A former Muslim prisoner has declared London’s Belmarsh Prison to be nothing short of a “jihadi training camp” where Islamic State celebration parties are freely held.
In an opinion column in the Evening Standard, former inmate and Muslim student “Jamal” – whose name was altered for his safety – claims that he was “devastated” when watching prison officials take no action to curb radical Islamist ideals dominating the South East London jail.
Jamal says new inmates were left with the impression that those in charge were a group of radical Islamists known as “the Brothers” or “the Akhi” – rather than the prison guards themselves.
“We had around 200 people on our wing, about half of them Muslim,” he writes, “but there was a hard core of 20 “brothers” in for terrorism or terror-related offences who were very popular and had enormous influence. They were treated like celebrities by the other inmates and included the guy who in 2007 tried to blow up Glasgow airport.”
The Akhi, he says, were intelligent and nurturing towards fellow Muslims, offering food and cigarettes while proselytising about how the “kuffar” (non-Muslims) were killing Muslims around the world.
“They talked about going to fight in Syria and Iraq when they got out and joining the war for a Muslim caliphate.”
Jamal noted that in his second week in the prison he asked one of the “brothers” about showing tolerance to those of other religions. The response he got was: “No, there is zero tolerance, they are all kuffar and we have to destroy them.”
And he recalled that Muslims in the prison would make up stories about Christians in order to have them beaten up.
Of six imams in the prison, five were apparently “sympathetic” to extremists – though Jamal did not mention whether that was out of necessity (to not get beaten up) or genuine belief.
“People would boast that as soon as they got out, they were going out to Syria,” he said, adding: “There were so many would-be jihadists in there I felt like an intruder at a jihadi training camp. There were also plenty of moderate Muslim inmates like myself who suffered because we couldn’t speak out. I couldn’t believe how the flaws in the system effectively support the extremists.”
And speaking of specific, terr0r-friendly incidents, he pointed to “brothers” who were “openly praising” the Charlie Hebdo attackers.
He wrote: “Soon after I arrived in Belmarsh in 2014, news came through that Mosul in Iraq had fallen to Islamic State and the prison erupted. There were chants of “Allahu Akbar”, wild banging on the doors and joyous shouting of “we are going to take over” throughout the wing. It was like a big party that went on unchecked for several hours.”
Belmarsh is one of a handful of maximum security prisons around the United Kingdom that were recently being considered for “Alcatraz” status – meaning that authorities wanted to house all Islamist extremists together to avoid them radicalising moderate Muslims, or even converting non-Muslims.
At the end of 2015 the prison was noted for having Muslim inmates who extorted “protection” taxes out of non-Muslims who failed to convert to Islam.
The “tax”, also known as “jizya”, is described in the Quran and led alleged victims to arrange for friends and family to transfer money to nominated accounts.
The prison is also where the new London Mayor Sadiq Khan met with convicted Al-Qaeda terrorist Babar Ahmed. At the time Mr. Khan – then a Member of Parliament – caused outrage by claiming that Britain’s security services were monitoring his conversations with Mr. Ahmed.
The Standard notes: “…in the five years to December 31, 2014, the number of Muslim inmates at Belmarsh has more than doubled to 265, or 30 per cent of the total prisoners” and says that a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “There is no evidence to back up these specific claims about HMP Belmarsh — where our hard-working staff successfully manage a very challenging group of prisoners.
“But we are not remotely complacent about the risks that Islamist extremism poses in prisons. That is why the Secretary of State commissioned a review of how the prison system deals with this issue.”
Belmarsh Prison has been the home to high profile Islamist radicals such as Anjem Choudary, Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, Abu Hamza, Muktar Said Ibrahim, Ramzi Mohammed, Yasin Omar, and Moazzam Begg.