How ji­hadis hi­jacked my Bi­ble class in jail, yelling sup­port for the killers of Lee Rigby

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Ian Gal­lagher and Jonathan Pe­tre

IS­LAMIC mil­i­tants hi­jacked a prison chap­lain’s Bi­ble classes and phys­i­cally as­saulted and abused him be­cause of his Chris­tian faith.

Pas­tor Paul Song to­day de­scribes how he had been left in a state of near-con­stant fear af­ter Mus­lim gangs, act­ing with im­punity, came to dom­i­nate Brix­ton Prison in South London.

He told The Mail on Sun­day of one chill­ing in­ci­dent when a small group stormed his gath­er­ing in the prison chapel and be­gan loudly prais­ing the ji­hadis who hacked sol­dier Lee Rigby to death in the street.

To the dis­be­lief of Mr Song and his Bi­ble group, the in­ter­lop­ers in­sisted that hack­ing to death the 25-year-old sol­dier was jus­ti­fied since, in their eyes, it avenged the killing of Mus­lims by Bri­tish Armed Forces.

When Mr Song calmly tried to ar­gue back, he was shouted down, as he was when his classes were sim­i­larly dis­rupted on nu­mer­ous other oc­ca­sions.

‘To do this in a place of wor­ship was ob­scene,’ he says.

Mr Song de­scribes how a hard­line el­e­ment grew in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful, threat­en­ing vul­ner­a­ble in­mates and telling them to con­vert to Is­lam for their own pro­tec­tion.

The pas­tor said that many of his fel­low vol­un­teer chap­lains were driven out through in­tim­i­da­tion, too: ‘My col­leagues couldn’t take any more,’ he said.

‘My classes were of­ten dis­rupted. At times in­mates openly spoke in the chapel in sup­port of Is­lamic State and sui­cide bombers and there was noth­ing I could do about it... They spoke with such ha­tred of Bri­tain that it was fright­en­ing.’

On an­other oc­ca­sion, Mr Song, who was born in South Korea, says he was racially abused, jeered and hit on the back. It left him afraid of lin­ger­ing any­where in the prison which was not cov­ered by CCTV.

De­spite this men­ac­ing at­mos­phere, it was Mr Song who ended up be­ing ac­cused of ex­trem­ism. An imam took over as Brix­ton’s head chap­lain and stopped the pas­tor run­ning his main­stream evan­gel­i­cal cour­ses be­cause, he said, some of the ma­te­rial was too ‘rad­i­cal’.

Mr Song’s dis­turb­ing ac­count of life in­side Brix­ton Prison comes at a time of grow­ing cri­sis in the prison ser­vice, strug­gling with over­crowd­ing and staff short­ages.

In the past nine months, four jails have been de­scribed as ‘fail­ing’. And on Fri­day thou­sands of prison of­fi­cers walked out for six hours in protest at ‘un­prece­dented’ lev­els of vi­o­lence.

UK Jus­tice Sec­re­tary David Gauke said: ‘The level of vi­o­lence is un­ac­cept­ably high and we’re de­ter­mined to bring it down.’

Mr Song’s time in Brix­ton came to an end in Au­gust last year when he was sud­denly barred from the prison to which he had given 19 years ser­vice. It was claimed he called an inmate a ‘ter­ror­ist’ and be­haved threat­en­ingly to­wards the imam, which he strongly de­nied

Now, 12 months on and af­ter ini­tially be­ing de­nied a fair hear­ing, he has been cleared and re­in­stated. An­drea Wil­liams of the Chris­tian Le­gal Cen­tre, which took up his case, said call­ing him an ex­trem­ist ‘de­fied be­lief’. She added: ‘It is won­der­ful to see jus­tice done.’

Mr Song said that he had be­gun to feel the pres­sure soon af­ter imam Mo­hammed Yusuf Ahmed was ap­pointed as head chap­lain in 2015.

He said ‘the imam’s dis­crim­i­na­tory agenda be­came clear from the out­set’, when he be­gan scru­ti­n­is­ing the ma­te­rial used in the Bi­ble classes, claim­ing it was ‘too rad­i­cal’ and that the Chris­tian views ex­pressed were ‘ex­treme’.

‘They are main­stream cour­ses used by churches through­out the world,’ said Mr Song.

‘He said he wanted to “change the Chris­tian dom­i­na­tion” within the prison.’

Mr Song agreed to stop run­ning his classes, although he con­tin­ued to work with in­di­vid­ual pris­on­ers.

‘The imam said I couldn’t use the chapel, so I held a prayer meet­ing in a cell, but the imam got to hear about it and was fu­ri­ous.

‘He is very big, phys­i­cally in­tim­i­dat­ing and he kept urg­ing me to just leave.

‘I thought about it, but I also thought: “Why should I give in?”’

‘He was very big and kept urg­ing me to leave’

VICTIMISED: Pas­tor Paul Song feared for his safety in Brix­ton Prison – be­fore be­ing kicked out

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