Muslims make up only about 12 percent of France’s population — but account for from 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prisons.
French prison officials blame that remarkable statistic on the poverty of people who have moved to France from North Africa and other Muslim nations in recent decades.
French Muslim leaders further hold racism and discrimination as the root cause of unemployment and crime rates among the Muslim minority, according to the Islam Online Web site.
In Britain, Muslims reportedly make up 3 percent of the population, but 11 percent of prisoners.
In the Netherlands, 20 percent of adult prisoners and 26 percent of juvenile offenders are Muslims, while the nation on the whole is about 5.5 percent Muslim, according to research by the Open Society Institute, an advocacy organization.
In Belgium, Muslims from Turkey and Morocco account for at least 16 percent of inmates; they make up 2 percent of the general population.
“Sociologists and Muslim leaders say the French prison system reflects the deep social and ethnic divides roiling France and its European neighbors as immigrants and a new generation of their children alter the demographic and cultural landscape of the continent,” the Washington Post observed.
France has had difficulty reacting to the growing numbers of Muslims incarcerated in the country. The prison system has only 100 Muslim clerics for the nation’s 200 prisons, compared with about 480 Catholic, 250 Protestant and 50 Jewish chaplains, even though Muslim prisoners far outnumber prisoners of all other religions.
“It is true that we haven’t attained full equality among religions in prisons yet,” Jeanne Sautiere, director of integration and religious groups for the French prison system, told the Post.
“It is a matter of time.”
The Times of London recently included Paris’ rat-infested La Santé prison — which includes a number of Islamic militants among its large Muslim population — on its list of the “10 Most Notorious Jails in the World.”
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