RADICALIZED Muslims are essentially controlling certain prisons in the UK, ruling through violence, intimidation, and a wave of unrivaled indoctrination to acquire recruits, according to a report published by The Ministry of Justice.
The report was based on a research paper titled ‘Exploring the Nature of Muslim Groups and Related Gang Activity in Three High-Security Prisons: Findings from Qualitative Research’ which was conducted by Beverly Powis, Ministry of Justice Louise Dixon, Victoria University of Wellington, and Jessica Woodhams.
The University of Birmingham said, “The few UK studies exploring prison gangs suggest there is some gang presence but perhaps not to the same extent as that found in the US, where prison gangs are highly structured and organized with considerable control over the prison. Research in an English high-security prison showed that Muslim gangs, formed for criminal purposes, can present both a management challenge due to criminal behavior and also sometimes through the risk of radicalization”.
It also said that “The study found the main prisoner group to be a large, diverse group of prisoners who connected through shared Muslim faith. Respondents were questioned on the presence of other prisoner groups but none were considered to be as dominant or significant when compared to the Muslim group”.
“Membership offered many supportive benefits including friendship, support, and religious familiarity. A small number of prisoners within the group were perceived by those interviewed to be operating as a gang under the guise of religion and were reported to cause a significant management issue at each establishment. The gang had clearly defined membership roles including leaders, recruiters, enforcers, followers, and foot-soldiers. Violence, bullying, and intimidation were prevalent with the gang, using religion as an excuse to victimize others. The gang was perceived to be responsible for the circulation of the majority of the contraband goods in the establishments. Motivations for joining the gang were varied but centered on criminality, safety, fear, protection, and power”.
International studies have observed a rise in Islamist gangs in Western prisons (Neumann, 2010; Hamm, 2009), which has raised concerns about the influence that these gangs may have over other prisoners, especially where those convicted of extremist offenses are instrumental in gang recruitment and leadership.
The links between prison gangs and Islamist extremist offenders have been acknowledged as a possible mechanism for transmitting extremist ideologies, although how this occurs remains poorly understood (Decker & Pyrooz, 2015).
The alarming spread of radical Islam:
According to the report findings, staff and prisoners spoke about the significant presence of a Muslim prisoner group at each establishment, which was usually referred to as the Muslim ‘brotherhood’ – a shout out to the violent extremist group mainly based in Egypt. The group was considered to dominate the prisons in numbers and influence. In fact, this was the only group mentioned by staff and prisoners; they did not consider there to be any other significant groups of prisoners.
A minority of staff referred to very small groups of prisoners who had formed along geographical lines, and groups of travelers, but their numbers were considered too small and their associations too loose to be identified as a group, especially when compared to the brotherhood. The Muslim brotherhood was reported to be a heterogeneous grouping of individuals with different characteristics, behaviors, and reasons for belonging. The majority wanted to practice their faith peacefully and become more immersed in the scriptures of Islam as a framework to elicit change in their life and to cope with custody. The brotherhood allowed them to surround themselves with like-minded individuals with whom they had a common interest and focus.
It is understood from the report that the Muslim brotherhood offered prisoners who felt alone a ‘family’, especially those who were new to prison or vulnerable.
It was also widely discussed that a small group of Muslim prisoners was operating as a gang under the guise of religion. They were embedded within the wider Muslim brotherhood but, unlike the brotherhood, they had little interest in the faith but saw membership of the gang as an opportunity to be anti-authority, violent and intimidating.
The brotherhood controlled all of the criminal activity in the prison system which included contraband, smuggling, and extortion.
Since Muslims account for only 15 percent of the overall UK prison population, one might reasonably wonder how so small a group was able to dominate. Should authorities have seen this coming?
Intimidating inmates who want to denounce Islam:
According to Patrick Dunleavy, former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections, the leadership expanded from a single cell block, to a particular prison, and to the prison system as a whole. Muslim gang leaders were able to communicate from prison to prison even so far as to order a hit on an inmate who had transferred to a different facility. If any of the Muslim inmates want to denounce Islam, s/he will immediately face numerous forms of intimidation including stabbing thus becoming totally helpless.
Notorious jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State do not see the British prisons as any obstacle in spreading jihadist indoctrination. In most cases, prisons are viewed as an opportunity for those jihadist outfits to organize and expand. Under such circumstances, individuals like Anjem Choudary or John Walker Lindh, who never renounced their radical Islamic ideology despite years incarcerated, will continue to negatively influence the Muslim inmate population.
Who is funding such radicalization of prison inmates?
In Britain, there are several Muslim donors who are contributing a certain amount of money to the “noble cause” of recruitment and radicalization of the prison inmates. Those donors generally pay the monthly on a monthly basis through the family members of the leaders of such radicalization program inside prison.
Only in the month of Ramadan [in May 2019], an ISIS-funder who has been living in the United Kingdom since 2009 under Visa Tier-1 had contributed over forty thousand pounds.
According to information, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan had sent the amount through his daughter Parisa Pinaz Khan, who met several families of the prisoners and handed over the donation money.
Meanwhile, Khan’s elder daughter barrister Shehtaz Munasi Khan, who is a university mate of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has been coordinating legal support to the imprisoned jihadist and radical Muslims.
Recently, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan has established an organization named ‘Astha’ (faith) with the objective of establishing ‘Khilafah’ (Caliphate) by replacing secular government in Britain and other parts of the world, including Sweden, the United States, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Radicalization in prison is a global problem
Radical Islam and jihadist indoctrination have been spreading like bonfire in most of the prisons in the world, including Bangladesh, China, Russia, India, Nepal, the Middle East, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States, etc.
In Bangladesh, prison inmates belonging to Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Hizbut Tahrir, Harkatul Jihad, Jamaat e Islami, Hizbut Towhid, Ansar Al Islam, etc, are spreading radical Islam and jihadist indoctrination amongst the fellow prisoners. It was even reported in the media that sitting inside the prison, these jihadist groups also are collecting arms and explosives through their contacts outside the prison.
Security agencies at total dark:
Security agencies in the respective nations are totally ignorant or willingly leaving a blind eye to this extremely important issue, which again is a matter of grave concern. Unless the matter is addressed with due diligence forthwith, possibly the prisons will ultimately turn into jihadist launch-pads in the near future.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Bangladesh-based popular newspaper Blitz. Follow him on Twitter: @Salah_Shoaib