Islam is the ‘fastest’ growing religion in the world – with multiple factors associated with the conversions and expansion generally. Keeping the stats the under consideration, by the year 2030 Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population, including 19 million in EU while 13 million among them being foreign-born immigrant Muslims.
Not just that, the number of Muslims in the United States of America has risen to 7 million, half of them being American born. While this rapid conversions and drastically increasing numbers does interest many, the growing interest towards Islam inside prisons has become a topic thoroughly investigated, studied and talked about on governmental as well as academic level.
Despite making 1% of the total population, Muslims make up 20% of the prison population. Similarly, every 1 person among 20 Britons is a Muslims, however, every 1 prisoner among 7 is a Muslim. As per a report from Daily Mail UK, the numbers are concerning in the recent past. Ministry of Justice finds that from the numbers being 6,571 in 2004, rose to 12,255 in 2014, making them the occupant of 15% of the total inmate population.
But the question arises, what is inspiring the change and such staunch conversions especially among the people behind the bars?
AJ+ made a tour to the infamous California State Prison, observing the circumstances and how what was once forbidden, i.e openly praying and worshipping for Muslims, has become one of the dominant practices there.
Talking about what inspired him and how Islam formed a home in this particular prison, making 5% of the population ‘practicing’ Muslims, one of the inmates named Jesse Hasani Burleson says that when he converted to Islam, he was given a defined set of principles to follow and was told how to react under certain circumstances. This has acted as a primary reason to religious switching and finding Islam behind the bars.
The harsh prison environment and staying away from the loved ones definitely propagates and uncomfortable and unsettling feeling for an individual. To overcome that, most inmates distract themselves by establishing a connection with God. Religious activities are among the few options they have there that provide them comfort and solace. But the journey for Islam to penetrate in US prison system, where the environment is strictly controlled has never been easy. One segment of experts link the conversions to the terrorist outfits, saying that they follow a radical form of Islam, making them a pawn in extremist hands. While other reject this idea, saying that they might follow a radical version, but it has nothing to do with outside influencers.
To overcome that, strict rules were implemented in Solano prison, putting restraints on any gatherings more than 3 people. So if they saw more than 3 people sitting and talking to each other, they were broken and stopped from interacting. They were denied a Chaplin and the right to collective prayers but the things have changed. Now apparently they have all these religious rights but still, the number of complaints regarding racism and discriminatory behaviour was the highest from Muslims as compared to any religion in the year 2016 – 17.
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