Muslims radicalised in jail

Muslim prisoners at Whitemoor prison
Muslim prisoners at Whitemoor prison

The head of the prison and probation service has described the threat of Islamic radicalisation behind bars as significant.

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Michael Spurr the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service of England and Wales (NOMS) said: “There is a significant risk, given the fact that we manage some very dangerous people.

“Our job is to minimise that risk becoming a reality – that somebody in prison becomes radicalised and commits a terrorist offence.”

He warned there could be a “whole range of different potential scenarios (where) people could be hurt” if NOMS failed in its job to protect the public from extremists.

Over the last ten years the number of Muslims in prisons in England and Wales has doubled, with the figure reaching 11,729 in 2013.

There are about 100 al-Qaida-inspired Islamist terrorists behind bars.

Also on the programme and speaking for the first time since his release from prison for trying to bring Sharia Law to the streets of London, is Jordan Horner, who has taken the Islamic name Jamaal Uddin.

He claimed he had converted other prisoners during his time in prison.

Mr Horner said: “The prison officers witnessed people become Muslim and in front of them I was giving them what we call Shahada, an invitation and acceptance of Islam.

“They was becoming Muslim in front of the prison officers and they felt sort of powerless.

“They said I was trying to divide Muslims from non-Muslims, trying to get them to follow an extreme version of Islam.”

He added that in less than a year he was transferred between three different jails in an effort to disrupt his activities.

In December 2012, Horner was filmed at a protest alongside Michael Adebowale who, five months later, murdered soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Horner became the first person to be placed on a five-year, landmark anti-social behaviour order, intended to stop him promoting extreme versions of Islam.

Panorama’s reporter Raphael Rowe also witnessed the moment prisoner and Muslim convert Michael Coe was met on his release from jail by two convicted Islamic extremists.

Mr Coe, whose Islamic name is Mikaeel Ibrahim, said he converted to Islam while in jail after deciding it was “the way forward”.

He was invited to take the faith by Dhiren Barot, himself a Muslim convert currently serving a minimum of 30 years in prison after admitting a plot to bomb New York landmarks.

Ibrahim told the programme-makers he was no extremist, despite appearing in a video supporting al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden who was killed in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011.

Damian Evans, the governor of Whitemoor high security prison in Cambridgeshire – which holds about ten convicted terrorists and three times as many inmates with extremist links – said such prisoners pose a significant challenge but also told Panorama “we are generally good at identifying risk and acting on it”.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said Muslim prisoners have consistently reported feeling more unsafe than non-Muslim prisoners and “if they don’t feel they’re being protected by staff, they’ll join a group that they think can provide that protection”.

Panorama From Jail to Jihad? airs on BBC1 at 8.30pm.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: “The police and security services do a difficult but important job making sure some of the most dangerous terrorists in this country end up where they belong – behind bars.

“Once there, we must make sure they cannot inflict their extreme views on others.

“The challenge that our prison staff face should not be underestimated but the public can be reassured – we are committed to tackling extremism.”

Farooq Aftab, who acts as a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said: “The disproportional number of British Muslims in prison is a serious problem.

“The root cause is an identity crisis amongst Muslim youth who do not understand the true essence of their faith.

“It’s our job to teach them that loyalty to their country and obedience of its laws is not only possible but a mandatory part of their faith.”

Rising numbers of Prison Muslims are “fuelling extremism”

muslimprisoners-whitemoor

Rising numbers of prisoners are becoming ‘convenience Muslims’ leading to heightened tensions with guards and fuelling extremism, the head of the Prison Officers’ Association has warned.

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.’

Mr Gillan’s comments came as two Muslim prisoners who were already serving life sentences for murder were found guilty of making threats to kill an officer during a siege at HMP Full Sutton, near York, in the days after the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Feroz Khan and Fuad Awale, both 26, were convicted of threatening Richard Thompson, with Khan also found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the guard.

Both men, along with another prisoner, David Watson, 27, had been accused of holding Mr Thompson hostage on May 26 last year, and demanding the release of radical preacher Abu Qatada and Roshonara Choudhry, a student who attempted to stab MP Stephen Timms to death in 2010.

They were also accused of demanding to be flown to Afghanistan, the jury heard.

However, they were cleared of the false imprisonment, and Khan was found not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another officer, Rachel Oxtoby.

The trial at the Old Bailey had heard that relations between prison staff and some of the Muslim inmates ‘became strained’ in the days after Fusilier Rigby was murdered.

The court was told that Khan had planned the attack after telling another guard that it was a Muslim’s duty to ‘fight until Sharia law is established in every country’.

Jury members also heard that Khan and Awale targeted Mr Thompson, believing him to be ex-British military, and that Khan had beaten the guard, fracturing his eye socket before threatening to kill him.

As Mr Thompson was pinned to his chair Awale pointed a sharp implement by his throat and said: ‘Stop struggling, I’ve killed two people – I’ll kill you’.

