Below are answers to questions frequently posed on the establishment, composition and governance of the MCB.
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The Muslim Council of Britain is a national representative Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
The MCB is pledged to work for the common good of society as a whole; encouraging individual Muslims and Muslim organisations to play a full and participatory role in public life.
It aims to:
The Muslim Council of Britain is an independent body that conducts its affairs with openness and transparency and in accordance with a written constitution.
The Muslim Council of Britain was neither founded by the Conservatives nor by New Labour. Following the crises in the Balkans and the first Gulf War in the 1990s, there was a growing sense of apprehension amongst British Muslims that the community lacked unity and coordination.
About fifty community bodies and networks convened in Birmingham on 30th April 1994 and formed the NICMU – the National Interim Committee for Muslim Unity. This body was mandated to conduct a consultation exercise within the community to establish the need for an umbrella body and seek views on its priorities and structure. NICMU met at regular intervals and in various UK cities, including Markfield (11th May 1994), Birmingham (27 June 1994) and Leicester (19th November 1994). A working group was established to carry out a process of countrywide consultations, and a postal questionnaire was prepared and circulated to Muslim organizations, Mosques, Islamic centres and institutions. Translations were also done in Urdu and Bengali to ensure a more comprehensive reach. In addition to the questionnaire, members of the working party held meetings with the major Muslim organizations in the country Union of Muslim Organisations, Muslim Parliament, The Muslim College and influential activists. The findings of the consultations were presented to NICMU on 15th July 1995. These indicated that a large majority of British Muslims were very concerned with the lack of unity, coordination and representation and supported the establishment of an umbrella body. NICMU then formed a sub-group to prepare a draft Constitution, which reported back its recommendations at a meeting in Birmingham held on 13th January 1996. The final meeting of NICMU took place on 25th May 1996 in Bradford, at which the name ‘The Muslim Council of Britain’ was chosen (from seven proposals).
An MCB preparatory committee was then formed to publicise and invite affiliations to the MCB and prepare for an Inaugural Meeting to formally launch the organisation and its membership. The preparatory committee met on 15th June 1996 (London), 7th September 1996 (Manchester), 3rd November 1996 (London), 15th March 1997 (Blackburn), 24th May 1997 (Leicester), 26th July 1997 (London), 20th September 1997 (London) and 1st November 1997 (London). Its work included a review of the Constitution and Standing Orders by the legal department of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the renting of premises for the work of the newly found organisation, the placement of advertisements in the Muslim press inviting participation from Muslim organizations and the production of an information pack. The work culminated in the inauguration of the Muslim Council of Britain at Brent Town Hall on 23rd November 1997. The first General Assembly meeting was held on 1st March 1998 at which the MCB elected a Central Working Committee and office-bearers for the first time.
Every two years, the General Assembly, comprising delegates from all affliated organisations, meets to elect members of the National Council the decision making and oversight body of the MCB. Twenty-five delegates are elected as ‘national representatives’ and each zone elects one ‘zonal representative’. There are thus 37 elected members on the National Council.
Additionally, each national and regional affiliate can nominate a direct appointee to the National Council.
The National Council is responsible to the General Assembly for the efficient and proper running of the MCB, for carrying out the policies laid down by the General Assembly and for taking initiatives that are consistent with the General Assembly’s policies in the best interests of the Muslim community of Britain.
The National Council elects three office-bearers and four auxiliaries for a two year-term. The office-bearers, those charged with leading the organization, are the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General and the Treasurer. Four additional office-bearers are chosen at a further meeting of the National Council and are charged with assisting the elected office bearers in the performance of their duties.
The chief spokesperson of the MCB is the Secretary General. Office-bearers cannot serve in the same position for more than two consecutive terms or four years.
Membership of the Muslim Council of Britain is open to any UK-based Muslim body. No organisation is eligible for membership unless its own membership is open to those who profess the Muslim faith. Members are encouraged to engage with MCB and subscribe to its ethos, that of seeking the common good and be of service to all, Muslim and non-Muslim.
The MCB has three types of affiliated status – national, regional and local:
The MCB has defined 12 zones, largely based on postcode boundaries, to ensure an even distribution of members within each zone
The Muslim Council of Britain’s administrative expenses are funded entirely by affiliation fees and donations from Muslim individuals and institutional well-wishers. These financial sources fund the MCB’s core work.
