‘Sharia courts’ and radicalisation in British prisons

3 June 2016

Tim Dieppe discusses findings of radicalisation and sharia courts operating in UK prisons.

The BBC has interviewed a former prison officer who says he has seen prisoner-run sharia courts operating in the UK jail in which he worked. He describes how he had seen prisoners with the bottom of their feet “whipped” or “severely battered” as punishment from these courts. In other cases, prisoners were fined by these courts for not complying with sharia law.

The BBC also reports that it has seen a copy of a course used by prison imams to teach prisoners about Islam. A section of the course is called “The Principle of Jihad.” The BBC reports that in this section, “the imam is asked to discuss with prisoners the difference between ‘internal jihad’ – the struggle for self improvement – and ‘external jihad’ – the struggle against the enemies of Allah, which sometimes involves taking up arms.” The course book says: “There may necessitate a time to pick up arms and physical [sic] fight such evil… It is one of the noblest acts.”

The BBC discussed the course material with Sheikh Musa Admani, and Islamic expert who works on anti-radicalisation. He argues that too much emphasis is placed on violent jihad. He says: “It incites people to take up arms… It prepares people for violence. It could turn people when they come out of prison, supposedly rehabilitated, back into violence.” The BBC states that this programme was co-written by a number of imams and Ahtsham Ali, a prisons adviser to the Ministry of Justice. Another similar course was withdrawn last year after it was found to have been based on texts written by extremists.

Elsewhere, the Evening Standard reported that a former prisoner at Belmarsh prison has described the prison as “a jihadi training camp.” He describes how a Christian prisoner was beaten up by 25 Muslims after a petty dispute about a kettle was turned into a story about disrespecting Islam. He witnessed people being radicalised, and boasting that they would travel to Syria as soon as they got out. Most of the prison imams he spoke to were sympathetic with the extremists in the prison. He says that the authorities did nothing to challenge the extremism in prison and that this passivity was taken as a licence to promote jihad. He argues that: “The prisons need to isolate the extremists from impressionable young prisoners under the age of 30. The imams could be playing a huge role as they are the ones who can identify them.” He concludes that the government is ignoring “the fact that the biggest jihadi training camp in the UK is right here in Belmarsh in the heart of London.”

I have previously written about prison imams promoting extremism in British prisons, and the Deobandi link involved. More and more evidence is mounting of the alarming influence of radical Muslims in prisons. The government needs to take swift and decisive action to clamp down on this. A radical overhaul of the prison chaplain system and materials used is urgently required.

  • Share

Related articles

All content has been loaded.

Take action

Join our email list to receive the latest updates for prayer and action.

Find out more about the legal support we're giving Christians.

Help us put the hope of Jesus at the heart of society.