[Marxism] European prisoners turn to Islam
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 8 11:50:53 MST 2004
NY Times, December 8, 2004
Islam in Jail: Europe's Neglect Breeds Angry Radicals
By CRAIG S. SMITH
NANTERRE DETENTION CENTER, France - Abdullah, tall and muscular, with a
shaved head and closely cropped goatee, sat on a metal bunk in the cramped
cell here and described how he got religion.
"When I was in La Santé, I read books about the Prophet," he said,
referring to a notorious Parisian detention center, the third of five jails
where he has spent time during the past two years for dealing drugs and
When he arrived at the fourth, Fleury-Merogis, Europe's largest, another
inmate gave him a DVD about the life of Muhammad and later, while enduring
a three-week stint in solitary confinement, he vowed to devote himself to
"People here find God," he said.
In less than a decade, there has been a radical shift in France's prison
population, a shift that officials and experts say poses a monumental
Despite making up only 10 percent of the population, Muslims account for
most of the country's inmates and a growing percentage of the prison
populations in many other European countries, an indication of their place
at the bottom of the Continent's hierarchy.
With radical strains of Islam percolating through Europe, authorities are
unsure how to address the spiritual needs of the prisoners while guarding
against the potentially toxic mix of extremist ideology and a criminal
past. One result is often neglect, which officials say can be a still
greater force for radicalization.
Prison populations have been expanding across Europe in recent years,
partly because of stricter anticrime regimens influenced by the sort of
zero tolerance on quality-of-life crimes that was epitomized by the former
New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
France's prison population has risen by 20 percent in the past three years,
largely because of aggressive pursuit of lower-level crimes.
The proportion of Muslims in prison has been growing even faster,
reflecting the relative youth of Europe's largely Muslim immigrants.
While there are no official data on issues of race and ethnicity in much of
Europe - it is in fact illegal to keep such data in many places - experts
on prison populations agree on the new disproportion of Muslims here and
Two months ago Pierre Raffin, the director of La Santé detention center,
warned officials looking into the role of religion in France that extremist
proselytizing in prisons was growing.
Other countries are facing the same problem. Spain's chief counterterrorism
magistrate, Baltazar Garzón, said recently that the men accused of plotting
to blow up the country's main counterterrorism court were recruited from
among fellow inmates by an Islamic militant serving time for credit card fraud.
Most famously, Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a Miami-bound airliner in
December 2001 using a bomb in his shoe, converted to Islam while in a
Those who are detained or convicted for terrorist-related crimes are not
always separated from the larger prison population and are often ready to
act as spiritual guides at a time when mainstream Muslim chaplains are in
severely short supply.
Abdullah (prison rules prevented him from giving his last name) said that
while he was at Fleury-Merogis, militants were active in the prison yard,
preaching that Christians and Jews are enemy infidels. In May, the
militants defied prison rules by organizing a prayer meeting during an
exercise break. Several prisoners were disciplined as a result.
"Islam is becoming in Europe, especially France, the religion of the
repressed, what Marxism was in Europe at one time," said Farhad
Khosrokhavar, an Iranian-French scholar who has written a book on Islam in
prisons. He says the growing Muslim prison population is evidence of an
Islamic underclass that is developing across Europe and, at its margins, is
increasingly sympathetic to the coalescing ideologies of political Islam.
More information about the Marxism