Imams working in British prisons have links with extremist preachers and hard line groups, and may be helping to radicalise Muslim prisoners, according to a report in the Times. One preacher connected to Muslim prison chaplains believes that beating women “brings them to goodness”, while another group thinks adulterers should be killed.
The Prison Officers’ Association admitted that there is a “real problem” with inmates being radicalised, saying that some imams had “slipped through the net”. Sources added that the prison chaplaincy system was a “total shambles” and called for an immediate change in how imams are vetted.
The British government has tried to use imams to counter radicalism among the 12,000 Muslims currently in prison, but critics now suggest they are part of the problem.
Professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham said that the prison service’s screening of imams was “totally inadequate”.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ghaffar Hussain of counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam said: “We are aware of several individuals employed by the prison service who have links to extremist groups. Prisons are incubators of extremism. Young men are going in petty criminals and coming out extremists.”
One such imam named by the Times is Azadul Hussain. He has shared material on his Facebook page published by MPAC, an anti-Semitic group banned from British campuses, and the Islamic Education and Research Academy, a group who believe adulterers should be executed.
Another imam is Shaykh Yusuf Zahaby, who is a leading member of Al Hikma Media, which is run by preachers, some with extremist views, such as Shady Suleiman, who thinks women who engage in premarital sex should be killed.
A third is Shahib Bleher who, during his time as part-time chaplain at Woodhill prison, was also general secretary of the Islamic Party of Britain, who allegedly advocated the death penalty of homosexuality and wanted to turn Britain into an Islamic state.
Mr Bleher denies he has extremist views.
The Prison service said: “We are committed to tackling extremism in prison and chaplains are a vital part of this work, helping to challenge dangerous and distorted views.
“Muslim chaplains are subject to rigorous security vetting and checks — as are all prison staff. Any member of staff giving cause for concern will be dealt with robustly.
“The challenge staff face should not be underestimated but we have a dedicated unit and specific programmes focused on stopping radical extremists from achieving their aims.”