‘Prisoners Forced to Convert to Islam for Protection’ Claims Christian Pastor

In this photo taken on Friday, June 23, 2017, inmates pray with the Imam Mimoun El Hachmi, left, inside the Terni penitentiary, Italy. Stunned that Berlin market attack suspect spent time in Italian jails, Italy turns to “moderate” imams to discourage radicalization among Muslim inmates. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

A chaplain who was allegedly dismissed from his role at HMP Brixton Prison for having “extreme” Christian views has said that some prisoners are being forced to convert to Islam in exchange for protection from gangs.

Pastor Paul Song, who has 20 years’ experience rehabilitating inmates, told the Sunday Express: “If someone is secular and in prison and they want to lead a peaceful life in prison they need to become Muslim. That way they are protected.

“Some people have been forced to convert with violence. How do I know? Because three or four people come up to me and tell me. This is a very sensitive issue.”

The South Korea born 48-year-old was forced from his role at the south London prison following alleged accusations from Managing Chaplain Imam Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed that Pastor Song, who teaches the evangelical Alpha course, was teaching courses that were “too radical” and that his Christian beliefs were “extreme”, according to The Sunday Times.

The Christian pastor was told in September 2017 by prison management that he was removed because of “allegations of misconduct” including claims by an inmate than Song called him a “terrorist”.

“I never said those things. I would never make those comments. I have worked in the prisons for many years with many faiths and there were no complaints,” Song said.

Song believes that he is being discriminated against because he is a Christian, and though he is free to teach and serve prisoners in other prisons, says he will not do so until his name is cleared.

“They were terrible to me in prison. I was hit on the back by Muslim prisoners. But I was a police officer in Seoul, I can get over this,” said.

“I didn’t want to report this or to argue with the inmates. When I see this injustice I have a lot of anger. I don’t want to see Christians experience discrimination over their religion.

“The Christian faith is not equal. They do not have equal rights.”

Since his departure, hundreds of former prisoners have spoken out on behalf of the Christian pastor and have credited Song with their rehabilitation.

Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre said: “Paul’s work has led to many prisoners in Brixton turning their lives around.

“It is shocking prisoners who are desperate for a new way of life should now be prevented from seeing Paul.”

Pastor Song also alleged that Ahmed told him he wanted to “change the Christian domination within HMP Brixton” – claims the Ministry of Justice has said are unsubstantiated.

In late 2015, the Prison Officer’s Association (POA) found that a growing number of non-Muslims are being forced to pay a “protection” tax, or “jizya” unless they convert to Islam.

In addition, former chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick warned in December 2015 that Islamic extremists are increasing using British jails to recruit inmates as potential terrorists.

The POA has admitted that there is a “real problem” with inmates being radicalised with prison sources adding that imams with extremist views were being allowed to preach in British prisons because of a “shambolic” vetting system.

Counter-extremism think tank Quilliam said at the time: “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.”

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