Imams Unable to Grasp Needs Of Western Muslims: Report

February 26, 2009

Author: Marina Jimenez

Source: The Globe & Mail

Imams are out of touch with the needs of Western Muslims, and divorced from the struggles their congregants face in secular society, according to a new report from a leading Canadian scholar.

Many religious leaders don't offer constructive advice about how to reconcile traditional beliefs with the challenges of integration in Western societies, concludes the study, which is based on focus groups with 60 lay Muslims in Ottawa, Washington and Britain.

"My ultimate fantasy would be to find an imam who gives a sermon in a Friday mosque, who happens to be someone who goes out to work from 9 to 5, takes the bus, is dealing with his kid who is picking up a marijuana joint at the age of 13," one interviewee said, "and not speaking to me about the battles that we won 1,200 years ago."

Karim Karim, director of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, is the author of the report to be published today by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy.

"We need to acknowledge the soul searching in the Muslim world," he said, "and the diversity of voices, and not let the process be hijacked by the groups or individuals who claim to speak for 'the Muslim community.' "

Some Muslims in the survey complained about "the cultural illiteracy" of imported imams. Others expressed the desire for a more elevated discourse in the mosque and a critical approach to dogma.