I read an article in The Times last week which I thought really deserved to be highlighted. Not because it made any good points, but because it shows how they continue to mislead society.
The way they do this is by attributing their lies to other people in the form of quotes. But, as far as I’m concerned, if you quote a lie without correcting it, then you are perpetuating that lie and are no more than a liar yourself.
On this occasion The Times quoted the head of the Prison Officers’ Association as saying:
“Many Muslim prisoners are known as ‘convenience Muslims’ and are drawn to the faith in prison because of the perks. They may well be converting to Islam for a variety of reasons. One is that the food might be better and another is they get more time out of cells because of Muslim prayers. Some people also believe that it is better to have a cult status and belong to a particular gang. What we’ve got to guard against is the real threat of the extremists and the radicalisation of young, disaffected prisoners. They are the extremists of tomorrow.”
There are so many problems with this quote that I almost don’t know where to start. Almost. So, I’ll start at the beginning and explain why every single sentence of that is wrong, one at a time.
“Many Muslim prisoners are known as ‘convenience Muslims’ and are drawn to the faith in prison because of the perks.”
I have been in seven different prisons over the last twelve years and have associated with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In fact, I’ve associated with prisoners of each of the six major world faiths and I can honestly say I have never heard anyone use the phrase ‘convenience Muslim’. I’ve heard ‘plastic Muslim’, usually used by BNP and EDL supporters to cast white British converts to Islam as traitors and fakes, but never ‘convenience Muslims’.
“ They may well be converting to Islam for a variety of reasons. One is that the food might be better and another is they get more time out of cells because of Muslim prayers.”
Rubbish. Prison meals are supplied using a pre-select menu system whereby prisoners choose their numbers around two weeks in advance and receive the numbers they order. Number one might be the vegan option, number two the vegetarian, number three the Halal (Muslim) option, and number four the so-called ‘ordinary diet’ option – i.e. anything goes. Any prisoner is entitled to order any number. The Halal option is there to cater for Muslims, but non-Muslims are free to order it as and when they please. Muslims do not receive better food. Perhaps this quote refers to the food received during Ramadan when Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours? Except, that is cooked by prisoners in exactly the same way as the normal food. The only difference is that it is put into a food flask so that it remains warm until sunset, so you can’t call that ‘better’. Perhaps it refers to the food provided to Muslims for Eid. But this is for just two meals a year and I have personally seen non-Muslim prisoners attending the Eid meals precisely because Muslims are encouraged to share their food, so if it’s available to non-Muslims, how can Muslims be getting anything ‘better’?
As for more time out of cells because of Muslim prayers, this is again simply rubbish. Every prisoner is entitled to attend a one hour session of worship in congregation, regardless of religion. For Muslims this does take the form of prayers on a Friday afternoon. For Christians it takes the form of chapel on a Saturday or a Sunday morning. But everyone is entitled to one hour. Muslims don’t get more time out of cells at all. They just get their time on a different day.
“Some people also believe that it is better to have a cult status and belong to a particular gang.”
This is actually true. But not in this context. There are many ‘gangs’ in prison and they all operate in different ways. What they all have in common though, is that solidarity and support is dependent upon status. For some ‘gangs’ this status depends upon what you can traffic into the prison and how often. In others it is how much money you can raise by any means necessary. In many it comes from simply imposing yourself upon the weaker element. But, for Muslims, status is measured according to knowledge of the religion and adherence to it’s teachings. For example, Muslims who openly do not pray or fast do not receive the same support as those who do. That isn’t to say that they are targeted at all, it’s just that they don’t get the same level of support. So, if a prisoner “Believes that it is better to have a cult status and belong to a particular gang”, why would he become a Muslim where the status he craves depends on learning and praying and fasting and abstinence, when he could join a different gang and receive a similar level of status and support for merely selling tobacco around the wing? I can tell you from what I have witnessed myself, prisoners who become Muslims purely for status and support, don’t tend to remain Muslims very long. Those that stick with it, do it because they believe in it.
“What we’ve got to guard against is the real threat of the extremists and the radicalisation of young disaffected prisoners. They are the extremists of tomorrow.”
Well, what do you think is more likely to turn a young disaffected Muslim against British society more? Another prisoner telling him that the culture he grew up with is evil and dishonest, or him seeing the head of the Prison Officer’s Association being given column inches in one of the biggest newspapers in Britain in order to say things which that young disaffected Muslim knows from first hand experience are downright lies constructed to create division and fear, and ultimately to make life that little bit less comfortable for him?
And later in the same article The Times reinforced this point writing that:
“Muslim prisoners comprised 14 per cent of the prison population last year compared with 4.4 per cent of the population of England and Wales on census day in 2011.”
What they insinuate is that Muslims are somehow more criminal than non-Muslims, which is why they are disproportionately behind bars. What they miss is that there are more black people in American jails than there are in American colleges. That doesn’t mean that Black people are more criminal, it just means that they either have less opportunies in life (and so more need to commit crime just to survive), or they are more likely than white people to receive a prison sentence rather than a non-custodial sentence because of a biased justice system. Or, and here’s a thought, both. The same is the case for every racial or religious minority in this country. There are a disproportionate number of Muslims in prison, a disproportionate number of Black people in prison, and a disproportionate number of ex-soldiers in prisons. Not because any of them are inherently criminal, but because society is generally unsupportive of them. Why? Because society is predominantly ruled by upper class white men who claim to be Christians but don’t even try to act like it. That’s not a snipe. It’s just a fact.
So I’ll finish by addressing one more of The Times lies. They wrote that:
“The proportion of Muslim inmates in some prisons is heading towards 50 percent, with high proportions in some top security prisons, though some have higher local Muslim populations. At HMP Whitemoor, in Cambridgeshire, Muslims made up 42 percent of the population of 451 last September; in Long Lartin, in Worcestershire, 22 percent; and in Full Sutton 20 percent.”