A manual used in English and Welsh prisons to teach inmates about Islam should be withdrawn as it encourages them to take part in violent jihad, a cleric has advised.
Since 2011 the prisons service has been using a Tarbiyah (Islamic study program) drawn up by a number of imams including Ahtsham Ali, a prisons adviser to the Ministry of Justice.
But Sheikh Musa Admani has called on the government to withdraw the program, as it advocates the use of violent jihad in certain circumstances. He says the study guide calls jihad “one of the noblest acts,” which could encourage some of the 12,328 Muslim inmates held in England and Wales to take up jihad upon their release.
In a section entitled “The Principle of Jihad,” inmates are invited to consider the difference between internal jihad – the struggle for self-improvement – and external jihad which includes violent acts against non-Muslims.
The text reads: “There may necessitate a time to pick up arms and physical [sic] fight such evil… It is one of the noblest acts.”
Sheikh Admani says the course focusses too much upon violent jihad.
“This document sets out the steps and then addresses various forms of jihad and then goes on to emphasise a particular type ie. the killing and the fighting”, he told the BBC.
“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 Sheikh, an expert on the interpretation of Islamic texts, has advised the Ministry of Justice to withdraw the course.
“It hinders all the aims that the Ministry of Justice might have to achieve peace and harmony,” he said.
“This document works against it, it doesn’t add an iota to that good intention and they need to remove it as quickly as possible and then rehabilitate those who have learnt it.”
Mr Ali declined to respond to requests by the BBC for comment, while the Ministry of Justice has promised to launch an investigation into the program.
There are currently 131 Muslims convicted of terror offences residing in jails in England and Wales, while a further 1,000 are considered at risk of being radicalised in prison.
And while Muslims make up just 4.5 percent of the British population, they account for some 15 percent of the country’s prison population.
Earlier this year it emerged that whole prison blocks are now being run under Sharia law thanks to the capitulation of prison officers, who are seemingly powerless to stop the Islamists taking over.
One former prison officer at a high-security prison told the BBC that on a number of occasions, “prisoners’ feet were severely battered,” for alleged misdemeanours against Islamic law.
He said that the “problem within prisons now is getting to a critical point”, with “many Muslim prisoners basically taking over the law of the prison”.
Similarly, former inmates at Belmarsh Prison say it has been transformed into a “jihadi training camp” where Islamic State celebration parties are openly held.
One Muslim inmate said the weak response by prison imams to extremism was part of a wider problem.
“They [imams] know individuals have the capability to manipulate younger, impressionable offenders but they sit idle and just don’t respond to it”, he said.
“How do I know they’re not responding to it? I lived in and amongst these young impressionable guys and I saw the conveyor belt of radicalisation in full effect.
“People convicted of terrorism, people in the public domain that are very well known, are roaming around freely and being able to manipulate young minds.
“The fact they’re able to learn the Tarbiyah programme and Arabic, coupled with the fact that inmates [convicted of terrorism] have access to extremist literature and narrations that aren’t related to the prophet but they relate it to the prophet – coming from them it seems so realistic, you start believing this is the true Islam, the true Islam is Islamic State”.