Monday, November 20, 2006

I Merely Report ...

Sunday People :

By Nigel Nelson

TAXPAYERS face a £20,000 bill for flattening a prison chapel - to build an extension to its mosque.

Church of England lags at Britain's biggest jail, Wandsworth, have been told they must make way for the expansion and move into the Catholic chapel.

Prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "There's more Muslim prisoners so we need a bigger mosque.

"The Catholic and C of E facilities are both larger than the attendance merited and the mosque is too small."

But Tory prisons spokesman Edward Garnier argued: "The Government needs to be extremely careful before it downgrades one religion and appears to give undue weight to another.

"We're talking about public money.

"Spending their taxes on one religion to the exclusion of another needs a great deal of justification."

Builders are due to move into the London jail in the New Year and finish the new mosque by April.

It currently holds 265 Muslims compared to 672 Christians.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "The work reflects changes in the make-up of the prison population and the need to represent all the different faiths within prisons."

Church of England moving into a Catholic building ? Wouldn't be the first time, would it ?

It sounds as if the new extension is needed for all the mobiles and wraps.

Britain’s largest prison has become the scene of a "potentially explosive" stand-off between two rival groups of Muslims, a report from an independent watchdog has warned.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Wandsworth jail in South London said that there was a schism among Muslim prisoners over the prison’s newly-appointed imam, with evidence that some inmates were applying pressure on fellow prisoners to "adopt more militant lifestyles and belief systems".

Its annual report said: "There is a schism existing amongst Muslims in the prison about the imam. There have been petitions from two opposing sides on this subject to the governor.

"We are concerned that unless sensitively managed this issue could become even more emotional and potentially explosive."

It added: "The issues surrounding the current imam should be resolved as quickly as possible."

David Jamieson, chairman of the IMB, said: "It is an issue of how the current imam interprets the Koran. "There is a difference of views between the Asian Muslims and the North African and Afro-Caribbean Muslims."

There were also "very worrying" implications of rocketing use of illegal mobile phones by prisoners, the report said, warning that the number of inmates using mobile phones was "widespread and growing".

The study reflected recent press reports that attendance at religious services had increased because inmates were using them as venues for drug dealing and trading in illegal mobile phones.

Board members had raised a series of concerns about a "major influx" of drugs and mobiles in Wandsworth, which holds 1,456 inmates. "We believe it is essential that there are adequate numbers of officers present at all religious services to discourage illegal activities," the study said.

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