Are Mosques and Imams Responsible for Muslim Criminality in the UK?

The Times today published an article based on an interview with Ahtsham Ali, who works as a Muslim advisor to the Prison Service. The article is about why so many Muslims are ending up in prison. Muslims account for over 12% of the prison population – way higher than their percentage of the population which is around 4-5%. Unfortunately, The Times is behind a paywall but the Daily Mail website has reprinted much of the article under their own byline here.

The Mail’s not unexpected spin on the story can be seen in their headline which reads:

“Generation of young Muslims ending up in jail ‘because of out-dated imams who fail to engage with them'”

It seems rather unfair to blame Imams for Muslims ending up in prison when far more influential factors are surely parental upbringing and social crowds. In my field of work (IT and wireless networks) I have worked alongside many Hindus whose communities also often import their priests from India. They too have trouble relating to many Hindu youth in the UK. Yet, British Hindus account for a far lesser percentage of those in prison as compared with their size of the population as a whole. The Daily Mail prints this fascinating official statistical graph obtained from NOMS (National Offender Management Service):

In my experience, Hindu children are brought up to value education and are ingrained with a very strong work ethic by their parents.

If we are really looking to point fingers at who is responsible for Muslim criminality then I don’t think it is appropriate to blame Imams who are very often poorly paid. As a Rabbi friend once told me (and he had heard it from the Chief Rabbi – so a strong isnad!), if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys! Imams often have to hold down two jobs just to try and make ends meet. It is hardly a job that many young Muslims dream of taking on when they grow up. It is very regrettable, though not surprising, therefore, that mosques sadly resort to importing Imams from overseas.

Poor quality parental involvement in the education and upbringing of Muslim children and bad influences from social peers are surely far more relevant factors when it comes to criminality amongst UK Muslims.

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9 Responses to Are Mosques and Imams Responsible for Muslim Criminality in the UK?

  1. Faz says:

    Hmmm… No doubt Imams do have a role to play and many are inadequately trained even ‘back home’. Although this type of Imams trained our parents generation, and how many of the became societies miscreants. Isn’t this criminal craze, yob culture just an element of integration? The higher percentage can be implied from the prejudices that exist towards Muslims.. Thus, lack of jobs etc…

  2. “Although this type of Imams trained our parents generation, and how many of the became societies miscreants.”

    I would have thought it would be a similar percentage to those Muslims who turned to criminality. There is nothing special to being an Imam. They are human beings like us – only they are generally working for very low pay in a job that is held in very low esteem and are usually at the mercy of their mosque management committees who can fire them almost at will it seems.

    Also, I think the idea that the vastly higher percentage of Muslims in prison can be accounted for by Islamophobia is not established, to put it very mildly.

  3. Faz says:

    There is something soecial about being an Imam as it should ensure you can guide the yiung in the path of what is good; agreed about their pay etc.. And the total blame on them is very inappropriate. How much time do these young people spend in schools, in front of TV etc..

    During the ‘Bradford riots’ the then home secretary, David Blunkett blamed the riots on Muslim youths not integrating due to ‘Madrasas’. I asked Mr Ahtsham Ali then, (adviser on current article), how many of the Muslim youths convicted were from Madrasas. He was a probation officer working with Muslims in Bradford at the time. He replied NONE.
    Amazingly none of the media picked this up either. Did the 7 July bombers go to Madrassas?

  4. Brendan says:

    I’ve often wondered about this as I go into prisons regularly as an independent monitor. I’m sure there is no one single factor to the disproportionate Muslim prison population; I would tentatively offer a few issues to what is a complicated problem
    1. Shame
    Most Muslims or at least their families have come from ‘shame based cultures’ where it is difficult to discuss things like offending behaviour openly and frankly, this is also true of non-Muslims of course
    2. Imams
    I’m sure Imams could make a big difference. I’ve always been surprised that Imams are not properly remunerated for their work, especially given that by and large mosques are quite well attended. Christian full time clergy typically receive about £30k pa (living expenses, housing pension, some fees etc.) but it’s not regarded as ‘wages’, but rather as a stipend. The money they receive is so that they can do the work without the distraction of another job and they have training to a high standard, the term ‘scholar’ is never applied loosely. Even small churches with perhaps a congregation of 40 or 50 are expected to find this amount of money. Here in Bristol an imam was convicted of sexual offences against young people he was training and in court it was reported he was receiving a paltry £60 per week from the mosque, although not presented as an excuse his defence offered this in mitigation to his mental state self-esteem, judgement etc.
    3. Diversity/culture of Muslims
    There are well over 10,000 Muslims in jail but this doesn’t tell us the whole story, i.e. it doesn’t tell us about ethnicity, immigration status, types of offences etc. here in Bristol 4 Afghan asylum seekers raped a woman in a park a few years ago, naturally there was a public outcry. Although the men knew it to be wrong to their mind and backgrounds I don’t think they imagined it was that wrong, or that they would be in as much trouble as they were, they no doubt reasoned ‘she must be a slag, ‘bad woman, prostitute’ etc.
    4. Suspect theological knowledge (?)
    i.e. a purely transactional relationship to God, living the ‘scales of judgement model’. For example I met a Nigerian Muslim who moved to the UK and found that life here rather distracted from his religious duties but he reasoned that what he didn’t do and should not have done could all be rectified by ‘balancing the scales’ and weighing them in his favour by his good works, it seemed that the notion of ‘right and wrong’ as a moral rule was not the primary guiding principle. I’m not sure how prevalent this notion is (?) but he presented it as ‘normal’
    5. Despair/Poverty
    Poverty and a lack of aspiration is always a factor in crime figures it’s the same everywhere. When I lived in Pakistan in the 90’s I was amazed by how many ex-pat Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia took the lethal risk of drug smuggling there, and lethal it is. Back then there were several hundred beheaded. The country felt embarrassed and ashamed but no doubt many of these men (and some women) were driven by poverty and despair, that’s probably true of lots of Muslims in our jails who don’t feel part of the future

    • Faz says:

      Brendan has raised some good points. One can also ask why are their disprolortionate numbers of blacks in prisons?
      Is it a case that most blacks and most muslims dispropotionately live in the lower scio-economic scale?
      Is it not true that most ‘white’ criminals are also produced from that socio-economic background as opposed to those coming from the affluent sections of society?
      It is easy for politucians to blame

      • Faz says:

        I was going to say it is easy for politicians to blame mosques, madrasas and Imams instead of facing up to the reality of creating jobs and opportunities for the young.
        The Muslim community is still very small and does not have assets of churches built over a thousand years to pay 30K salaries.

  5. Amin says:

    I am surprised at number of Buddhists in Jail

  6. Amin says:

    One observations… Muslims do come from a very diverse background compared to all other religions… even Christianity.

    Jews, Hindus, Sikhs are virtually one race religions. Muslims tend to come quite a wide range of backgrounds.

    Another small addition is number of converts to Islam in prison.

  7. Stuart Parsons says:

    For and interesting read on Muslim criminality, enter Nicola Sennels into your search engine.

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