Religion plays a major role in the life of a prisoner. After being thrown into prison, many inmates turn to religion for faith, guidance, and support to help them get through their incarceration. The largest convert populations in prison are Muslims. Although the numbers of Muslims in United States prisoners are unknown, it is estimated that between 9 to 15 percent of incarcerated prisoners are Muslim. The majority of those who convert to Islam behind bars are of African American descent.
Why do some incarcerated prisoners turn to Islam?
Many prisoners may turn to Islam for several reasons. On some accounts, many have turned to Islam because it does not tolerate racism, something many African American, Hispanic, and Asians have encountered throughout their entire lives. Islam also teaches patience and justice. When a person is in prison, they have time to think clearly and reflect upon their actions, and they’re able to take the time to learn about different forms of faith. They are able to turn to God for forgiveness and start a new path in their lives, usually with Islam.
What happens to these Muslim converts once they are released from prison?
One of the most unfortunate things about many Muslim converts who revert in prison is that once they are released, many of them return to their old habits. Many who come out of prison are faced with issues such as unemployment and sometimes poverty and discrimination. Those that have lost friends and family have a difficult time finding companionship and support. In prison, many had the support of fellow Muslim inmates, but once they are released, these converts are thrown in the streets, alone, without any support from their Muslim brothers or sisters. And unfortunately, just like in any other community, discrimination and racism can be found in some Muslim communities as well. Many people fear those who are released from prison because they are labeled as criminals and aren’t easily forgiven by the public.
What can we do to foster these Muslim converts?
What we should be more welcoming to these converts and greet them with open arms. We should all be able to provide support for those who need it. Many members of the Muslim community turn away from these converts at the time they need it the most. Instead of shying away, we should be forming more support groups that will help provide job opportunities, money, food, Islamic resources, and companionship that they need to get them going. Otherwise they’ll return back to their old habits out of desperation for money, food, and shelter. We should be doing a better job fostering our fellow brothers and sisters after encountering a difficult journey, and help them get back on their feet and continue to share this beautiful religion with the rest of the world.