Non-Muslim inmates at the high-security Long Lartin jail have been forced by the gangs to stop playing “Western” music and take down pictures of women from their cells, according to one former prison officer there.
Prisoners at the jail, although allowed to cook their own food, are not allowed to prepare pork for fear of offending the Muslim inmates, the officer said.
The officer, speaking to Radio Five Live’s Donal Macintyre show, told how younger prisoners were targeted for forced conversion to Islam by the gangs.
“They went along because they were intimidated. They genuinely weren’t of the Muslim faith,” she said. “I knew one lad quite well, who was approached by the radical Muslims and he changed. He was being controlled and bossed around and he wasn’t even allowed to look at me or speak to me.
“He just seemed very frightened all the time. He used to be forced to pray at certain times and he was even forced to grow a long beard even though he didn’t want to.”
One Catholic prisoner who refused to convert was seriously assaulted after being repeatedly threatened by the gang, the officer said. “He said every so often they would come to his cell and hold the Koran up through the small window in the cell door and start running their fingers along their throats,” she said.
The officer’s testimony is consistent with findings by the official prison watchdog, the chief inspector of prisons. In a report last year, the inspector, Anne Owers, quoted a number of prisoners at Long Lartin about the increasing dominance of Muslim gangs in the jail.
Two Muslim former prisoners claimed in the BBC programme that Muslims “run” some London jails and describe how they watched al-Qaeda videos in their cells, brought in by corrupt prison officers.
They also detail further bullying and abuse of prisoners who refused to convert to Islam and said that in one London jail, prisoners who wanted to play music had their stereos smashed.
They said that the official prison imams appointed by the Home Office were largely ineffective and not respected by Muslim prisoners.