Prisoners are converting to Islam to gain better food and the protection of fellow Muslims, according to an official report released today.
The document, entitled Muslim Prisoners’ Experiences: A thematic review, follows a poll earlier this week which indicated that many Britons are suspicious of Islam.
Muslim Prisoners’ Experiences, which is written by Dame Ann Owers the Chief Inspector of Prisons, reveals that 30 per cent of the nation’s 10,300 Muslim inmates have taken up the faith whilst in prison.
Some of the reasons for converting to Islam include the protection of belonging to a large group, better food at Ramadan and the belief that they would get more time out of the cells to attend Friday prayers.
The report, which is based on interviews with just 164 Muslim inmates, dismissed concerns that vulnerable inmates were being forced to convert to Islam.
But the report, which also analysed prisoner surveys and official reports from the past three years, also concedes that the interviewers didn’t directly ask any of the inmates about forcible conversion.
Earlier this year a BBC investigation revealed that radical Muslim gangs were forcing a form of Sharia law on non-Muslim inmates in the nation’s prisons.
A former prison officer from Long Lartin prison, a maximum security centre, told BBC Radio 5 Live about instances where non-Muslim inmates were beaten up and intimidated for breaking unofficial rules imposed by the Muslim gangs.
The officer, who wished to remain anonymous, also described how the gangs force younger prisoners to convert.
Dame Anne’s report also calls for prisons to engage with Muslims as individuals, not “as part of a separate and troubling group”, in order to stop inmates becoming radicalised.
Earlier this week a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Exploring Islam Foundation (EIF), indicated that the British people are suspicious of Islam.
The poll discovered that 58 per cent of those surveyed associated Islam with extremism, 50 per cent associate it with terrorism and 68 per cent felt it encouraged the repression of women.
The group has now launched a media campaign designed to “improve public understanding of Islam and Muslims”.
These findings echo the results of the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, published earlier this year, which revealed that just one in four people feel positive about Islam.
The BSA survey also revealed that 55 per cent of the population would be strongly opposed if a large mosque was built in their area.