Khan had told jurors he planned to take a prison guard hostage in order to stage a high profile terrorist incident ‘perfectly timed’ with the murder of Drummer Rigby.

The convict claimed that he acted in the days after the soldier’s death so he could gain maximum media exposure.
He said he was in ‘constant fear’ of his life following a rise in tension on Echo Wing and that he felt threatened by prison staff and non-Muslim inmates in the wake of the Woolwich murder.

Khan, Awale and Watson were all serving life sentences for murder at the time of the incident, and all three had become devout Muslims following their convictions.

On February 26, 2007, Khan shot his friend Skander Rehman in the back of the head at point blank range after luring him to a park in Bradford – wrongly believing he was having an affair with his wife.

Somali-born Awale was convicted in Janurary last year of the double murder of two teenagers, Mohammed Abdi Farah, 19, and Amin Ahmed Ismail, 18, who were shot in a Milton Keynes drug war on May 26, 2011.

Watson, a white Muslim convert, stabbed to death a security guard at a HMV store in Norwich’s Chapelfield shopping centre after being caught with a stolen CD on December 18, 2006.

The drug dealer murdered Paul Cavanagh after fearing police would find £10,000 of crack cocaine he had in a carrier bag.

Khan and Awale were told they would be sentenced next week.

The Muslim prison population has increased since 2009 by nearly 1,500 – 550 of those in the last 12 months alone.

The court was told that one in three prisoners at Full Sutton are Muslim.

At Long Lartin in Worcestershire the proportion is 20 per cent and in Whitemoor, a top-security prison in Cambridgeshire, more than four in ten prisoners are Muslim.

In Belmarsh prison in London, which houses Lee Rigby murderers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, one in three inmates is a Muslim.

Mr Gillan said: ‘Incidents like that at Full Sutton are becoming more and more of a daily threat. Prison officers regularly raise issues about Muslim radicalism and the concerns they have about doing their jobs generally against [a backdrop of] gang culture.’

Muslim Accused Of Intimidating Prisoners To Convert To Islam

Jude Odigie

A Muslim jailed for his involvement in the killing of a woman at a christening party has been accused of bullying and intimidating jail inmates to convert to Islam, it was revealed today.

The accusations, which also include gang activity in prison and possessing a home-made weapon, came to light as the High Court in London rejected Jude Odigie’s challenge to his transfer from a private prison to a high security jail.

Odigie, 24, was a teenager when he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced at the Old Bailey in February 2007 to detention “for public protection” and ordered to serve a minimum period of seven years, three months, eight days.

He was part of a gang which invaded a christening party at a community centre in Peckham, south London, and stole mobile phones and handbags.

A shot was fired by another member of the gang and hit a woman, who was holding a baby, in the head. The baby was unharmed but the woman, Zainab Kalokoh, 33, died later in hospital.

Odigie was sentenced on the basis that he was involved in the “joint enterprise” attack on the christening party, although he did not personally fire the gun.

Odigie was held at various prisons until he was moved in June 2012 to Lowdham Grange, a Category B training prison for men operated by Serco Ltd in the East Midlands.

His cell was searched on October 12 2012 and a tin opener was found which came apart, with one handle sharpened to a point. A plastic handle was also found wrapped in bootlaces into which the sharpened point could fit to make a weapon, the High Court heard.

The following day, at a specially convened hearing at the prison, he said he had borrowed the tin opener quite innocently, and the plastic handle was something he used in the course of his weight training.

Odigie was told he was being segregated due to intelligence suggesting he was involved in bullying and intimidating other inmates and being in possession of a home-made weapon.

He was then moved to Full Sutton high security prison.

He launched a High Court challenge and asked deputy judge Philip Mott QC to quash the transfer decision and return him to Lowdham Grange on the basis the move was procedurally unfair and an abuse of power.

Julian Coningham, his solicitor advocate, argued at a one-day hearing in November that the prison authorities failed to follow proper procedures and did not wait for the result of an adjudication on the allegations against Odigie before the transfer took place.

Today, Judge Mott said Odigie’s application for judicial review “fails on all grounds”.

The judge said a gist of the accusations against him “does set out a consistent pattern of information pointing to pressure being put on other prisoners to convert to Islam, and the use of threats to those who do not comply”.

The cell search was “prompted by intelligence, and proved to be absolutely justified”.

The judge added: “The discovery of a home-made weapon in his cell appeared to substantiate this intelligence.”

He ruled: “In my judgement the undisputed facts and background were sufficient to justify action being taken without waiting for the result of the adjudication.

“The finding of the weapon was a serious matter. The background of perceived threats and bullying clearly had to be borne in mind also, but was not needed to justify taking action.

“In those circumstances, any difficulties in judging the reliability of the security information do not undermine the decision to act.”

Are Muslims Being Radicalised Inside Our Prisons?

muslimprisoner

‘The Stream’ Tonight on Aljazeera TV.

Are Muslims Being Radicalised Inside Our Prisons?

