The Prisoner Officers Association, a group that represents prison guards in the United Kingdom, issued a disturbing report on October 20 that contends that convicts there are being forced to become Muslims against their will. The association claims that gangs of Muslims are steadily increasing their “their power and influence inside UK jails," while also citing concern that converts to Mohammedism are radicalized by Muslim leaders in the jails.
A similar report to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 expressed concerns about the United States. "The prison population is vulnerable to radicalization by the same agents responsible for radicalizing... outside of the prison walls. Despite appearances, prison walls are porous."
"It is easy for outside influences to access those on the inside, and for inmates to reach from the inside out. Individuals and groups that subscribe to radical, and sometimes violent, ideology have made sustained efforts over several decades to target inmates for indoctrination. Some of these groups act as the certifying bodies responsible for hiring imams into the prison system, thus affording them continuous access to the prison population. In addition, the cycle of radicalization continues through post‐release programs."
Sky News in the UK interviewed an anonymous female source who said that her brother has been targeted by a Muslim gang in prison to convert to Islam through threats and duress. The source said that the "bullying had even taken the form of physical assaults, leaving him with black eyes, and once being threatened with a knife." Expressing fear for her brother’s safety, the woman also said that "he just looks like a broken man... he's tearful on visits. I'm just really scared for him." "He's not going to back down. He's not going to convert for anyone," she added.
Officials in the UK admit that forced conversions to Islam occur in its prisons. While they claim that they are unaware of how far aggressive proselytizing may go within prisons, Joe Chapman – a former prison guard – told UK-daily The Mirror that he thought it could be a "huge problem." He alleged that non-Muslims coming to prison are targeted for proselytizing while they are locked up. Muslim convicts are subjected to radical ideas and Islamist dogma.
According to Sky News, Muslims make up about 5% of the general population in England and Wales, while 13% of the prison population are Muslim. There are 11,200 Muslims currently incarcerated in those prisons.
Prison guards in UK prisons have told researchers commissioned by the Ministry of Justice said that they had a policy of “appeasement” towards the powerful and growing Islamic population, particularly terrorists who are recruiting future extremists. Prisoners queried by the commissioners reported that they became Muslim to ensure their safety or because they were bullied into it. Non-Muslims avoid confrontation with any Muslim lest it lead to Muslim retribution. Non-Muslims report that they avoid cooking pork or bacon (which is prohibited or haram for Muslims) in communal kitchen lest it offend Muslim sensibilities.
Written by researchers at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, the report contends “Conflict and tension existed between and within faith groups,” adding “There were some intimidating ‘heavy players’ among the Muslim population, who appeared to be orchestrating prison power dynamics rather than propagating or following the faith.”
“Many physically powerful prisoners ‘re-established their outside identities’ as leaders in the prison and used their (newly acquired) faith status as a tool for establishing influence. “
“Non-Muslim prisoners described wearing underpants in the showers on some spurs (out of ‘respect’ and fear) and some Muslim prisoners described a form of intimidation exerted (‘they probably do feel shamed’) relating to cooking (especially frying bacon) in the kitchens.”
One of the prisons assessed by the commissioners, HMP Whitemoor is situated in a remote town, far away from most inmates’ families. It is home to 440 Category A and B prisoners, most of whom are serving more than 10 years. Of these, seven are convicted terrorists.
Researchers visited Whitemoor between 2009 and 2010 to interview staff and inmates, following reports of Islamic radicalization. At that time, researchers found that more than a third (35 to 39 per cent) of prisoners are now Muslims, compared with 11 per cent across all jails. Many of those they spoke to had converted while inside but they had mixed motivations for doing so, and not all had done so voluntarily.
Among the reasons for conversion included “seeking care and protection”, “gang membership” and “coercion” as well as “rebellion” since Islam was seen as the “underdog.” Convicts also told researchers that their Muslim faith provides a “cover” for power and influence.
Non-Muslims and prison officers claimed that Islam in prison constitutes an “organised gang” and a “protection racket” rather than a religion, which “glorified terrorist behaviour and exploited the fear related to it”.
Other non-Muslims reported being pressurized to convert. Muslims leave Islamic literature in the cells of non-Muslims and tell them to read it, while promising they would be safe from physical assault if they apostatize.
Prison guards said there are “proper Al-Qaeda” terrorists in the lock-up. These are regarded with “awe” by younger inmates. The Al-Qaeda members tend to avoid confrontation and have “runners” to do their bidding. Prisoners regard Whitemoor as a “recruiting drive for the Taliban” where a new generation of terrorists is being raised.
One prisoner, whose brother served in the British army and who was wearing a Remembrance Day poppy, was subjected to harassment by Muslims who shouted that his “wife’s burning in hell because she’s not a Muslim.” Non-Muslims also feel envy for the what they believe is the preferential treatment, including better food, given to Muslims.
The report noted, “The new population mix, including younger, more black and minority ethnic and mixed race, and high numbers of Muslim prisoners, was disrupting established hierarchies in the prison. Social relations among prisoners had become complex and less visible. Too much power flowed among some groups of prisoners, with some real risks of serious violence. There were high levels of fear in the prison. In particular, there were tensions and fears relating to ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’.
“More prominent, in practice, were pressures (and temptations) felt by some prisoners to convert to Islam. Conditions in the prison made participation in Islamic practices the most ‘available’ option for those looking for belonging, meaning, ‘brotherhood’, trust and friendship."