The trial of an Islamic State fighter in Germany has revealed the extent to which Salafists have infiltrated prisons and are radicalising Muslim criminals.
“Harry S.” is on trial in Hamburg for being a member of Islamic State and supporting the group. According to information revealed at his trial, Harry was not always a subscriber of radical Islamist thought, but rather started out as a criminal and was influenced and radicalised by Salafist preachers while behind bars.
The 27-year-old Harry confessed during his trial to having experience with Kalashnikov rifles and claimed that he first met his Islamic State contacts while in prison in Bremen, Die Welt reports.
Many Muslims who find themselves in prison become prey to the Salafists, who often assist the prisoners in the first weeks of their imprisonment providing comfort to them.
The Islamists use the weakness and hopelessness of new inmates in order to push their extreme Islamic theology. They divide the world into simpler terms by referring to themselves as “brothers” and the rest as “unbelievers”. Many prominent Islamic State fighters from Europe share a similar story of being radicalised while imprisoned.
Hamburg Imam Fejzulahi explains that the reasons for the prevalence and success of Islamic preachers in prisons is largely due to the desperation of inmates who believe they have little prospects in life after being jailed. Explaining the attitudes of the average prisoner, the Imam said: “I have no future, either I go steal, sell drugs or go to Islamic State. There are only these three paths.”
In some countries the Islamists in prisons have become even more extreme. A prison in the UK saw Islamists demanding “protection money” from non-Muslim inmates unless they converted to Islam. The tax is very similar to the jizya which is imposed upon Christians and Jews in Islamic countries if they refuse to join and become Muslims themselves. Some Muslims have even been running entire prisons on sharia law principles.
Harry noted that although his new found faith had banned him from many of the things he had enjoyed in the past like football, drinking beer and hanging out with his non-Muslims friends, it was largely because of the help he had been offered by the Salafists that he stuck with it.
“You have it hammered day and night into your head, and at some point you believe it,” he said.
The sequence of events that led Harry to his trial, he admitted, made him realise the path he was travelling was not the right one. He has since renounced his loyalty to Islamic State and says he wants to work with the government and others to help stem the tide of radicalisation in German prisons.