|Foreign preachers face tests to qualify for stay in Britain
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor, the Expat Telegraph
Foreign religious leaders working in Britain will have to prove their understanding of civic life under proposals announced yesterday.
All overseas religious workers seeking leave to stay in Britain would be tested after a year to show their knowledge of Britain and asked to prove that they had integrated with other faith groups.
They would be questioned about parliamentary democracy, the tax system and anti-discrimination laws. Last August, rules requiring foreign religious leaders to have a good grasp of English were introduced.
The main aim is to prevent fundamentalist imams arriving in Britain to preach anti-Western doctrine, though the requirement will apply to all faiths and not just Islamic preachers.
A consultation paper prepared by the Home Office Cohesion and Faiths Unit said the new requirements would be part of strengthening community cohesion".
"The reason for this is the potential influence which ministers of religion can, because of the respected position which they occupy and also through the preaching and pastoral functions which they may fulfil, exert among their congregation in favour of moral behaviour and good relations," said a spokesman.
After a year of residency, ministers would also be asked to prove a basic knowledge of citizen's rights, the recent history of migration to the UK and British customs.
They could also be tested on basic law, roles of local authorities and on ways of securing access to advice about housing, employment and healthcare.
Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The Muslim community are going to read a lot between the lines, because there is a lot of undue pressure being put on us.
"Not all imams being employed from abroad are preaching extremist views. If they are found to do that, there is a judicial system in this country to deal with it."
He added: "We will be impoverishing the citizens of our country, two million of whom are Muslim, by denying them the opportunity to be spiritually guided by these people from abroad."
There is concern that other faiths will lose potential preachers. Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, will today deliver a petition to Downing Street on behalf of Hindus opposing the measures.
She said the moves had placed severe restrictions on religious workers in the faith, particularly the role of non-preaching Poojaris, most of whom have been trained in Sanskrit and not English.
Milson - There is going to be a great shake-up this year (2005). All of the major religions are going to have a "Second Coming" and none of the churches, tabernacles, temples, mosques etc are ready for that! despite the fact that they may preach it. All statute law will be cancelled - back to Common Law, so this question/problem will go away before long.
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