Norway: Employ imams against prison extremism

Norway: Employ imams against prison extremism

The PST (Norwegian Police Security Service) wants imams to systematically be employed to fight extremist communities in Norwegian prisons.

More and more non-Western criminals serve time in Norwegian prisons and the PST knows of prisoners who've move in an extreme ideological direction.

Therefore they want imams to work to prevent that at a later point they will commit terrorist attacks after they finish their sentence, TV 2 reports.

In at least one concrete case it was revealed that a non-Western immigrant with extreme attitudes carried on recruiting in the prison.

"Some, especially non-Western immigrants, let themselves be inspired by extreme Islamic ideology. And then it's our task, in cooperation with the prison employees, to see the danger signs when they appear and use good measures to counteract them continuing," PST head Jørn Holme told the station.

He suggests using imams to prevent negative development because they're one of the few resources [of support] the prisoners can meet.

"Good and sensible imams would be able to say that such opinions are outside the religion and are a dangerous direction which isn't religiously based."

Europeans prisons have in the past functioned as recruiting institutions for extreme Islamists. Among the terrorist responsible for the terror bombs in Madrid in 2004, for example, former inmates had central roles.

Holme says that in a prison many inmates often feel insulted by and angry at society. They are isolated from the world, friends and family. There are violent people that it's easy to look up to and they are very vulnerable of being influenced further. He says it's clear the the correctional service and PST must counteract Norwegian prisons becoming a place where people become even more dangerous than they already were.

Imam Tayyib Mian says imams will naturally contribute to all measures which support positive developments.

"We have traditions to visit people at hospitals and in prisons. So we think that the initiative from the PST and Jørn Holme are extremely positive," Mian told TV 2.

The initiative will presumably lead to the PST, correctional system and representative from the Muslim communities to discuss a more formal cooperative effort.

Knut Are Svenkerud of the correctional system union stresses that the correctional system have a particular responsibility to prevent this type of activity.

"It means that we must collection information in the prisons and have oversight over who we have there, what they deal with and who they communicate with," he says.

"This oversight is not good enough today," says Svenkerud.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

See also:
* Norway: Proposal to offer only halal food in prisons
* Norway: Religious services in prisons
* Denmark: Moderate imams answer to prison radicalization
* France: Islamization in prison

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