The role of faith communities is considered as vital to the process of promoting social cohesion and inclusion. The Association of Muslim Schools UK has organised a national conference and a series of regional events aiming to promote the community cohesion programme among Muslim communities.
A number of influential and internationally respected Muslim scholars will be attending these events and speaking on themes relating to social cohesion and inclusion. Key government representatives from the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Education and Skills have also been invited to address an audience of key influencers from the Muslim communities. Guests will include local educational authority directors/officers, church and other faith leaders, local councillors, politicians, police officers, youth and community leaders and other prominent members of the community.
The aims of the conference are very strongly aligned with those of the government in that they seek to promote a culture of pro-active engagement and dialogue between Muslim communities, particularly those communities that are closely associated with Islamic schools and Madressahs (supplementary Islamic schools) and wider society. It is hoped that this engagement will translate into active participation in local community cohesion initiatives.
Some of the key objectives are:
· To convey a powerful message that faith communities should not turn away from the political process and that they have an important role in building strong local communities which are actively engaged in solving their own problems.
· To inspire, motivate and enable key influencers who play a vital role in shaping the world-view of young Muslims living in Britain to actively promote community cohesion within their local communities and spheres of influence.
· To encourage key influencers to take on the challenge to develop skills, including learning the British method of communicating ideas, and fostering confidence amongst Muslims to play an active role in civil society, speaking and acting not just for the Muslim community, but also on behalf of the local community as a whole.
· To create a pro-active culture of dialogue and engagement where it does not exist, and develop it where it does, so that young Muslim children, particularly those most likely to become disaffected, see outreach as an integral part of Muslim life.
There will be a special focus on education, since it is a widely accepted view that all forms of educational provision have a vital role to play in promoting community cohesion, and go a long way to raise awareness of other people's culture, break down barriers and look for shared values that can be promoted.
The National Community Cohesion Week starts with a national conference at the Aston Villa Sports and Leisure Centre on Sunday 21st March 2004 and follows with regional conferences in Leicester (Monday 22nd March 2004), Bradford (Tuesday 23rd March 2004) Blackburn (Wednesday 24th March 2004) Tower Hamlets, London (Thursday 25th March 2004) and Newham on Friday 26th March 2004.
Dr Mohamed Mukadam