The growing problem of Muslim gangs taking over British prisons was the topic of a recent BBC investigation. The program includes an interview with a former inmate named Jay, who says, “Muslims run it. Muslims run the prisons and there’s nothing the screws [British slang for a prison guard] can do about it. For a Muslim you’d say it’s good but for a non-Muslim, it’s very, very bad.”
Jay, who has been in and out of prison for most of his life, openly admits helping to convert non-Muslim inmates to Islam, and has meted out violence against anyone who dares to “disrespect” his religion.
According to Jay, “It hurts as a Muslim to have someone disrespect my religion. If we deal with him one time, with violence, and show him what time it is, he will never disrespect our religion again.”
Jay first went to prison when he was 15 and says there were hardly any Muslims inmates back then. “At the beginning not many knew about Islam. There weren’t many converts. The mosque was empty, but nowadays jails are run mostly by the Muslims,” he says.
“There are certain brothers that convert purely on the basis that they read Islam and they want to believe in something that does good for them. Then other people because they want to be looked after. I’ve been in jail five times,” he says, “and on my last occasion, I’ve seen jails being run by Muslim inmates. Muslim prayers on a Friday are very, very busy. In some prisons there’s no space. In one jail I was in, they do the prayers in two sessions because there’s no space.”
The BBC investigation also includes an interview with the national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, Colin Moses, who says: “People are being radicalized, forcibly radicalized by these gangs. We see it as a real danger, now and for the future of prisons.”
Moses says that those who are in gangs or have converted to Islam often do it to carry out criminal activities. “As the Muslim population grows, the gangs are becoming more and more prevalent by the week and they fight to take control of the drug trade and the dealing of mobile phones in prison. This will make our prisons even more violent,” he says.
Speaking anonymously, a former prison officer who worked at the Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire talks about cases where non-Muslim prisoners were seriously assaulted and intimidated for refusing to abide by unofficial rules imposed by Muslim gangs, for example about eating pork or listening to Western music.
Writing in the July 2013 issue of the prisoner’s magazine, Inside Time, a “long serving prisoner” at Long Lartin has this to say: “We are able to cook our own food here but if we attempt to cook pork in the communal kitchen it is deemed dangerous, even a threat to your life. The kitchen is usually occupied by 90% Muslims and we have been told if we cook pork we will be stabbed. There have been incidents here where people have been targeted and pressured and bullied into converting to Islam.”
He adds: “I am writing to inform people of these radical extremists views in this prison where I see no official steps being taken to combat them. Young Muslim men are being radicalized in here and one day they may commit acts of terrorism in this country. There seems to be nothing being done here to stop it and people are scared to speak out. I hope we get some feedback from this; it needs to be sorted out.”
About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.
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