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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the gradual legitimization of the beliefs and practices of Islam in US prisons, analyzing the factors that led to the pronounced shift from “Black Muslim” to Sunni Islam over a fifty-five-year period (mid-1950s‒2010). An understanding of the history of prison Islam offers insights into the motivation of black Americans to embrace Islam and the reasons why correctional staff and the general public are suspicious of incarcerated Muslims. Program accommodations to protect prisoners’ religious rights are described to enhance the understanding of the complexities involved in providing a rich experience of Islam during incarceration and preparing prisoners for entry into the wider community of global Islam upon their release. A brief analysis of interactions between various factions—immigrant, black American, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Salafi, and Wahhabi clarifies issues related to prison conversion to Islam and to the perceived extremist threat created by the mass incarceration of under-educated and marginalized. Muslim prisoners.

Keywords: “Black Muslim, ” prison, extremist threat, prison programs, accommodation, conversion, incarceration, religious rights in prison, prison litigation

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