A London prison chaplain claims he was fired from his job of 20 years by his Muslim boss, Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed, after he was accused of "extreme" Christian views that were deemed "too radical."
Paul Song, 48, now says that the "Christian faith is not equal" in South London's Brixton prison, and that "some people have been forced to convert with violence," adding "How do I know? Because three or four people came up to me to tell me. This is a very sensitive issue."
One inmate who served time in Brixton in 2015 has come even come forward and offered a signed a statement declaring that prisoners were forced to convert to Islam.
"There seems to be a very troubling lack of transparency and due process around the decision to expel this chaplaincy volunteer," says Ian Acheson, who led an independent review of Islamist extremism within prisons which found significant concerns over "the operation of some prison chaplaincies in the London area and the risks of radicalization."
“That sort of arbitrary action is only defensible in the case of very serious allegations. So it is baffling why he has been told that he is free to operate in any other prison, just not Brixton.”
Acheson added: “I made a number of recommendations after repeated concerns were raised about bullying and favoritism from imams in the field. In the light of these revelations, I would urge the new ministerial team to assure itself that the dismissal of this chaplain was fair and proportionate.”
Song, a former police officer in his native South Korea, says that his firing last August came on the heels of a false accusation from a Muslim inmate, who claims the chaplain referred to him as a "terrorist."
Mr Song said his position at HMP Brixton came under scrutiny after Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed became managing chaplain in 2015.
He told the Sunday Express: 'I never said those things. I would never make those comments. I have worked in the prisons for many years with many faiths and there were no complaints. -Daily Mail
Song claims his boss, Mr. Ahmed, said that he was set on changing the "Christian domination" within HMP Brixton, according to the Sunday Times. The Ministry of Justice said there was “no evidence or intelligence to support this.”
We find this strange, as a 2016 report by the UK's Ministry of Justice shows that while Muslims make up just one in 20 Britons, the religion accounts for one in seven inmates. One of those, the Daily Mail reports, is the case of Levi Bellfield, a convicted child rapist and murderer who converted to Islam for protection while in prison:
At least that’s what Rahim — a man who will be familiar to most by his real name, Levi Bellfield — hoped would happen when he converted to the Muslim faith not long after being sentenced to life for the murder and rape of schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
‘He found out a paedophile had been slashed in Wakefield and thought he would be next: he was a marked man after he was convicted,’ revealed his sister Ann-Marie Bellfield. ‘He said they were good boys and would look after him ... he got friendly with Islamic guys and didn’t have a problem.’
"These gangs use their faith as a cover for violence and intimidation, threatening non-Muslims and pressuring them to convert to Islam," said Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association. "I have got many prisoners who are so fearful of Muslims that they feel they need to form alliances with them for protection,’ one prison governor recently revealed.
Former prison officer Joe Chapman who is now a prison law consultant thinks that so-called "convenience conversions" are on the rise.
‘This job takes me to 40 or 50 prisons over the year, throughout the country,’ he said. ‘It has become obvious to me that it’s a growing problem.
‘About half a dozen of my clients have directly reported problems with being forced to convert — those who weren’t Muslim when they came in, and those who were and have been forced to look at more radical ideas about their faith.’
Meanwhile, Song’s treatment comes as the latest HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report on Brixton, published in March last year, stated that some Christian classes had been dropped because the prison had been “unable to recruit a full-time Anglican chaplain since 2015,” reports The Times.
The report said that there were eight Christian leaders, including a full time Catholic with the rest part time - as well as four Muslims, two of whom were full time.
Several prisoners wrote affidavits on Song's behalf, describing how he helped them turn away from a life of crime.
“To call this Christian who has served without a blemish for almost 20 years an extremist defies belief," says Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Center which has been advising for Song.
Perhaps Song can look to London's Mayor, Sadiq Kahn for help - or maybe Song is just living in the wrong country to be a Christian prison chaplain these days.