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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Muslim prisoners 'second-class'
Muslims praying
Muslims prayers are to be said five times a day
Muslim inmates in London's jails are complaining that they receive second-class spiritual support compared to Christians.

The number of Islamic prisoners in the city's main jails has risen by more than 20% in two years.

The prison service has been accused of failing to respond to the rise by not catering to Muslim inmates' needs.

Anjum Choudary, from the Society of Muslim Lawyers, said their "fundamental right to worship" was being violated.

There needs to be re-education and more understanding on the part of the authorities

Anjum Choudary, Society of Muslim Lawyers
When receiving religious instruction Muslims should have facilities for washing, meat must be prepared in the Halal manner and prayers are to take place five times a day.

Hussain, who spent a month inside Brixton Prison, said his devotions were not respected by the regime.

"When the time came for me to take a shower before my general prayer, I wasn't allowed to.

'Classic example'

"There needs to be re-education and more understanding on the part of the authorities.

"Brixton is a classic example of discrimination against Muslims and we're running a campaign against it," he said.

Like many jails the Christian chapel at Brixton has been converted into a multi-faith area, but the society says this is unacceptable as a prayer area for Islams because there are Christian icons.

Brixton Prison
Some prisons lack proper facilities
Brixton governor Stephen Twinn has met the Prison Service Muslim Adviser, Maqsood Ahmed, the Imam and representatives of the Muslim prisoner population to discuss the complaints.

"From these meetings the times of Friday prayers have been agreed and the Prison Service is content with the facilities available for prisoners to practice their religion," said Mr Twinn.

He and his management team were in "regular dialogue" with Muslim prisoners and "actively pursued" any legitimate complaints that are made.

The Prison Service is currently undertaking a programme of work to ensure that the interests of religious minorities are recognised and protected.

The service said there were several locations where facilities were not satisfactory but it was considering how best to ensure that all faiths had a suitable place of worship.

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