This is a guest post by a former Muslim prison chaplain
Ahtsham Ali is the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Muslim Advisor at HM Prison Service Headquarters. He is responsible for appointing Muslim chaplains in prisons. For a person in such a sensitive role he has a somewhat worrying background; he was formerly the managing editor of the HAMAS supporting Islamist magazine ‘Trends‘ and a key Islamist recruiter. Throughout the 1990’s he was active in the British Islamist scene promoting Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI), as well as radicalising a whole generation of young British Muslims. For the past 18 years he has been studying under the tutelage of Sheikh Abdullah Al Judai who is a founding member of the European Council for Fatawa and Research (ECFR), a group set up by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. ECFR is presided over by the suicide bombing supporter and anti-Semite Yusuf Al Qardawi. Ali’s teacher Al-Judai is also promoted by the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE); another Islamist group which seeks to undermine democracy and is linked to JI.
Ali regularly speaks on Islamist platforms; for example, he spoke on a UK Islamic Mission (UKIM) platform as recently as last year. He is also believed to be the brains behind the NOMS deradicalisation programme Ibaana which was scrapped by the current Justice Secretary Michael Gove after concerns were raised that it promoted extremist teachings, including the views of Osama bin Laden, Mohammad Siddique Khan (7/7 bomber) and other Islamist terrorists.
Extremist British prison chaplains have included Sahib Bleher, the former Imam at Woodhill Prison, who was also the General Secretary of the Islamic Party of Britain, a political party that advocated killing homosexuals and transforming Britain into an Islamic State (more details on extremist chaplains can be found here). According to the British academic Sophie Gilliat-Ray, many Muslim chaplaincy posts have been given to individuals who follow Deobandism which has been described as a hard-line Islamic sect which spawned the Taliban. It is not at all surprising that Ali has been the one making these appointments.
So how did a controversial individual such as Ali get a key role in central government in the first place? In the early 2000s the government made the mistake of engaging with and empowering the Muslim Council of Britain (which itself was made up of Islamists and Islamist sympathisers). It was during this time that a number of Islamists managed to get influential roles in key government departments (we have previously exposed some of these individuals here and here); Ali was one of them.
I personally attended an annual gathering Ali arranged for Muslim chaplains (at tax payers expense) a few years ago and at this event literature by Islamist extremists such as Mawdudi was distributed to chaplains. Ali also made it clear that he favoured hard-line interpretations of Islam and expected all chaplains to do the same. No wonder extremism is flourishing in British prisons and Islamist prisoners are forcing non-Muslims to pay infidel (Jizya) tax as was reported in the press recently.
It’s about time that government departments stopped relying on Islamist advisors, who represent extremist political agendas which oppose our values, and started taking their responsibilities to tackle extremism seriously. We hope NOMS and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will now take the appropriate action to address the concerns raised in this article. In the meantime, to ensure this happens, we will be escalating our concerns further. Watch this space!