Senior Editor of Imams Online and Head Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds, Imam Qari Asim, welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron to his mosque on Monday 18th January.
After announcing the government’s commitment to spend £20 Million in an renewed effort to improve language skills amongst women in a drive for greater integration, the Prime Minister visited the Shantona Women’s Centre project for Bangladeshi women and Makkah Mosque.
Imam Qari Asim engaged the Prime Minister in a frank conversation that focused on highlighting the key concerns and issues held the British Muslim community today.
Imam Qari Asim said the linking of English language skills with extremism risked alienating and isolating sections of the Muslim community and played into the hands of those wanting to create division within society. He said that although the policy was “sound”, the Government needs to be careful not to link all policies concerning Muslims to counter-terrorism.
“British Muslims totally agree with fighting and countering extremism, and British Muslims absolutely agree that people who live in this country need to learn to speak English to be able to contribute to society and be part of society. But creating a narrative that if you don’t speak the language, you are more likely to be a terrorist or be susceptible to terrorism, that’s where it can potentially be counter-productive and also could result in a community feeling alienated and isolated.”
He added: “We need to ensure that the perception isn’t created that we have a problem with the whole community, because the same community could actually act as a conduit for the Government to actually tackle some of those issues, whether extremism or lack of integration.”
Imam Asim said he believes the fact that Mr Cameron visited a mosque showed that the Government was interested in engaging the Muslim community at a grassroots level.