Improving pastoral care for Muslims
The positive effect of involving Muslim religious professionals in providing religious and pastoral care in public institutions.
A decade ago, the Leverhulme-funded pilot project entitled 'The Training and Development of Muslim Religious Professionals in Britain', mapped out for the first time the landscape of confessional training provision for Islamic religious professionals in the UK.
Research at the time showed that there were approximately 25 Islamic seminaries in Britain; a large majority from the South Asian Deobandi school of thought. Many of the graduates of Deobandi seminaries in Britain had been at the forefront of the developing role of Muslim chaplains in British prisons and hospitals.
One of the aims of the pilot project was to establish the feasibility of a large scale project about the training of imams in British Islamic 'seminaries' (dar ul-uloom). The main aim of this study would be the understanding and engagement with these institutions - seen as vital in further developing the structure of a Muslim chaplaincy.
Access to chaplaincy
Following on from the pilot project, the Cardiff Muslim Chaplaincy Project discovered how increases in the number of Muslim chaplains in the prison, health and the armed services - as well as the appointment of a 'Muslim Advisor' to the HM Prison Service - had significantly improved.
The management of religious diversity and arrangements of pastoral care had also grown in numbers alongside the quality of provision – both in terms of the chaplains' own abilities to provide help, support; suitable referrals to other services and the quality of candidates to the chaplaincy posts.
Research also showed that more members of minority groups now had access to chaplaincy provision and pastoral care. As a result, chaplaincy is now increasingly seen as a viable career path for aspiring members of minority groups.
A positive role
Overall, the research undertaken since 2003 demonstrates that the contribution of professionally well trained Muslim chaplains is an example of the positive role of British Muslims in social cohesion.
Professor Gilliat-Ray's research has demonstrated the positive effect of involving Muslim religious professionals in providing religious and pastoral care in public institutions in Britain, especially in prisons and hospitals.
Raised awareness of these benefits on account of this research has led to a more positive attitude towards chaplaincy among Muslims and encouraged more prisons, hospitals and other institutions to recruit Muslim chaplains. Standards of care for prisoners, patients and other services users have consequently improved while other staff now have a better understanding of Islam and a more cohesive multi-faith approach to service delivery.