Self-Proclaimed Imams Proselytizing in Italian Prisons: A Conversion Boom

The article’s writer deals with the problem of jihadist radicalisation in Italian penitentiary institutions. He warns of the risk of self-proclaimed imams who proselytize other Muslim prisoners, leading them towards extremism. According to European reports, in many Italian prisons Muslims enter as thieves and come out as Islamists. Once freed from prison they are recruited. This means that, although the recruitment doesn’t take place inside the prison, connections are nevertheless possible and even actively established with the outside. Many convert to Islam when in jail because Islam gives them a sense of redemption. In the light of this spiritual need, the author suggests, it would be advisable that along with Christian chaplains, official imams should be appointed to provide their services in Italian prisons. 80 Islamists are in Italian prisons for crimes related to terrorism. They have received a strong military preparation as well as the logistic and organisational capacity to guide the gangs in prisons. In such a scenario, the main risk is posed by rebellions: there have been protests by Muslims about the overcrowding of prisons and for perceived religious and civil persecutions by the maximum-security regime. The author warns that the terrorists in our prisons would be ready to die in the name of their jihad and that, in the event of a rebellion, they would not hesitate to take prison officers hostage.