MCB's ReDoc working with its affiliate the London Muslim Centre and in partnership with specialist history bodies brought together mosque representatives to increase awareness of record keeping and preservation of archives.
Perhaps for the first time, representatives from about ten mosques in London met specifically to discuss matters relating to their institutionsâ records and archives. The event on 28th April 2012, held at the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre (ELM/LMC) in Whitechapel, was organised by the âBuilding on History: Religion in Londonâ project of the Open University in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) , the East London Mosque (ELM) and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). The programme brought together professional historians and mosque imams and trustees and community volunteers. The aims of the âBuilding on Historyâ project were conveyed by Professor John Wolffe in his introduction, which include promoting stronger interaction between academic historians and projects on the ground, as well as activities that in the long term promote wider community engagement and awareness of the the rich and diverse religious heritage of London.
On behalf of the MCBâs Research & Documentation Committee, AbdoolKarim Vakil described mosques as more than just places of worship but fulfilling multi-faceted functions in a communityâs life. Moreover, âa history of a mosque is not just local, but national and diasporicâ and the history of mosques in Britain should be a natural part of the broader narrative of British religious history. Shaynul Khan, Assistant Director of the ELM/LMC outlined the efforts of the East London Mosque to preserve its records that date back to 1910. The programme included a keynote speech by Professor Humayun Ansari on âThe value and significance of history for mosquesâ. He stressed the need to avoid âhistorical amnesiaâ when documenting the history of mosques in Britain and accepting the diversity and expressions that have surfaced over the decades â an example being the Liverpool mosqueâs adopting an organ for its services! He noted that it is enriching to âlook at Muslim identity formation through the prism of mosque buildingâ. He also emphasised the importance of history for developing a sense of belonging and for busting the myths that can lead to unfounded prejudices based on âhearsayâ.
Dr Norman James, Head of Private Archives at the National Archives, addressed the seminar on the topic âDeveloping mosque archives: general principles and practical issuesâ. He circulated a draft schema for classifying mosque archives, prepared with his colleague Phillip Gale, for comment from the mosques. He also noted that mosques, as registered charities, need to comply with record-keeping requirements of the Charities Act. Shahed Saleem, who is writing an English Heritage commissioned book on mosques in Britain presented a case study on the architectural history he has been able to draw out from the ELM/LMC archives.
The seminar was further enriched by the presence of some mosque pioneers as well as community organisers like Mobeen Butt who has recently completed a project with Croydon Mosque, the Asian Youth Alliance and Croydon Museum on recording and presenting the mosqueâs 50 year history. Participants in the seminar included representatives of English Heritage and the Religious Archives Group. The seminar has prepared the ground for the emergence of a fruitful alliance of experts and community bodies which hopefully in time will lead to a further consultation with mosques on their preferred scheme for record classification, the contents of a toolkit for non-professional archivists dealing with mosque archives and opportunities for receiving training and managing oral history projects.
Norman James & Philip Gale: to view the draft for discussion - schema for mosque archives, click here
"The workshop was productive and should help to move forward, with some useful ideas, those who are engaged in archival work with mosques."
"I thought this event went off very well on Saturday. The attendance was good."
"Congratulations on the sucess of this very well attended event."
For ReDoc's project see also Page 210 of the new Muslim Directory
For details of the âBuilding on History: Religion in Londonâ project of the Open University' follow this link http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/religion-in-london/index.html