Italy uses imams in prisons to deter extremism among inmates

Source: Associated Press

By FRANCES D’EMILIO

TERNI, Italy (AP) — Italy’s plan to reduce the risk of a jihadi-inspired attack is pinned in small part on El Hacmi Mimoun, an imam who bikes to the prison here every week and exhorts Muslim inmates not to stray from life’s “right path” or hate people who aren’t Muslim.

Seven inmates — three Moroccans, three Tunisians and a Somali — left their cells at Terni Penitentiary on an early summer day to listen as the Moroccan-born imam led prayers and delivered a sermon. Sunlight from a high barred window streamed through Mimoun’s gauzy, off-white robe.

“If I am praying, I am not cooking up ideas to harm others on the outside,” a 35-year-old Tunisian inmate said, sitting cross-legged in the small, beige-tiled room that was converted into the prison’s Mosque of Peace.

None of the inmates would give their names, and prison rules precluded asking why they were serving time.

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