Radical Islamists have found what might appear to be an unlikely place to gain new followers: German prisons. Officials at the Bavarian state unit of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the agency responsible for monitoring extremist activity in the country, say they have identified jihadist handbooks recommending the recruitment of fellow prisoners and that they have observed Salafist prisoners trying to convert other inmates.
Rauf Ceylan, a prominent Islam expert in Osnabrück, believes a growing number of extremists are likely to be incarcerated in Germany in the future. “Many of the 300 Germans who have joined the jihad in Syria will probably end up in German jails at some point,” he says.
A handful of international cases underscore the acute threat of young men converting or becoming radicalized in prison. It was after being placed in a London juvenile correctional facility for committing petty crimes that Richard Reid converted to Islam and later became radicalized. In 2001, he attempted to down a passenger jet with an explosive device he had hidden in his shoe. Meanwhile, one of the perpetrators of the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid had first come into contact with extremists while behind bars. The killer in Toulouse, France, who shot seven people in March 2012, had become a Salafist while in jail…
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Is it possible that prisoners tend to be a more violent lot and hence are more attracted to jihad, once they have been exposed to the teachings? I suspect that plays a large role here. No doubt violent men were responsible for the original and fast spread of Islam.