Draconian policies adopted by British prison authorities against Muslim inmates, like restricting prayers, Qur'an reading and access to programs and newspapers, help radicalize the prisoners and force them into a culture of secrecy, the first in-depth study about Muslim prisoners in Britain has showed.
"My findings suggest that the efforts made by the Prison Service in Scotland, England and Wales to show that they are tackling issues of radicalism in prison are instead facilitating the formation of essentialist views of Islam," said Gabriele Marranci, a lecturer at Aberdeen University's school of divinity and religious studies who carried out the study, which was cited by the Guardian newspaper Friday, April 13.
The study, which interviewed 170 current and former Muslim prisoners in England, Scotland and Wales, blasted unbearable practices by prison guards, who are "exacerbating rather than suppressing radicalization."
The four-year research project singled out for practices like restricting prayers in a communal space or reading the Qur'an during work breaks as well as suppression of free speech.
"In particular, the decision in high-security prisons to suspend access to certain television program or newspapers has produced the opposite result that the establishment desired," Marranci said.
The study also shows that Muslim prisoners were subject to stricter surveillance than other inmates, especially when they adopted religious symbols such as beards and veils.
"Growing a beard is, in almost all establishments I visited, interpreted as 'radicalization' of the individual," said Marranci.
There no official estimates about the number of Muslim prisoners in Britain.
But some 1,047 Muslims were arrested in high-profile raids between September 2001 and June 30 last year under the Terrorism Act 2000, according to Scotland Yard figures.
Only 158 - 10 percent of those arrested - have been charged with terrorist-related offences.
Marranci said prison authorities had imposed certain security measures under pressure from negative media coverage and criticism.
"The respective prison services have tried to do something to address the issue of radicalization but they're heading in the wrong direction. This is largely because the measures they have put in place have been fuelled by attempts to exempt themselves from negative media coverage and criticism," he said.
Marranci warns that the continuing atmosphere of suspicion surrounding Muslim prisoners increases a sense of frustration and depression which a strong view of Islam can help to overcome.
The British Media and Muslim Representation: the Ideology of Demonization study, which was released in January, showed that the Western media and film industry were perpetuating Islamophobia and prejudice by demonizing Muslims and Arabs as violent, dangerous and threatening people.
British Muslims have also blamed the recent high-profile police raids in the city of Birmingham, which saw nine Muslims arrested, on the sensational and unfair media coverage.
Marranci also finds that some former young Muslim offenders are vulnerable to recruitment by extremist and violent organizations as a result of their prison experiences.
Such organizations have tried to "talent scout" young Muslim ex-prisoners without disclosing their affiliations, he said.
Some of the ex-prisoners Marranci had interviewed told him they had preached the violent ideologies and formed an "Islamist gang."
But most Muslim former prisoners were uninterested or did not want to become involved, the study showed.
Marranci's study also highlighted the pivotal role played by imams to cushion prisoners against extremism.
"I found no evidence to suggest that the Muslim chaplains are behaving or preaching in a way that facilitates radicalization," said Marranci.
"On the contrary, my findings suggest that they are extremely important in preventing dangerous forms of extremism."
Marranci lashed out at governments for stereotyping the image of imams and treating them as untrustworthy.
"The distrust that they face, both internally and externally, is jeopardizing their important function," he said.
The British government is funding a new project to teach home-gown imams to become role models for the younger generations.
Under the £6 million "hearts and minds" plan, home-grown imams will be given "civic leadership" courses in universities and colleges.
British government sources have said that the new plan is aimed at making Britain self-sufficient with its own imams.
Last Mod: 18 Nisan 2007, 16:30