First posted: 7 August 2011
Prison is ‘not taming Islamist radicals’. Really? Well how was that supposed to work? After all, these Islamic radicals don't think they have committed a crime. Hamas or al-Qaeda don't think that they have committed a crime when they blow women and children to pieces. How can it be a crime? Islamic jihad is sanctified by Allah himself.
What were prisons supposed to do exactly? I’m pretty sure that the average prison officer is not deeply steeped in Islamic theology or jurisprudence. Well, actually it’s Muslim chaplains who are supposed to ‘challenge and undermine extremist ideology’. What makes the Government, or anyone else, think they will be successful? This won’t be like persuading an 18 year-old petty criminal to take up a trade which he can then make use of when his prison term ends. These ‘Islamic radicals’ have a mountainous ideology behind them. They’re not likely to be won other by some interfaithing Muslim chaplain or even by an imam (who might praise the prisoner anyway).
To be honest, I would love to know how exactly these Muslim chaplains ‘challenge and undermine extremist ideology’. I really would. What do they say?
I honestly think that, Islamically speaking, the radicals or extremists are on much firmer Islamic ground than any Muslim chaplain or even the Muslims who appear on Question Time selling 'moderate Islam' to naive infidels. After all, jihad is there, numerous times, in the Koran... Oh, I forgot! In some translations of the Koran the word ‘jihad’ does not occur. Still, ‘fighting’ and other words for belligerency and anger certainly do frequently appear in the Koran. And does this make even a tiny bit of difference? Of course not… The games many Muslims play, eh?
Apparently, these tough, hard-core Muslim inmates see the Muslim chaplains as mere ‘puppets’. You know, like ‘Uncle Toms’ or ‘poster boys’. Every Muslim who is not hardcore, like them, is bound to be seen as an ‘puppet’ or a ‘poster boy’ for the ‘neo-cons’ or ‘Zionists’ or ‘Jews’ or ‘Freemasons’ or the ‘Satanic United States’. Only they know the Truth about what Islam really is. And in a certain sense, they are right. The unpalatable truth of their Islam is actually the unpalatable truth that is Islam. No Muslim chaplain or interfaith zealot is going to change the unpalatable reality that is Islam and the Koran. These hardcore Muslim inmates must know this. They must be laughing at these Muslim chaplains - or planning to kill them. So far, the hardcore Muslim posse has only assaulted these helpless and hapless chaplains.
Actually, the naiveté of the Muslim prison chaplains has been passed on to them, as it were, from the Ministry of Justice. It is this body that is attempting to ‘rehabilitate’ Muslim offenders. It has been working ‘with a number of third-sector partner organisations’ – whatever they are!
There are over 200 Muslim extremists who have been imprisoned since the 2005 London bombings. That does not sound like many. However, it only took a small handful of Muslims to kill fifty or so in London in 2005. Some massive terrorist outrages have been carried out by individuals. Indeed all suicide bombings, in Israel and elsewhere, tend to be the work of individuals even if they are controlled and coordinated by Islamic groups like Hamas.
The frightening thing is that some of these 200 Muslim extremists are now due for release. And just like many other kinds of inmate, they will return to their Muslim ghettos even tougher and more Islamic than they were before they were convicted. No doubt too they will have gained a lot of ‘Respek’ from the younger Muslims in the 'hoods.
My sceptical account of Muslim-extremist imprisonment is backed up by some evidence. For example, a Muslim Londoner, who was 17 years old when he was jailed for after admitting attending a place used for terrorist training, has said that the Muslim chaplains, or imams, utterly failed to challenge his extreme Islamic beliefs. He even said that prison didn’t change his views at all. He went on to say that imprisonment made him stronger as an (extremist) Muslim. He had become a kind of small-time martyr for the cause of Islam. How else would anyone expect a young Muslim to view his imprisonment by the infidel state?
In any case, all this ‘de-radicalising’ seems to have been a bit of a gimmick anyway. It certainly isn’t widespread or thorough in the prison service. For example, one former inmate, Shah Jalal Hussain, once told BBC Radio 4 that they
‘didn’t try to de-radicalise me. There wasn’t much at all to be honest. There was a prison imam but he only came on a Friday to lead prayers.’
Perhaps he wasn’t radical enough to be de-radicalised. Or perhaps he was too radical to be properly de-radicalised. Would any form of de-radicalisation work anyway? It would depend on how much de-radicalising is actually carried out and on which particular Muslim is being de-radicalised.
In the end, then, the prison imams who work in our prisons won’t achieve much; if anything. Who knows, perhaps some of these imams sympathise - or even agree - with these militant Muslim prisoners. After all, New Labour has often used Muslim extremists to deal with, well, Muslim extremists. Thus one set of Muslim extremists has often ended up taking the place of another