Donations are also received by the MCB Charitable Foundation (MCBCF), an independent entity registered with the Charities Commissioners. It’s aim it to build a capital fund through which activities of the MCB that are exclusively charitable can be supported.
The Muslim Council of Britain has also promulgated innovative projects to raise the capability of the British Muslim community and to widen good practice. For these, the MCB has successfully competed for and been granted funding from government and non-government bodies.
The MCB’s Constitution demands an organisation that will base its policies and decisions on consensus and the largest practicable measure of common agreement.
The final decision-making and ruling body of the MCB is its General Assembly that must meet at least once a year. The Assembly is comprised of delegates from affiliated bodies. The other organisational units within the MCB are the National Council, various specialist committees and task groups, and a Board of Counsellors.
Day-to-day policy is delegated to the MCB’s office-bearers. They take direction from the National Council and advice from specialist committees and appointed advisors.
Enshrined in the MCB’s constitution is recognition of the diversity of Islam and Muslims and the desire to come together on matters of common concern. It is a non sectarian body working for the common good without assuming any judgmental attitude toward the variety of expressions of Islamic belief and conduct except that which falls outside Islam’. It is a broad-based, representative organisation of Muslims in Britain, accommodating and reflecting the variety of social and cultural backgrounds and outlooks of the community.
Practically it does this through lively discussion at all decision making levels and through an obligation placed on the leadership to reflect the diversity of the British Muslim community.
The Muslim Council of Britain has instituted a number of checks and balances to preserve its representative and democratic character:
The MCB’s Constitution and the Standing Orders place a duty upon the office bearers and the National Council to appoint an independent and impartial person as election commissioner six months in advance of the election process. The commissioner is empowered to act wholly independently of the National Council and the office bearers in the implementation and supervision of complex but essential election procedures. The office bearers, past or present, have no involvement with the election process.
The Muslim Council of Britain is ever-ready and enthusiastic to work with any body on matters of common concern. Naturally, we would encourage affiliation to the MCB to cement the relationship of mutual enrichment. Their collective contributions can offer fresh perspectives to common concerns. Nevertheless, the MCB understands that some organisations are unable or unwilling to join and we would welcome co-operation based on mutual respect and solidarity.
The membership committee is responsible for working to increase the number of affiliations, particularly from under-represented communities. Britain is a unique melting pot for Muslims coming from diverse cultures and backgrounds and it is advantageous to retain a variety of institutional forms and arrangements, from formal national representative bodies to informal networks. The MCB’s vision has never been to duplicate, supplant or belittle existing work or to seek to become the sole rallying point, thus reducing the wealth and diversity of the community to a single body. It endeavours to promote good practice throughout the community and coordinate work where necessary.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s vitality comes from mosques, associations and grassroots organisations. The MCB leadership is elected from its rich mix of affiliate bodies. The MCB’s policies are informed through feedback from these various grassroots organisations. In addition, the work of the MCB is enriched by specialists at the height of their professional career who serve in its various committees or offer advisory services.
The Muslim Council of Britain clearly can’t speak and represent all Muslims just as all organisations of a similar type cannot. The MCB does however, through the number and geographic spread of its affiliate organisations throughout the UK, speak for and represent a large cross section of the British Muslim community. Organisations that affiliate to the MCB grant it the legitimacy to represent their concerns and interests.
Muslims in Britain are British citizens with an Islamic heritage and the MCB encourages British Muslims to make full use of their rights and responsibilities to further and advance equality for all communities, tolerance of differences and a staunch defence of our liberal democratic traditions and enviable civil liberties.
The Muslim Council of Britain does not seek special rights or privileges for British Muslims. Its disproportionate attention to British Muslims is a result of the underprivileged status of the community in terms of inequality and injustice. The MCB seeks to mainstream British Muslims by removing barriers to integration, whether these be obstacles encountered within the community or without; such as in policy making or in our public discourse on Islam and Muslims.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s approach to dealing with civic affairs is one of participation not agitation. The MCB views its dealings with government and policymakers as a matter of constructive engagement. This means that the MCB strives to understand and deal with problems and influence policies and outcomes through principled and effective participation.
The Muslim Council of Britain is a non-partisan, non sectarian umbrella organisation that seeks constructive partnerships with all other entities interested in our common well being as citizens of the United Kingdom.