Anti-Bullying Week: The Imam – an Unexpected Victim

Today marks the beginning of Anti-Bullying Week; a nationwide endeavour to increase awareness of, and take action against, bullying.

When beginning to fathom the complexity and true scale of bullying, it extends beyond school walls, it affects all people of all ages and abilities, it is apparent in every social, political, economic and religious domain.

This tactful use of intimidation or influence to coerce an individual must be acknowledged in all arenas. To be subject to this type of behaviour is not confined to vulnerability or susceptibility.

For the infringement of an individual’s rights and freedoms, through forceful methods, is in fact evident even amidst those that appear to hold authority or exercise leadership.

Muslim leadership is seldom included in the anti-bullying rhetoric. We must challenge the narrative of only the vulnerable becoming subject to such degrading and demoralising treatment.

Within the context of the religious domain, we must neither overlook nor underplay the severity of coerciveness imposed on our religious leaders both within their own institutions or the wider community.

It is our leaders, our preachers and those whom we rely on for our religious counsel that are at times subject to ill treatment, improper encumbrance and unjust adversity.

The role of a leader, be it religious, social or political, does not come without pressure. Yet it is this unnecessary and unjustified pressure on our Imam’s and Alimah’s that, at times, constitutes to bullying.

Supervision and the correct management of Imam’s and Alimah’s is paramount. To achieve a religious environment that is free from coercion; the infringement of rights and the imposition of burdens have no real place in our religious institutions.

Lest we continue to categorise those who suffer at the hands of intimidation and forceful influence as ‘the vulnerable’. Lest we continue to silence the voices of our religious leaders that endure these injustices.

Let us now work in partnership with our religious institutions to better understand the complexities that come with leadership. Let us work toward a just, accountable and fair milieu for our Imam’s and Alimah’s. Let it be our joint endeavour to end the coercive influence and intimidation that is at times experienced by our religious leaders.

It is high time we work in conjunction with our religious institutions to ensure the proper treatment of all those within these establishments.

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