Formation of “Archive, Research and Data Board” of the Council of European Jamaats.
The first attempt to record briefly the history of Khoja Shia Ithna-asheri Community in the UK was made by Zulfikarbhai Hameer, Mohammedbhai Nazerali and Nazirbhai Valji in the late 80’s. They had recorded our community history from 1941. At this stage, we should recognise their seminal efforts in this work. However, So much has happened and evolved since then. Our history in Europe is very new. A few came from East Africa during the 40’s, 50s and 60s to study, choosing either England or France depending on their second language; their stay was temporary and most of them returned. The permanent members of our community in Europe came after 1972 because of the political upheaval in Uganda and East Africa generally at that time. The displaced members of our community from Uganda arrived with very little on them. They had to leave much of what they had owned behind. They were scattered in Europe mainly in the United Kingdom or Sweden. Once our numbers were substantial there was then a gradual increase. More of those who came to study decided to remain and not to return. And in time, members of their family joined them. In Europe, this natural progression was the dominant reason in our numbers swelling. Soon, centres at Peterborough, Birmingham, Leicester and London (Hammersmith) in the UK initially then also in France and Sweden were acquired which functioned as Imambaras. That was just the beginning. This caused a remigration amongst our people but this time out of choice, from remote places to areas where the centres had appeared. The displaced and scattered community regrouped. Community life as we knew it was rekindled and our Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community (KSIMC) identity is now institutionally established. A lot has evolved and we need to archive our communities’ official and unofficial records that will assist us to produce historical documents from time to time.
The contemporary Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community (KSIMC) in Europe has been uniquely influenced by five key developments:
1. Early Outward Migration from Kutch and Kathiawad (Gujarat)
2. Its Institutional and Organisational Structures
3. Political and Economical Upheavals in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s and subsequent Migration and Remigration
4. Globalisation and Pluralisation
5. Evolution of Religious and Social Identity
In this report, I present two main areas that need our attention. It relates to themes relating to KSIMC community that have arisen from five social surveys (1) undertaken by ‘The Awakening Project (2)
1. Every KSIM community has been strongly influenced by the society and culture within which it dwells. Since the trend towards secularism is near universal in Europe where we have chosen to stay, our religious and social identity has been affected to varying degrees. One of the major driving forces behind the increased propensity of secular identification is the concept of ‘ambience’. In our specific communal context, ambience (this refers to the impact that the surrounding ‘environment’ has on our community as a minority group within that environment) is a very useful concept, as it goes some way towards explaining how cultures of different communities pervade and profuse on each other. It is also useful in the way it emphasises the interrelationship between our community and the people amongst whom we live.
2. The surveys have also shown that after over 160 years of existence as a community, KSI Muslims have managed to keep intact the commonalities or ‘threads’ of our own attitudes, values, and practices. These suggest that our organisational evolution – Jamaat, Regional Federation and World Federation assisted greatly in keeping the community ethos intact so far. The question for the community is how to preserve it and redefine it as we encounter different challenges that we are facing and will face in the future.
The following main proposals are made in light of the above findings:
A. That a set of standardised measures to analyse the effective functioning of our jamaats should be developed
B. That a social survey incorporating demographic, social and attitudinal components should be carried out of our community in Europe
C. That existing census data present within the Jamaats should be collated and analysed
In order to make coordinated progress in the above areas, the following needs to be addressed:
1. The establishment of ‘Archive, Research and Data Board of the Council of European Jamaats (ARD Board of COEJ) to archive community records, collate and store data procured from social surveys and relevant research
2. The establishment of a question bank consisting of key questions that should be included in all surveys of KSIM communities in Europe in order to aid comparative analysis
3. Work on devising suitable methodologies for data collection (telephone surveys, mail surveys, face to face interviews etc) directed at our Jamaat populations based in Europe
5. A publicity campaign for this databank for the benefit of researchers in the areas of KSIM identity, demography, history, sociology etc
6. An annual conference of KSIM researchers working in the areas of KSIM identity and demography
7. A brief annual report compiled for, and presented to, the Executive Council of COEJ highlighting work in progress with suggestions for future areas or topics for study to the benefit of scholars in the field
c. Education and training
8. Training and recruitment of a new generation of academics and researchers to work on these topics
9. The presentation of the latest research findings at the community forums.
d. Creating Solutions
10. Solutions for contemporary issues facing the European KSIM community should be created from the research and data conducted by ARD. These solutions are then shared with leaders, scholars and the public for discussion and implementation.
Dr Sibtain Panjwani
9th March 2018
Paper Published on the occasion of the birth of our Lady Fatemazahra a.s. May God accept all our efforts for they are for Him and Him alone.
To read this proposal in PDF version click here