Join myself & other guests for a one-hour live discussion on this subject tonight on Aljazeera TV at 19:30 GMT – Sky Channel 514 – and you can also catch it live on line at stream.aljazeera.com

Mark Leech

Editor: Converse

The National Prisons Newspaper

Prisoners Bullied Into Converting To Islam – Almost 1/5 Have Been Physically Attacked

muslimprisoner

Sky News reports today that increasing numbers of British inmates are being bullied into converting to Islam while in jail – and in a survey to be published next month by the national newspaper for prisoners Converse, 36% of those reponding to the newspaper’s survey said they had been threatened during their sentence if they did not convert to Islam – and 18% said they had actually been physically attacked for not doing do.

The Converse survey will also show a large number of ‘convenient conversions’ to obtain better food during Muslim religious festivals than the main prison population enjoys..

The Prison Officers Association says it is symptomatic of the growing power and influence of Muslim gangs in prison.

However, there are also concerns that some of those converts could be radicalised by more extremist elements in prison.

Sky News spoke to one young woman who said her brother was being bullied by members of a Muslim gang, who were trying to force him into converting to Islam.

The woman did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals against her brother, who is serving a sentence in excess of 10 years in a high security prison in England.

She said: “He just looks like a broken man … he’s tearful on visits. I’m just really scared for him.”

She also claimed the bullying had taken a more violent turn: “He’s been physically assaulted. He’s had black eyes.

“In the showers, he got threatened with a knife. He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to convert for anyone.”

She added: “He just spends his time in hiding in his cell. He’s got at least another five years to serve. I don’t know how much longer he can hold out.”

Official sources acknowledge forced conversions are a problem in the country’s prisons.

How large the problem is remains unclear, as inmates are often afraid to report such intimidation for fear of reprisals.

Joe Chapman, a former prison officer who now acts as a prison law consultant, believes the problem is on the increase.

“I think it could be a huge problem. Previously I’d probably only worked in about a dozen or so prisons as an officer,” Mr Chapman said.

“But this job takes me to 40 or 50 over the year, throughout the country. It’s become obvious to me that it’s a growing problem.

“About half a dozen of my clients have directly reported problems with being forced to convert … those that weren’t Muslim when they came in and those that were and have been forced to look at more radical ideas about their faith.”

It is the potential route to extremism that will be of most concern to the authorities.

There is no automatic pathway but Jihadist groups do focus on the vulnerable – and new converts in the prison environment offer them a captive audience.

Former Home Secretary Lord Reid told Sky News: “When they arrive in prison, inmates often feel isolated, lacking in identity.

“They don’t have family groups and kinships around them. On top of that, very often there’s a need for protection, a feeling that you’ve arrived in prison, you’re on your own but there are people who appear like you, who give you a set of beliefs but also the protection of being in a gang.

“It is a very, very fertile ground for recruitment and proselytization and radicalisation in prison.”

There are currently around 11,200 Muslims in prison in England and Wales.

That figure is about  13% of the total prison population and is far higher than in the wider community, where Muslims make up less than 5% of the population.

Around a third of Muslim inmates will have converted in prison, but sources say most are willing converts.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales which publishes their own survey mext month said forced conversions were on the increase.

“The vast majority of these Islamic Intimidations take place in our High Security prisons, they are on the increase and because many of those subject to threats don’t speak out for fear of attack, prison staff are alert to the issue but are often powerless to do anything other than file security intelligence reports.

“Our survey also shows many conversions are done for convenience, often around the time of Ramadan, because the food issued to Muslim prisoners after sundown during this religious festival is often perceived to be much better tha normal prison fare.”

[Converse: The award-winning national monthly newspaper for prisoners is published by prisons org uk]

 

Muslim prisoners ‘injured’ after refusing to join Muslim prison gang

fullsutton

An increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage incident linked to Rigby murder – Muslim inmates intimidated to join prison gang

full sutton

Prison chiefs have linked an attack on a prison officer to the Lee Rigby murder and warned prison staff of an increased risk of threats, according to reports – while an increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

A male prison officer was left with a broken cheekbone after being held hostage by three male prisoners, two aged 25 and one aged 26, at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire on Sunday.

An email circulated to staff in top-security jails and young offender institutions and seen by The Times said: “Three Muslim prisoners took an officer hostage in an office.

“Their demands indicated they supported radical Islamist extremism.

“All staff are reminded to remain vigilant to the increased risk of potential attacks on prison officers inspired by these and last Wednesday’s events.”

Counter-terrorism officers have been brought in to investigate the attack at the maximum security jail, during which a female warder was also injured.

So far, 10 people have been held by detectives investigating the young soldier’s death, including Adebowale and Adebolajo.

These include a 50-year-old man, arrested on Monday, who was released on bail yesterday.

A 22-year-old man arrested in Highbury, north London, on Sunday and three men detained on Saturday over the killing have all been released on bail, as has a fifth man, aged 29.

Two women, aged 29 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but later released without charge.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”