Imams with links to extremist Muslim groups are helping to turn Britain’s prisons into ‘state-funded breeding grounds for extremism’, an expert has warned.
The Prison Officers’ Association described the threat of inmates being radicalised as a ‘real problem’.
There are 11,683 Muslim prisoners in Britain’s jails and the government has deployed imams to help steer them away from extremist paths.
Concern: The Prison Officers’ Association described the threat of inmates being radicalised as a ‘real problem’
However, the Prison Officers’ Association has sounded an alarm about this process, saying that some extremist imams had ‘slipped through the net’, The Times reported.
Professor Anthony Glees, head of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, told the paper: ‘Our prisons have turned into a state-funded breeding ground for extremism. It is completely unacceptable that imams with extremist views are allowed to preach in prisons.’
Professor Glees, in an email to MailOnline, said: ‘What these “preachers” do is put extreme views to prisoners – for example gays should be hanged, the Jews/CIA carried out 9/11, adulteresses should be stoned to death. They foment resentments and when you add extremism to resentment you get radicalisation and ultimately terrorism. Not every radical is a terrorist but every terrorist has been a radical.’
The solution, Professor Glees said, has many layers.
He added: ‘We should vet imams much more carefully than we have done in the past; we should stop confusing “preachers” with “chaplains”, their religious qualifications should be properly checked, they should be required to preach in English and told they must keep clear of all political issues.’
The Times names three imams who are either working in British jails, or have done in the past, who warrant concern.
Prison Officers’ Association head Steve Gillan has said that an increasing number of prisoners are becoming ‘convenience Muslims’ leading to heightened tensions with guards and fuelling extremism
West Bromwich prison chaplain Shaykh Yusuf Az Zahaby is a senior member of the Islamist organisation Al Hikma Media, which has among its ranks a preacher called Shady Suleiman, known for condoning the killing of women who have sex before marriage.
Another in the group, Abdur Raheem Green believes that beating women will ‘bring them to goodness’.
A red flag has also been raised against Azadul Hussain, who has mentored prisoners in Bedford.
He has shared material on his Facebook page from MPAC, an extremist group that advocates killing adulterers.
Sahib Bleher, meanwhile, worked for several years at Woodhill high security prison in Milton Keynes. Whilst Mr Bleher denies that he has ever held extreme views, he nevertheless was general secretary of the Islamic Party of Britain at the same time.
This political party allegedly supported anyone displaying homosexuality in public being put to death.
Earlier this year the Prison Officers’ Association warned that rising numbers of prisoners are becoming ‘convenience Muslims’ leading to heightened tensions with guards and fuelling extremism.
Union general secretary Steve Gillan said that many prisoners were turning to Islam to win benefits, and to gain the status associated with being part of a gang.
He said prison staff were coming under threat from groups of Muslims on a daily basis, and warned that young prisoners were at risk of being radicalised while behind bars.
In 1991 there were 1,957 Muslims serving prison sentences in England and Wales, but numbers had risen to 11,683 by 2013.
Mr Gillan said that many converts, who are known as ‘convenience Muslims’, changed faiths because it meant they were entitled to more time outside of their cells and offered better food.
Muslim prisoners are also excluded from work and education on Fridays so they can attend prayers.
Mr Gillan said that others wanted the status and security of being part of a particular group while in prison, and that it was relatively common for prisoners to leave Islam upon their release.
‘Some people also believe that it is better to have a cult status and belong to a particular gang
‘What we’ve got to guard against is the real threat of the extremists and the radicalisation of young, disaffected prisoners,’ Mr Gillan told The Times. ‘They are the extremists of tomorrow.’
HOW BRITAIN’S JAILS ARE BREEDING TERRORISTS
Professor Anthony Glees, head of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, told MailOnline that Britain should be worried about its Muslim prison population becoming radicalised through visiting imams.
He said: ‘Since 2011, 330 people have been convicted of terrorism and sent to prison in the UK, currently more than 120 are in prison – not to mention others convicted of terrorism related offences but not terrorism itself. Three-quarters of these are UK citizens.
‘The Director General of MI5 said last year there were “thousands” of Islamist terrorist in the UK. So far in 2014 we’ve seen four major terrorist trials, one an attempted re-make of the 7/7 attacks, two plots to kill UK soldiers, one plot to kill EDL members. We can expect two serious plots each year for the foreseeable future.
‘So it makes no sense to add to the list of recruits to the Islamist cause.
‘And remember those in prison, even where they’re not in prison for terrorist offence but just ordinary crime, are people who have already broken the law. We know that those who have broken one law have demonstrated their contempt for our way of life and will be easy to convince that they should do it again.’
Some of the preachers visiting Muslims in jail are ‘fomenting resentments’ and ‘putting extreme views’ to them, Professor Glees explained.
He said: ‘What these “preachers” do is put extreme views to prisoners – to example gays should be hanged, the Jews/CIA carried out 9/11, adulteresses should be stoned to death. They foment resentments and when you add extremism to resentment you get radicalisation and ultimately terrorism. Not every radical is a terrorist but every terrorist has been a radical.’
The solution, Professor Glees believes, has many layers.
He said: ‘First, we should not be letting extremist preachers into the UK in the first place. This has nothing to do with the EU, I should add, but with those in government who give visas to extremists like Shady al-Suleiman from Australia. Many EU countries ban these people.
‘The Islamic Education and Research “Academy”, which got almost £1m in donations last year arranges for extremists from all over the world to come to the UK and traipse around prisons, mosques, campuses and even gyms. They should be dealt with.’
So why are they let in?
‘This government finds it hard to stand up for strong security policies because it is divided on the issue,’ Professor Glees said. ‘We’re told by the Tory Libertarians like David Davis and Lib Dems that we are a free country that values free speech. But speaking freely in order to incite others to kill women who commit adultery, or extol the virtues of Isis is not about free speech, it’s about its opposite. Civil liberties and lawful security are two sides of the same coin.
‘Second, we should vet imams much more carefully than we have done in the past, we should stop confusing “preachers” with “chaplains”, their religious qualifications should be properly checked, they should be required to preach in English and told they must keep clear of all political issues.’