Britain's most senior Muslim clerics are planning to set up their first national council to issue religious rulings that promote a progressive interpretation of Islam, The Times has learnt.

It will be the first central religious authority for British Muslims, delivering edicts on Islamic doctrine and providing a national voice on social issues. It would state clearly that "regressive cultural practices" such as forced marriages and "honour" killings have no place in Islam or in British society.

Unlike the Church of England, there is no hierarchical structure to Islam in this country, with most mosques operating independently. Many Sunni Muslim countries, by contrast, have a grand mufti and national religious bodies. Many are crying out for leadership, Qari Asim, chief imam of the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said. "There's a lack of an authoritative public voice to speak out on issues such as terrorism and Islamophobia."

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