Austrian Muslim chaplain urges gov't support against radicalization of prisoners


An Islamic religious figure who volunteers in Austria's penal system told Anadolu Agency on Friday the government in Vienna should work together with the country's Muslim community to prevent radicalism in its jails.

Turkish-born Ramazan Demir told Anadolu Agency: "I, as a prison religious official, see the increase of radicalization in prisons.

"We tell the government: 'Help us; let's fight together this radicalization'. But still no support is given," Demir added.

Austria's Islamic Religious Community (IGGO) has offered religious services to Muslim prisoners in the country's 27 jails since 1996.

Over 40 volunteers deliver essential pastoral care to inmates of the Islamic faith.

Demir has been giving voluntarily religious services for six years in Justizanstalt Josefstadt, Vienna's biggest prison.

As of June 2016 there were 8,800 prisoners in Austria according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research's World Prison Brief.

Demir said the Austrian government had failed to react positively to their calls for financial support.

He said the government should provide the same opportunities for Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish chaplains as it currently did for its majority Catholic population.

According to the International Prison Chaplains' Association (IPCA) only Catholic priests and pastoral care workers are employed by the state.

Other religions must fund their own prison work independently.

Demir said that, without support and guidance, some prisoners might gravitate towards radical views while in prison.

"Prisoners are showing interest in the religion [while] in prison. So they ask questions to the nearest prisoners; if they are the members of Daesh or have similar radical views, they can easily affect them because the religious knowledge of the prisoners is very weak," he said.

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