Muslim sex offenders may be allowed to abstain from the Sex Offender Treatment Programme established by the British Prison Service, reports the Daily Mail.
This news comes after an unnamed prisoner queried prison monthly Inside Time as to Muslim positions on the sharing sessions. "I have always insisted that it was against Islamic teachings to discuss your offence to anyone, let alone act it out within a peer group," he wrote.
Ahtsham Ali, Muslim advisor to the British Prison Service, replied that while there had not yet been a thorough review of the prison rules as to this point, he agreed that there exists a "legitimate Islamic position" that criminals should refrain from discussing their crimes.
This being, he promised: "I will be taking it forward as a matter of some urgency with colleagues, including those with policy responsibility for the Sex Offender Treatment programme, who I know are very willing to consider and discuss these issues."
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "We are currently seeking to ensure that the policy for the Sex Offender Treatment Programme is sensitive to the diversity of religions within the prison context.
But there may be downside for recusant Muslims:
Editor of the Prisons Handbook, Mark Leech, said: "Muslims who don't want to take part in the course may have to spend more time in prison, because their risk of reoffending will not be assessed as part of the treatment programme.
"This would be quite right, because we have to think about the victim."
One must agree he is correct on both counts. Still, he reports, "I think it is feasible there may be a judicial review so that Muslim sex offenders get a dispensation from the rules."
Another sour note: An expert reveals that Muslims compelled to serve extended prison terms are within rights to sue the Prison Service.
Assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, Harry Fletcher, said the situation presented an "intractable problem."
"The logic is that Muslims cannot take part in offender programmes and therefore their offending behaviour cannot be assessed and they are unlikely to be granted parole.
"They may then seek legal redress through judicial review on the grounds that they are being discriminated against on the grounds of religion," he said.
This is clearly a risk, and one the Prison Service must address. What's more, one wonders when advisors like Ahtsham Ali will determine there exists a "legitimate Islamic position" that prohibits incarceration of Muslims under authority of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Defender of the Faith and the Protector of [God's] Church and People.