An interesting insight into how local government increasingly empowers religious organisations and institutions in Hackney.
On Friday I had three photocopied sheets of paper put through my letter box from Hackney Homes. These advised me I could attend a housing outreach surgery at Suleymaniye Mosque on Kingsland Road. Two hour surgeries are held on the last Friday of each month.
Why anyone on my estate would wish to use this service is hard to see. Firstly the Mosque is further away than the Neighbourhood Office, indeed you would have to walk considerably further, in the opposite direction, to reach it. Secondly an outreach surgery will not have access to the full range of staff and services that the Neighbourhood Office does, or the free telephone line to report repairs.
So what is the point? Well, in management speak such actions 'tick a box' and allow Hackney Homes to state that they are positively engaging with the community. For the mosque, which is also known as the UK Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre, it raises their profile, puts them in the Council's good books and gives them an elevated status over secular institutions in the same community. To quote from the mosques summary on the Hackney Council website:
Should Councils be reinforcing the prominence of religious institutions in their communities? Many will say not. The problems that can occur when one institution is chosen, and countless others are not, should be obvious to all. Secondly I am all for relieving sickness, distress and poverty amongst everyone, but fail to see how the advancement of Islam does this. Indeed a glance at those societies where Islam is the dominant form of governance suggests greater sickness, distress and poverty than here in the West. And that is without even going into the position of women in those societies.
Should Hackney Homes be working with an organisation that seeks the 'advancement of Islam'? It is certainly ironic that the Turkish state was predicated on the belief that progress and advancement could only come from reducing the role of religion in government, yet here in the UK the opposite process now seems to be actively encouraged!
As for myself, the last time I heard from Hackney Homes was at the end of May, when they wrote to me with regards to a housing issue I raised. They aimed to send me a proper reply by 3rd June. Over three weeks later, I'm still waiting. Perhaps they could try some outreach in my direction one Friday?