Muslim women in prison

British Islam conference 2018

Presenter: Sofia Buncy

There are approximately 13,000 Muslim prisoners forming a disproportionate 16% of the prison population. Muslim women are also disproportionately represented forming 6% of the prison population.

The Muslim prison population has increased by 50% over the past decade and reflects the acceptability of crime within the Muslim community.

There is a reluctance from organisations to delve into the complexity of Muslim culture.

Faith and culture have become amalgamated and it is now difficult to separate the two. We are failing to look at the drivers behind the increase in the Muslim prison population.

Muslim women are disadvantaged on the grounds of their ethnicity, faith and gender. They suffer from a social stigma that does not apply to male offenders. They are subject to open double standards where it is acceptable for men to be multiple offenders but women are ostracised.  They endure a community where rules are defined by a male patriarchy in community institutions such as community centres and mosques. Going through the justice system is a lonely journey for Muslim women.

What is particularly disturbing is that a lot of women entering the justice system have a male hand behind their crime. Either through having experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse and grooming or by covering for a male.

The crimes themselves can range from violating a suspended driving ban to theft. We are failing to look at and understand the stories of these women.

There is a culture of non-disclosure and our community has a particular problem with holding difficult conversations leading to the increase in women entering prison.

Some of the cases that highlight the drivers include an elderly woman who received a custodial sentence for a class A drug related crime along with her son. In this instance the culture of self-sacrifice for her child and protection of the family took precedence over her morality.  There are increasing numbers being jailed for shoplifting that is driven by drug addiction. The addiction having started through a relationship with a male either inside our outside her family. In some instances their addiction is leading to prostitution.

Asian culture is interfering with our morality. More importance is attached to the outward projection of faith rather than moral values.

Muslim women in prison report.

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