Young, British And Imam-in-training


2015052420150525 (R4)Samira Ahmed meets the next generation of Britain's imams.

Almost half of Britain's Muslim population is under 25 and born in Britain. Yet many of the country's imams are foreign-born and elderly, leading to claims that they can be out of touch with their communities.

After the 7/7 bombings in 2005, the UK government launched 'Prevent', an anti-radicalisation strategy to tackle extremism in the UK. An emphasis on 'homegrown' imams - born and trained in the UK - was seen as key in engaging young Muslims and curbing extremism.

A decade on, Samira Ahmed explores the changing role of the imam in Britain. Under an increasing media spotlight, their job includes not just the traditional roles of teaching and leading prayers, but counselling and pastoral care, helping third and fourth generations understand their identity as British Muslims. It can be a 24/7 role and the pay can be terrible. At the same time they are finding themselves pulled between the demands of the government, media, their communities and more traditional, conservative mosque committees and trustees.

Samira visits the seminaries and colleges where many of Britain's imams are trained, and meets graduates who have left behind mosques, instead providing spiritual guidance online or in their own homes. She asks whether the next generation of Britain's imams are equipped to provide the spiritual guidance and community engagement necessary to help young Muslims come to terms with their identity in increasingly challenging times.

Producer Georgia Catt.