CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Two-thirds of imprisoned Islamists in England have told police and prison authorities that they will never change their violent ways.
Of the 150 offenders who are in prison or on parole, 110 have refused to engage with a government-designed program called Contest, a counterterrorism strategy that seeks to change the ways of religious extremists after their release from jail, as well as guide young adults away from religious extremism, according to a government document.
Usama Hasan, a senior researcher in Islamic studies at the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim anti-terrorist think tank based in London, said the low interest in the program reveals the extent of the challenge ahead.
“Twelve years after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., you’ve still got the majority of these people not wanting to deal with any examination or discussion of their hard-line ideas,” he said.
Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said challenging the ideas of extremists while they were in prison was “doomed.”
In an interview last month with The Times of London, he talked of the lower-tier foot soldiers of terrorism masterminds.
“You would expect the foot soldiers to be more reachable,” he said. “However, if they’re doing long prison stretches for their ideas, they might feel this is a part of their cause, being a warrior, so it might in fact strengthen their beliefs rather than weaken them.”
The way jailed Islamic extremists snub nonviolence courses is a burning issue facing the police and public.
On Wednesday (Feb. 26), a judge sentenced two Muslims who killed British soldier Lee Rigby on a South London street last May.
Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, used knives to kill the 25-year-old fusilier and later screamed at onlookers that they had been told to do this by Allah.
Judge Nigel Sweeney told the men they had betrayed Islam “and the peaceful Muslim communities which give so much to our country.”
Adebolajo, who was sentenced to life in prison, replied: “It is not a betrayal of Islam; you don’t know anything about Islam.”
Abebowale, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison, yelled out, “I swear by Allah, Britain and America will never have any safety.”
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