Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thought of the Day

Theodore Dalrymple has an interesting insight into the actions of Muslim clergy in US prisons converting prisoners to Islam:
[Interviewer]: You have been a prison doctor. In the United States, we have a serious problem with Moslem clergy that convert a large number of incarcerated youth to Islam? Will you comment on that?
[Dalrymple]: I am no expert, but I would expect the majority of converts to be black. There comes a time when criminals want a reason to give up crime, and religious conversion is a good one. Converting to Islam allows black prisoners to give up crime without having surrendered to society, since they know that the latter fears Islam.
I do not know this for sure, but I would doubt there are many converts to Islam in women's prisons.
Huh. Whether that is ultimately the reason or not, it seems to be a psychologically astute observation on several levels.

Firstly, the fact that Islam is feared by mainstream western society may be a source of its appeal to prisoners, who assuredly don't come to love society by being locked in the cage. (The latter is not necessarily an argument against the cage, but is true nonetheless)

Secondly, the suggestion (not at all implied in the question itself) that converting to Islam is probably associated with giving up on crime. This is an implicit rejoinder (which Dalrymple of course doesn't state directly) to the question's claim that the actions of Muslim clergy are a problem. Specifically, that a first order effect of reducing Muslim clergy's ability to proselytise in prison may be to also reduce the number of prisoners who actually give up on crime. This is a tradeoff that I'm sure the vast majority of social conservatives probably never contemplated, but perhaps ought to - would you rather prisoners be secular criminals or reformed Muslims, if that indeed is the choice?

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