LONDON: An alarming surge in the number of Muslims being jailed for drug offences has prompted accusations that the Government is failing to deal with growing social problems in Britain’s impoverished Islamic communities. The number of Muslims in prison for drug offences in England and Wales has jumped by 63 per cent over seven years, rising from 2,089 in 2010 to 3,406 in 2017, according to figures obtained by The Independent using Freedom of Information laws, the Independent has reported.
Over the same period, the number of non-Muslims in prison for drug offences has declined by more than ten per cent. More than a quarter of all Muslims currently in prison have been incarcerated because of drug offences, compared to 13 per cent of all non Muslim prisoners. Experts say these numbers should serve as a warning to the Government that more needs to be done to integrate young Muslims from deprived areas into mainstream British society.
“This increasing Muslim prison population is a symptom of a broken justice system and a gang problem that is rapidly getting worse,” said Dr Mohammed Qasim, a criminologist at Leeds Beckett University who has spent more than a decade researching crime in British Muslim communities.
“Mosques and the older generations within Islamic communities don’t know how to stop young people turning to dealing, and at a Government level there is no real understanding of the problem.” Dr Sundas Ali, a lecturer at the University of Oxford who studies Muslim integration in the UK, believes that demographics are a major factor. Britain’s Muslim population is younger than the national average and many families live in poor areas of the country with limited job opportunities.
In 2015, Dr Ali published an analysis of census data that revealed 46 per cent of Muslims live in the 10 per cent of local authorities that are most deprived. The latest statistics have been obtained in the wake of several high-profile police operations targeting drug gangs that come from Islamic backgrounds. Earlier this month, six members of a Manchester gang were sentenced to a total of more than 40 years in jail after being caught with drugs worth more than £500,000 and an array of weapons. The increase in the number of Muslims being imprisoned for drug offences has been the driving force behind a 24 per cent increase in the UK’s Islamic prison population over the last seven years. Over the same period the number of non-Muslims in prison in England and Wales has declined. As of September 2017, Muslims made up 15.4 per cent of Britain’s prison population and around 5 per cent of the general population. As well as socio-economic factors, there are concerns that systemic biases against Muslims may kick in when they come into contact with police, prosecutors and courts.