THIS Sunday, BBC Radio 5 is airing a disturbing programme focusing on the growing problem of Muslim gangs in British prisons.
According to the report, the Muslim prison population in England and Wales has sharply increased in recent years.
Muslims represent 12 percent (9,795) of the prison population in England and Wales, according to the latest available figures from 2008. This has risen by 50 percent over five years. In some high security prisons, the figures are well above average.
In 2008, the highest number of Muslim prisoners – 34 percent – were held in the high-security Whitemoor prison, which is among several jails at whichÂ bombs have been found.
A former inmate called Jay, 24, tells the programme:
Muslims run it. Muslims run the prisons and there’s nothing the screws can do about it. For a Muslim you’d say it’s good but for a non-Muslim, it’s very, very bad.
It is a claim which is backed by former prison officers and other inmates.
Jay has been in and out of prison for most of his life. He openly admits to helping to convert non-Muslim inmates to Islam and has meted out violence against anyone who dares to “disrespect” his religion.
It hurts as a Muslim to have someone disrespect my religion. If we deal with him one time, with violence, and show him what time it is, he will never disrespect our religion again.
He also believes prison officers have much to learn about Islam.
Islam is a very sensitive matter. And the screws don’t understand that. I respect what the screws do but they’ve got to understand our ways, where we’re coming from.
Speaking anonymously, a former prison officer, who worked at HMP Long Lartin, tells the Donal MacIntyre programme about cases where non-Muslim prisoners were seriously assaulted and intimidated for refusing to abide by unofficial rules imposed by Muslim gangs, about eating pork or listening to Western music.
Muslim gangs was something I was very concerned about – the situation changed where underworld gangsters who used to keep discipline and order were no longer in charge in the prison. The younger guys, who were being forced to convert, were doing it more for protection from a Muslim gang rather than follow the faith – most of them weren’t interested in the faith.
Colin Moses, national chairman of prison workers’ trade union, the POA, said not all Muslims in prison were in gangs, but acknowledged there was a growing problem.
People are being radicalised, forcibly radicalised by these gangs. We see it as a real danger, now and for the future of prisons.
And, he pointed out that those who were in gangs or converted to Islam often did it to carry out criminal activities.
As the Muslim population grows, the gangs are becoming more and more prevalent by the week and they fight to take control of the drug trade and the dealing of mobile phones in prison. This will make our prisons even more violent.
In a statement, a Prison Service spokesman said the allegations made about Muslim gangs were unsubstantiated. Â He said:
It is ridiculous to suggest that any gang ‘controls’ a prison. The Prison Service has a wealth of experience in dealing with gang activity and managing prisoners who form gangs. It is important not to conflate security issues with the prisoners’ religious identities. ‘Muslim gangs’ will be treated like other gangs in relation to security concerns.
We have a programme of work in place to respond to the risks of all forms of radicalisation and extremism in prisons (not only al-Qaeda influenced extremism). This work will continue to develop to support prisons in tackling this behaviour.
Listen to the full report on the Donal MacIntyre programme on BBC 5 live on Sunday, 14 March at 19.30 GMT. You can also download the free podcast or listen via the BBC iPlayer. You can contact the programme by emailing email@example.com.