Britain Takes Step Toward Regulating Mosques and Imams

April 5, 2007

Author: Jane Perlez

Source: International Herald Tribune

LONDON: The British government on Thursday took a first step toward regulating Muslim religious leaders and mosques, declaring that imams working in government prisons and hospitals would be required to meet certain criteria, including a good grasp of English.

In addition, the minister of local government and communities, Ruth Kelly, said the government planned to offer financial benefits to mosques that registered as charities and showed themselves willing to take an anti-radical stand.

Speaking at a mosque known as the Muslim Cultural Heritage Center, in Ladbroke Grove, a relatively affluent area of west London, Kelly appeared to take the matter of regulation of Muslim religions affairs into government hands, despite sensitivities in Britain about official interference in religion.

Kelly is leading the Blair government's efforts to win over disaffected Muslims, as Britain struggles to counter radical jihadist ideologies that have taken hold among some Muslim youth.

More than 1.6 million Muslims live in Britain. Since the deadly July 2005 attacks on the London transit system by four suicide bombers of Pakistani origin, the government has tried to supplement its stepped-up security expenditures with softer approaches.