Not Just 'Visitors' to Prisons: The Experiences of Imams Who Work Inside the Penal System
11 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2003
This article presents the results of a study exploring the consequences of working within a Christian-dominated penal system upon a group of Imams who regularly visit prisons. The Islamic religion is currently the fastest growing non-Christian religion in British prisons and so it was considered to be important to document the experiences of the spiritual guides of this faith. Interview data revealed that the Imams face many disadvantages as a result of belonging to a non-Christian religion, amounting to a form of 'institutional racism'. However, many of them revealed that they were not the passive victims of institutional racism (and sometimes direct racism also), but rather struggled against their material conditions in order to force the prisons in which they work to respond to their own needs and those of the prisoners whom they serve. Nonetheless, it appears that any opportunities for change are limited by the structural imbalance between Christian and non-Christian faiths within the penal system.
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