A British professor is warning that U.K. prisons are turning into "state-funded breeding grounds for extremism," charging that radical imams are indoctrinating inmates.
"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," politics professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham told the Daily Mail. "They foment resentments and when you add extremism to resentment you get radicalization and ultimately terrorism."
He continued, "Not every radical is a terrorist but every terrorist has been a radical."
Glees, who said that it is "completely unacceptable" that radical imams are allowed to preach inside of state-funded prisons, advocated a number of changes to help deal with the purported problem.
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In addition to being required to preach in English, the professor said that imams should be more carefully vetted and instructed to avoid "political issues."
"Our prisons have turned into a state-funded breeding ground for extremism," he told U.K.'s the Times. "It is completely unacceptable that imams with extremist views are allowed to preach in prisons."
The central accusation is that some of the imams have ties to extremist groups and ideologies. But the National Offender Management Service, the government body that manages correctional services in the U.K., denies reports that extremist imams are in the system.
"These accusations are inaccurate, unfounded and undermine the incredibly important work currently taking place to tackle extremism in prison," said Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service. "Prison Muslim Imams have a critical role in challenging distorted and inappropriate views — to suggest otherwise is simply wrong."
Spurr added that imams are checked and that security precautions are taken, especially considering that the faith leaders are specifically chosen and placed by the government in an effort to help stem radicalization.
While Spurr did admit in a recent interview with the BBC that there is a small but "significant risk" that prisoners could become radicalized, he discussed the extensive tactics used to help protect the public — and didn't mention imams as being an area of concern.
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"What concerns me most is that there is a significant risk, given the fact that we manage some very dangerous people," Spurr told the outlet. "And our job is to minimise that risk becoming a reality — so minimise the risk that somebody in prison becomes radicalised and commits a terrorist offense."
Fears over radicalization inside U.K. prisons, though, are nothing new. In 2007, the Guardian covered the issue, noting that imams serving in two prisons were suspended in 2002 over fears that they were preaching extremism at two institutions.
"Experts warn that more needs to be done to control the influence of radical imams at a time when an increasing number of prisoners are turning to Islam," the Guardian reported.
And more general concern emerged at the time over the fact that extremist inmates would be flooding the prison system and passing their ideologies on to their peers.
The Daily Mail reported that Muslim prison population in England and Wales rose from 1,957 in 1991 to 11,683 in 2013.
Read more about the issue here.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
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