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Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison is an interdisciplinary research programme hosted by the School of History, Religions & Philosophies at SOAS, University of London.  UCIP is using robust mixed-methods, criminological-theological research to generate the most detailed and extensive data-set yet about:

  1. the socio-demographic and religious nature of Muslim converts, including those Muslims who change Islamic affiliation, in British and continental European prisons;
  2. the types of Islam that Muslim convert inmates follow;
  3. the effects of their conversion to Islam on prison life and on their rehabilitation, including the effects of prison chaplaincy and religious occasions in prison.

Driven by this data, the Programme will then design a practical intervention to improve prison outcomes for inmates who convert to Islam.

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison is guided by an interdisciplinary team of internationally renowned criminologists, theologians, scholars of Islam and legal practitioners, including:

Professor Nigel Biggar
Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford

Dr. Afifi al-Akiti
Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Oxford; Privy Councillor, State of Perak, Malaysia

Professor Mashood Baderin
Chair of the Centre of African Studies, SOAS, University of London; Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Professor Alison Liebling
Director, Prisons Research Centre, University of Cambridge

Mr. Eoin McLennan-Murray
Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform, former President of the Prison Governors' Association, and former Governor of HMP Coldingley

Sir David Calvert-Smith QC
Former Director of Public Prosecutions; Chair of the Parole Board for England & Wales

Professor Anna Sapir Abulafia
Professor of Abrahamic Religions, University of Oxford

Professor Muhammad A S Abdel Haleem, OBE
Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies, SOAS, University of London

The Programme aims to bring about an enduring improvement in the way that Muslims are understood in British and continental European prisons to the benefit of prisoners' lives and of British and continental European society more widely.

SOAS, University of London will be partnered on this ground-breaking Programme by the University of Salford; the University of Fribourg, Switzerland; and the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life at the University of Oxford.  

McDonald Centre Director, Professor Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford will oversee elements of the empirical research and any data-driven intervention that pertain to pastoral theology and practice. The Programme’s Principal Investigator is Associate Research Fellow, Dr. Matthew Wilkinson, who himself converted to Islam in 1991.