups both directly and through Nottingham Interfaith Council.

Training and Development
Imam Training was part of the MCSG action plan. Diversity training for staff is part of the induction, and additional training is provided by the Equalities Team.

Schools and Community Cohesion
The Cohesion Team and Schools Support service have worked closely to provide a range of training to schools and teachers, on Cohesion, Hate Crime, Understanding Diversity, the 2010 Equalities Act and most recently ‘new arrivals’

The MCSG funded some leadership training, for women and community leaders. The Cohesion Team continue to support new community groups and empower those involved to take on other roles in the city, including on advisory and consultative groups, interviews and mystery shopping.

Grants were reviewed and funding given in both small and large grants for cohesion in 2009 for 3 years. The Community Development Officers have supported a wide range of groups to ensure they understand how to fill in application forms for funding and to build their organisational frameworks and capacity to obtain funding.

Preventing Violent Extremism Funding from National Government was ring fenced,