Fears that Muslim prisoners are being ‘groomed’ by extremists

Group which organised Quds Day march also provides ‘support’ to those in jail, raising radicalisation fears


The pack that has been sent to Muslim prisoners by the IRHC

A militant campaign group linked to the Iranian regime has provided spiritual guidance and religious materials to hundreds of Muslim prisoners in British jails, including at least one book written by an Islamist extremist, a JC investigation reveals.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which is a registered charity, organised Friday’s Quds Day parade in London at which speakers glorified the October 7 massacre as a “liberation”, demanded an “end” to Zionism and pledged support for Hamas.

Its chair of trustees, Raza Kazim, the chief steward responsible for maintaining order at the rally, was one of 12 people arrested by the Metropolitan Police on the day.

Videos show violent scuffles breaking out after Kazim intervened while officers were leading another man away in handcuffs, telling him “don’t say anything”.

This week, the IHRC sent religious welfare packages to Muslims in prisons across the country, to help them celebrate the Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan. It is not known whether any of the recipients are convicted terrorists.

The packages, which are provided several times a year, are distributed with the assistance of the Muslim Chaplains Association, the officially-recognised body that represents prison imams.

Despite the IHRC’s relationship with the Iranian regime and frequent expressions of support for terror groups, the Ministry of Justice has allowed its contact with prisoners since it began to send them Eid packages in 2013.

Along with sweets, beads, perfume and religious books, this year’s Eid packs contain a card with a message from the IHRC’s London leader Massoud Shadjareh, who has said he is “inspired” by the late Iranian terror mastermind Qasem Soleimani and “aspires to be like him”.

In his Quds Day speech, Shadjareh promised “we are going to be victorious” in Gaza and urged his audience to fulfil the “vision” of Ayatollah Khomeini. At earlier events, he has been photographed wearing Hezbollah insignia. He has described Israel as a “Zionist cancer” that must be “removed from the earth”.

The IHRC has previously run campaigns to support convicted terrorists such as Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheikh” who blew up the New York World Trade Centre in 1995 and Abu Hamza, the notorious Finsbury Park imam.

A police spokeswoman revealed that Kazim and the other suspects had been bailed until July on suspicion of offences including threats to kill, inciting racial hatred, assault and refusing to comply with conditions imposed on the parade under the Public Order Act.

It comes just days after the Iranian opposition TV presenter Pouria Zeraati was stabbed near his London home. In an interview with the JC (see P4), he said: “If this was a state-backed plot, the main Iranian organisation involved in these things is the IRGC Quds Force.”

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust (CST) told the JC that the attack on Zeraati “looks very much like a targeted attack by the regime”, which brought the potential threat to British Jews “even closer to home”.

Buckingham University’s security and intelligence expert Professor Anthony Glees accused the Ministry of Justice of being “asleep at the wheel”, saying that allowing the IHRC frequent contact with prisoners created a danger that they could be “groomed” and led down the path of radicalisation.

“This must create a serious security risk,” he said. “It as if a pro-Nazi organisation had been allowed to send in packages to British fascists interned during World War Two such as Sir Oswald Mosely – which of course, would have been unthinkable.”

Lord Walney, the government’s Independent Adviser on Political Violence and Extremism, said: “This is a startling and disturbing discovery, which the Ministry of Justice must investigate immediately. It also raises the question why on earth the IHRC still has charitable status, and I hope they will investigate too.”

Emma Fox, a counter-extremism expert who authored an authoritative report on the IHRC, said it was “wholly inappropriate” for prisoners to receive literature from it.

“The government have committed to tackling radicalisation and extremism in prisons. But the IHRC has organised hate marches and their leaders have promoted virulent antisemitism,” she said. “Instead of being investigated or isolated, the government is inadvertently helping to legitimise their brand.”

The IHRC first distributed packages to prisoners in 2013. Its website states “we send out prison packs and individual all year round” in response to requests from chaplains and inmates. “We see it as our duty to support them in their isolation,” it says.

In 2022, the Eid packs included a book called Blackness and Islam by Dawud Walid, a leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair). The organisation was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” at a trial in 2008, when five were jailed for raising funds for Hamas in the US. On behalf of Cair, Walid tried unsuccessfully to contest this allegation in court.

Walid has blamed anti-Muslim hate crimes on “the Israel lobby”, while Cair’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a speech in December that he was “happy to see the people of Gaza break the siege” on October 7.

By 2019, the Muslim Chaplains Association – whose members are vetted – was stating on its website that it had secured “£1 million of funding” for projects including the packs, which it openly stated were provided by the IHRC.

The IHRC makes no attempt to hide its militant ideology. In 2021, its leader, Shadjareh, joined the mobbing of Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, who had to be rushed to her car after she spoke to students at the London School of Economics. Shadjareh later justified the incident on the Iranian regime’s Press TV channel, claiming that Hotovely was a “hate preacher”.

After the death of Soleimani, Shadjareh made a speech, saying: “You are very fortunate to live at a time when it is possible to see and touch and feel a man like Soleimani. And we hope and we pray and we work hard to make sure that there will be many, many more Qasem Soleimanis.”

Although the government has so far resisted calls to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, both it and its leaders are covered by UK sanctions.

As well as organising Britain’s Quds Day parades, part of an international movement established by Khomeini in 1979 and designed to hasten Israel’s destruction, the IHRC has also campaigned against interfaith dialogue.

One leaflet claimed that Israel was using it to infiltrate mosques: “This cosying up to mosques and Muslim groups is nothing more than a deceitful attempt to normalise the continuing murder, maiming and dispossession of the Palestinian people.”

Other speakers at last week’s Quds Day march included Press TV presenter Latifa Abouchakra, who said after October 7: “Palestinian liberation is happening before our eyes. We are seeing Palestine liberated because of the resistance. Big up the resistance.”

David Miller, the sacked former Bristol University professor, told the crowd of “the need to end Zionism” and “remove this terrible entity”. He said there were “2,000 Zionist organisations” in Britain and “every single one needs to be ended”.

IHRC director Nazim Ali introduced each speaker. At the 2017 Quds Day event, he had claimed that Israel was responsible for both the Grenfell Tower fire and the terror group ISIS. This time, he said Kazim’s arrest showed the police were there to “carry out Zionist policies”.

The IHRC later posted a video of the parade on YouTube. It ended with a song celebrating death in battle: “If we die, we die lovers of the martyred. Like trees in my country’s land, in my country’s land, we die while standing.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “There are strict guidelines on religious materials distributed to prisoners and chaplains must adhere to them. We will investigate and take action where guidelines have been breached, including potentially severing engagements with any organisations involved.”

Neither the Muslim Chaplains Association nor the IHRC responded to a request for comment.

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