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Prison as a site of intense religious change: the example of conversion to Islam

Wilkinson, Matthew, Irfan, Lamia, Quraishi, Muzammil and Schneuwly Purdie, Mallory 2021. Prison as a site of intense religious change: the example of conversion to Islam. Religions 12 (3) , 162. 10.3390/rel12030162

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Based on the findings of mixed-methods research conducted with 279 Muslim prisoners in 10 prisons in England, Switzerland and France, this paper argues that contemporary European prisons are sites of intense religious change, in which many people born outside Islam and many born-Muslims believe in and practise Islam for the first time. In order to map this experience of intense religious change in prison, the paper articulates an original typology of conversion to identify Muslim converts as Switchers and Intensifiers. Both of these types of convert mobilise their Islam to turn to God in acts of repentance for their crime(s), to find a renewed purpose in life and to re-gain psychological balance and inner peace. By contrast, a minority of prisoners are Reducers, whose Islamic faith diminishes in prison. A minority of converts to Islam also persist or become more deeply entrenched in the Islamist Worldview of Us vs. Them. Therefore, while choosing to follow Islam in prison carries with it some criminogenic risk, conversion to Islam is significantly more likely to help than to hinder prisoners’ rehabilitation by enabling them to feel remorse for their crimes, reconnecting them with work and education and encouraging them to find emotionally supportive company.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Additional Information: This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 2077-1444
Funders: The Dawes Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 25 February 2022
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2022 11:45

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