The Imam's goodness within a relational mosque
(University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the role of the "good imam" between various discourses both inside and outside the mosque. Based on two years of intensive fieldwork in the suburbs of London, this paper investigates imam's goodness both as a factor of inclusion and an object of conflict.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I intend to present some of my key findings regarding the role of the imam in London, and his ability to adapt to various discourses of inclusion and exclusion. Within the realm of Islam as a discursive tradition, the imam in London tinkers continuously his role to reconcile different -sometimes opposed- forms of goodness. One form that emerges from the community of believers based on an "apt performance" that finds its roots in the example of the prophet of Islam. The other one is presented by the bureaucratic committee members who look at the imam as an employee who has to respect his 'job description'.
My research goes beyond the governmental political discourse to look ethnographically at its embodiment by committee members of three mosques in London. In this sense, the mosque becomes itself a field of both visible and invisible top-down conditional inclusion that goes usually in clash with the grassroots ideals. In this context, the imam seeks protection and legitimacy outside the mosque in his relationship with various local and national actors, which transforms suddenly his "goodness" into an object of conflict between, not only actors inside, but also outside the mosque.
From good immigrants to good citizens: mapping the space of conditional inclusion