Religions (Sep 2019)

Conflicting Paradigms of Religious and Bureaucratic Authority in a British Mosque

  • Amin El-Yousfi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 10
p. 564


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This article analyses an on-going conflict between two groups (Bargil and Kardal) over the management of a mosque located in an area near London. Based on fourteen months of intensive fieldwork, including participant observation, informal chats and semi-structured interviews, this article offers an in-depth and original account of the transformations taking place in mosques concerning the role of imams and mosque committee members. By analysing the object of conflict, the organisational structure, the dynamic of the groups and its leaders, as well as the process of bureaucratisation of mosques as a material condition, I intend to scrutinise the role and status of the imam and mosque committee members. The primary aim of this article is to re-examine and challenge the narrative of decline in religious authority (in Western mosques) propounded by some scholars as being the result of individualisation and the rise of new religious figures outside traditional institutions. I suggest that rather than experiencing a decline in imams’ religious authority, mosques have become controlled by the bureaucratic authority of the committee members. In other words, imams’ religious authority is still exercised, yet only within the bureaucratic framework set by the committee members.