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Danish jails feared to be hotbed of radicalism
From the Danish edition of The Local
Reports that Omar El-Hussein was radicalized in prison have Danish officials worried about a larger pattern that turns criminals into extremists. Copenhagen's longstanding problem with criminal gangs means the authorities are now concerned that El-Hussein's journey from joining a gang in the immigrant community where he grew up, via prison into extremism could mirror a wider trend.
Having been sentenced to two years in prison for a stabbing, El-Hussein displayed a newfound interest in religion after being released just a fortnight before the attacks that targeted a synagogue and a cultural centre hosting a debate on free speech and Islam.
The head of a prison workers' union, Kim Østerbye, told AFP that radicalisation was "widespread" among inmates and that it wasn't unusual to hear them cheer the deadly attacks on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket last month. Danish inmates could be heard shouting about Jyllands-Posten, Østerbye said, referring to the Danish newspaper that triggered violent protests in the Muslim world with its 2005 publication of caricatures lampooning the prophet Muhammad. "It could be about someone wanting to do something to this or that Muhammad critic. It's outbursts of rage, it's cries of anger," he said.
The leader of another prison workers' union, John Hatting, called for inmates with Islamist views to be separated from "vulnerable" youths from immigrant backgrounds. "We'll have to move them away from where they can influence others... so that they are only around [non-Muslim] Danes," he told AFP. You don't want them converting non Muslims either - as I keep saying we need to revive the penitentiary systems for the 21st century. This is a culture that demands seclusion for its womenfolk; give the gander similar sauce.
A former inmate told public broadcaster DR that Muslim extremists had tried to turn him against ethnic Danes and Jews."It's brainwashing. They try to get close and become friends with you," said the young man, who asked to remain anonymous.
Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen has said she is open to the idea of separating "influential" extremists from inmates at risk of becoming radicalized. "I pay a lot of attention when staff who walk around inside the prisons say it could be part of the solution. They have their fingers on the pulse," she told DR.