An article in the Prison Service Journal provides a useful insight into the disproportionate number of Muslims in British jails. Muslims form some 2.7% of the general population, but some 8% of the prison population. Britain is not alone in this; in France, 60% - 70% of the prison population are Muslim (mostly North Africans) compared with an estimated 6% - 9% of Muslims in the general population. Belgium, too, shows this trend. But the reasons for the UK's large number of imprisoned Muslims are rather different.
The research suggests that our imprisoned Muslims are by and large of afro-Caribbean descent, and that many have converted to Islam whilst in prison. Many have low educational levels, and a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Interviews by the researchers also suggest that the strongest draw of Islam is the sense of community identity it provides. The following is worth quoting in full:
For many of the research participants, it seems that conversion to Islam has provided them with an identity and a sense of belongingness that was largely missing in their lives prior to religious conversion. The research participants articulated the notion that after converting to Islam they now feel that they are part of a wider community:I have blogged extensively on the dangers to our nation of State Centralism - a corrosive and destructive undermining of the authority of all our intermediate institutions by a Leviathan all-powerful, all-knowing State that seeks to form a direct relationship with each individual. This is what Gordon Brown believes in. When he talks of a 'British identity' he means the identification of each individual with this Leviathan State. Local institutions - the church, local Political parties, clubs and organisations - as well as institutions such as regimental families, historic institutions of place, are all undermined and robbed by the State Centralists. Most pernicious is the undermining of the authority of the family. In this, Brown is as guilty as that mumping villian Rousseau, who would have removed children from their families in case the authority of the father challenged that of the State.
I was out in the world, not knowing anything, who I was yeah? And Islam sort of gives you the thing ‘you are a slave of Allah’. And what you’re here for on this Earth, partly why you are brotherhood, part of a believer, ummah is it?
Islam was seen by the participants as being inclusive of all, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality:
In the Qur’an that’s what it says, it says brotherhood. It doesn’t matter what nation, it’s a religion for the world init? That’s one of the things I love about it because you go to the mosque and you see white, brown, black, you just see all the colours, that unity init.
The quotations above are perhaps unsurprising, given that social theorists have argued that in contemporary western society traditional social affiliations, based on family or social class, have been eroded, as evidenced by, for example, the reduction in union and party political membership (Bauman, 2004; Furedi, 1997). At the heart of these social and economic transformations is the anxiety that comes with a loss of a sense of ‘belongingness’, so that people look to find or establish new identities, which can, at least for a brief moment, make them feel that they are part of a ‘wider community’ (Bauman, 2004).
The conversion and radicalisation of those such as attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid owes much to Brown's Leviathan State. The radicalisation of the 21/7 bombers owes much to Brown's Leviathan State. The danger is not just the gradual destruction of our social fabric, but of terrorist bombs in our towns and cities.
True security will come not from powers that tighten the grip of the security agents of the State, but only from shrinking the State. This is counter-intuitive and will not be understood by dinosaurs such as Gordon Brown. He has neither the vision or the courage to loosen the grip of Whitehall on the soul of the nation. All his 'British' rhetoric will be just so much specious, empty puffery.