The making of Muslim chaplaincies in prisons – Comparative approaches

The making of Muslim chaplaincies in prisons –
Comparative approaches

International symposium

Date of symposium: Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November, 2016 in Paris.

Organisers: Céline Béraud (EHESS, Centre d’études en sciences sociales
du religieux) and Claire de Galembert (CNRS, Institut des sciences
sociales du politiques, ENS Cachan) This symposium is organised as part
of the ‘post-terrorist attack’ research financed by CNRS. Scientific
committee: Jim Beckford (University of Warwick), Sophie Gilliat-Ray
(Cardiff University), Irène Becci (Université de Lausanne), Franck
Frégosi (Institut d’études politiques d’Aix-en-Provence), Mar Griera
(Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Solenne Jouanneau (Université de

In France, prison chaplain activities are currently under hitherto
unforeseen scrutiny in the scope of public action and academic fields.
Pioneering research by Jim Beckford and Sophie Gilliat-Ray (1998) on
managing religious diversity in English prisons paved the way for works
in different national contexts: in particular, Germany (Becci, 2012;
Harms, 2014); Canada (Gagnon, 2008; Beckford & Cairns, 2015); Spain
(Martinez-Arino, Garcia-Romeral, Ubasart-Gonzalez, & Griera, 2015);
France (Beckford, Joly and Khosrokhavar, 2005; Sarg & Lamine, 2011;
Sarg, 2016; Béraud, Galembert and Rostaing, 2013 and 2016); Italy
(Rhazzali, 2010; Fabretti, 2015); Norway and Sweden (Furseth et Kühle
2011); Holland (Ajouaou et Bernts 2015); Switzerland (Becci Bovay &
Kuhn, 2007; Schneuwly-Purdy, 2011).

This renewed interest in an institution that seemed to be on the verge
of falling into disuse little more than two decades ago in France, can
be explained by the upheaval that the religious profile of inmates has
undergone in the past three or four decades. This shift, in evidence in
French, but also British, German, Dutch and Belgium prisons (Roy, 2015),
has made the accommodation of religious diversity – particularly Islam –
unavoidable. Moreover, Islamic chaplains have been seen as a policy tool
for preventing radicalisation. It has resulted in particular from the
interest shown by public authorities in this institution as a potential
instrument for preventing prisoners giving over to religious extremism.
In the aftermath of the killings perpetrated by Mohammed Merah and Mehdi
Nemouche and the 2015 terrorist attacks, Muslim chaplains have benefited
from major backing from the French State, to such an extent that it has
become the most-financed religion in prisons in 2016.

In a context where there is widespread interest in the role chaplains
could play in the fight against the swing to violent extremism, this
symposium will seek to review the way in which Muslim actors in France
and in other countries have made use of this institution even though it
does not belong to their own religious tradition. How have public
policies against prison radicalisation stimulated the
institutionalisation of Muslim chaplaincy in prisons? And how are they
also making it more complicated?

Full call: see Appel_com_anglais