Extremism: "Authorities -and not Imams - can make the situation worse"
“Muslim religious leaders are not only working with local authorities but are helping to decrease radicalisation", stresses anthropologist (and blogger) Gabriele Marranci. During an International Conference on Extremism in London, key authorities were criticized for not listening to Muslim Imams who reach out to offer help. They were criticized for paint the Muslim community as un-cooperative at the same time according The Voice.
“During my research, I found no evidence to suggest that the Muslim chaplains are behaving or preaching in a way that facilitates radicalisation. On the contrary, my findings suggest that they are extremely important in preventing dangerous forms of extremism. However, the distrust that they face, both internally and externally, is jeopardising their important function.”
Marranci researched on islam in prisions: How does being behind bars impact on Muslim identity and their experience of Islam? He interviews over 170 current and former Muslim prisoners in Scotland, Wales and England and lived with the families of former prisoners. His study Living Islam in prison: faith, ideology and fear showed that sometimes it is actions by the authorities-and not Imams- which can make a situation worse. Current efforts by the authorities to curb radicalism within UK prisons are having the opposite effect according to the anthropologist.
His study said, the Voice writes, Muslim prisoners are subjected to stricter security surveillance than other inmates. Marranci claimed that security policies within prisons - including restricting praying in a communal space or reading the Qur’an during work breaks - are exacerbating, rather than suppressing the radicalisation process.
In a recent entry in his blog he gives us more details about his studies and concludes:
The terrorist threat, as well as the general representation of an ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ Armageddon battle, is polarising, in a very dangerous way, prison life. On one side are the Muslim prisoners, with a minority of radicals but a majority of ordinary Muslims pushed towards the aforementioned because of the discrimination they suffer. On the other side are the non-Muslim staff and prisoners whom understandably develop resentment towards the terrorists, but which too easily becomes resentment towards the ordinary Muslim prisoners.
These circumstances maximise the possibility of attacks against Muslim prisoners, and consequently provide a fertile soil for successful radicalisation of Muslim prisoners.
Yet I have the impression that the Prison Service and the Government see ‘extremism’ as merely the product of ‘indoctrination’. Yet, as my research suggests, ‘extremism’ within prison should be tackled by rejecting over focused Muslim-centric security policies in order to develop an encompassing strategy against intolerance. (…) I have highlighted many times to the Prison Service that extremism and radicalism are not just Muslim issues. Within the prisons there are visible increases in right-wing ideologies and a high level of unnoticed intolerance.
The ‘War on Terror’, he stresses, is disintegrating the British Values: “Today we are ready to deport people towards their torture and death thanks to shameful political agreements with tyrants who shun our democratic values.”
Marranci is currently transforming his research into a book provisionally titled “Faith, ideology and fear: Muslim identities within and beyond prisons”. It will be published by Continuum Books in summer 2008. You can download a speech about his researchheld at the House of Lords.