Muslim prisoners are in the spotlight after two former inmates went on a rampage in Paris. What is the situation in the UK?

Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly


The horrific murders of 17 people in Paris last week were carried out in part by two Muslim men who had been in prison – Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly. They reportedly met in a French prison, where both allegedly fell under the influence of an extremist mentor.

In Britain, stories about the “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid and extremist preacher Abu Qatada have also cast a spotlight on Muslim prisoners. But away from the sensational stories, what is the real situation in England & Wales for Muslim prisoners?



Muslim prisoners account for roughly 14 per cent of the prison population in England & Wales, but in London, the figure is as high as 27 per cent.

The number has more than doubled to nearly 12,000 in a decade with one prison, where there has been trouble with gangs, having over 40 per cent Muslim inmates.



There is a disproportionate number of Muslim prisoners as Muslims account for less than five cent of the general population in England & Wales and 12 per cent of the population in London, but 14 and 27 per cent respectively in prison.

Only one per cent of Muslim prisoners have been convicted of a terrorist-related offence according to the Young Review on black and Muslim males in prison – Jan 2014

Many Muslim inmates are treated with suspicion at best and outright racism at worst by their fellow prisoners and prison authorities according to the Young Review.

Muslim prisoners saw Islam as a positive force in coping with prison and release, but other inmates and the authorities tended to view it through the lens of terrorism and extremism according to the review.



The head of the prison and probation service said in a BBC Panorama programme that there is a small but “significant risk” of Muslim prisoners becoming radicalised. The documentary below examined the risks of prisoners going from jail to jihad.

The Prison Service has not helped the situation by strip-searching inmates, using guard dogs and not providing halal food – all things Muslims find objectionable. Over-crowded prisons and overwhelmed staff (as mentioned in our article about the 10 biggest challenges facing Britain’s prisonsresult in an atmosphere in which extremists can thrive. They are able to step into the breach and organise prisoners against authorities.

We will be taking a more in-depth look at radicalisation in UK prisons later this week. For now, you can watch the BBC documentary if you would like to learn more.



TWITTER: @prisonwatchuk 

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