SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison

Understanding Islam Matthew Wilkinson Project

Funded by the Dawes Trust

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison (UCIP) is an interdisciplinary research programme hosted by the School of History, Religions & Philosophies at SOAS, University of London. UCIP is using robust mixed-methods, criminological-theological research to generate the most detailed and extensive data-set yet about:

  1. the socio-demographic and religious nature of Muslim converts, including those Muslims who change Islamic affiliation, in British and continental European prisons;
  2. the types of Islam that Muslim convert inmates follow;
  3. the effects of their conversion to Islam on prison life and on their rehabilitation, including the effects of prison chaplaincy and religious occasions in prison.

Driven by this data, the Programme will then design a practical intervention to improve prison outcomes for inmates who convert to Islam.

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison is guided by an interdisciplinary team of internationally renowned criminologists, theologians, scholars of Islam and legal practitioners including:

Dr Afifi al-Akiti
Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Oxford
Privy Councillor, State of Perak, Malaysia

Professor Mashood Baderin
Chair, Centre of African Studies, SOAS, University of London
Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Professor Jim Beckford
Emeritus Professor of Sociology of Religion, University of Warwick

Professor Nigel Biggar
Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford

Sir David Calvert-Smith QC
The Parole Board for England & Wales
Former Director of Public Prosecutions

Professor Alison Liebling
Director, Prisons Research Centre, University of Cambridge

Mr Eoin McLennan-Murray
Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform
Former President, Prison Governors' Association
Former Prison Governor, HMP Coldingley

The Principal Investigator is SOAS Senior Research Fellow Dr Matthew Wilkinson who himself converted to Islam in 1991.

Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison aims to bring about an enduring improvement in the way that Muslims are understood in British and continental European prisons to the benefit of prisoners' lives and of British and continental European society more widely.

SOAS, University of London is partnered on this ground-breaking Programme by the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life a research centre of the University of Oxford, the University of Salford and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


Mrs Lucy Wilkinson, Project Director

T: 07930 413 841