Tag: Muslim American

Masjid Board Accountability, Transparency & Oversight

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity

– Dalai Lama

Unfortunately many masjid boards operate with little to no accountability, transparency or oversight. This often festers community members’ mistrust and a lack of confidence in the masjid board. Combine this with the lack of transparency and you have a recipe for disaster. Mechanisms must be in place in the masjid constitution or by-laws to ensure that masjid boards are held accountable and have a level of transparency to all community members (not just a few or high-income donors). This includes having quarterly townhall meetings and emergency townhall meetings with the community in the case of special cases or emergencies, the publication of quarterly and annual financial and operational reports, and the ability for community members to voice their concerns and be heard by masjid board members.

Masjid board members who operate in the dark with little to no accountability, transparency and oversight while not listening to the demands, feedback, ideas and complaints essentially destroys a community. Masjid board members not entertaining and taking community members’ concerns and feedback seriously is a blatant abuse of power and authority. Masjid board members are elected to serve all Muslims who attend the masjid, not just a handful of high-income donors or just themselves. This type of mindset in some masjid boards reeks of arrogance and self-interest and is by far one of the biggest factors which holds back most masjids from progressing forward and growing a community.

We typically find that the destruction and division of most communities is due to the arrogance and egos of some masjid boards and their board members. The lack of Islamic ethics, morals and values in masjid boards and their operations is one of the core problems which plagues most masjids. Most community members who are unmosqued typically point to the masjid board and/or an instance where they felt unwelcome or unheard by a community member, masjid board member or staff. If masjid leadership (masjid boards) are making community members feel unwelcome and unheard then we most certainly need to hold our board members accountable for their actions. Masjid boards need to be held accountable and be reminded that they serve the community not the special interests of a few or even their own self-interests. However, this can only change internally from within with a board that is mature enough to realize its mistakes and weaknesses if not pressure must be applied from the community to ensure a positive change is made in ensuring accountability, transparency and oversight become a core part of masjid operations in masjid leadership.

If you’re a community member who has zero clue about how your masjid operates ask for a copy of your masjid’s constitution and by-laws. Call for a meeting with your board to ask them about how they operate and demand that a level of transparency, accountability and oversight is set in place to ensure there is no abuse of power or authority or breach of trust with the community. The only way we can ensure our masjids achieve professionalism is if we all work together to build our masjids and our communities. Just as is with any problem the first step is to recognize it’s there.

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The Importance of Masjid Board Diversity

Masjid boards commonly (knowingly or unknowingly) are filled with board members of the same ethnic or racial background and typically have the same age board members. More often than not some also lack female representation. Masjid boards with a lack of diversity typically have the most trouble or problems relating to the needs of their community and building trust with the communities and masjids they serve.

Masjid board diversity in both age, ethnicity and gender is extremely important to ensure that all demographics in the community are being served. When either an ethnic or age gap between the board and a community occurs services, programs, and events typically miss out on significant demographics of the community. Typically what happens when a board has one ethnic or cultural group on it is that they only serve their ethnic/cultural group in terms of programs, events and services. This is not to say that a dominant culture or ethnic group at a masjid is a bad thing. A diverse masjid board has a much better pulse of the needs of the community than a masjid board that is dominated by one ethnic or cultural group. Many of our masjids are 2nd or 3rd generation Muslims who if not given a space, voice or opportunity at the masjid will eventually stop attending the masjid altogether.

Thus, a masjid board should work to reflect the diversity within its community and focus on having diversity in age, gender, culture, and ethnicity on the board.  To ensure this actually happens masjid boards should write this rule into the constitution and by-laws of the masjid. The Muslim American community is by far one of the most diverse in the US and it becomes incumbent upon masjids to ensure their masjid boards reflect the change in our demographics in our communities. If we don’t we risk losing out on building masjids and building communities that serve the needs of all demographics.