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Islamic and Christian Conversion in Prison

November 26, 2014

My latest article Religious Conversion in Prison: Prosocial V. Antisocial Identities appears in the International Journal of Education and Social Science, Research Institute for Progression of Knowledge.

In this article “Prisoner transformation through religious conversion is a varied pathway where the reasons for seeking change, for selecting religion as a means of change, the selection of a helper, the religious group affiliated with and the effect of social, cultural and political factors create subtle distinctions in how one experiences conversion or not and if so, how transformation develops and proceeds toward anti- or pro-social outcomes.  Does this tell us anything that we may later quantify and statistically base predictions upon? In responding to this question there are seven points worthy of consideration.

First, religious conversion and transformation in identity is a “much nuanced pathway”.

Second, what is found in both religions is that there are many “forks in the road” during the conversion process and transforming identities. Forks were evidenced in both the inclusivist and exclusivist religious community identity and in the incorporationist and rejectionist worldview identity.

Third, the narratives evidenced that religion is just one alternative for gaining knowledge of self. Other alternatives are education, counseling, and gangs.

Fourth, in comparing Christian and Islamic participants it emerged that not all of either faith who experience religious conversion and become inclusivist or exclusivist and in both types there are both incorporationists and rejectionists. Of the 22 participants 2 coding exclusive and 2 coding inclusive were rejecting of society. Moreover of those coding both exclusive and rejecting one was Christian and one was Islamic. Most participants were cooperative toward larger society whether inclusive or exclusive in religious identity.

Fifth, in each religion no definitive process of radicalization emerged although one participant professing Islam and that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of hate of white people and racism. And, in another case a professing Christian that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of leading people in violent opposition to government.

Sixth, the four participants coded rejectionist used particular words related to specific concepts that disassociated and sanctified their anti-social behavior even in light of their profession of religion and spirituality.

Seventh, descriptive words and phrases may be operationalized in relation to concepts and scales created to quantify findings in future studies.

Policy Implications for Corrections and Directions for Research

This research establishes a model study for giving prisoners a voice in their transformation, it offers guidelines for study of religious conversion in prison, provides assistance to the correctional system and supports the professional and volunteer chaplaincy as part of an overall prison treatment program designed to help individuals seeking to change their lives pro-socially to do so, to desist from crime and thereby reduce their chances of returning to prison. Findings support a conclusion that isolating one religion as a radicalizing source unduly burdens free practice of religion and fails to recognize other religions have similar tendencies. As noted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2008) restrictions on any non-Christian religion must not result in having their “free exercise” rights to practice religion unduly burdened by the state without a compelling interest.

Prison administrators, chaplains, psychologists, counselors are better equipped to understand how including religion or spirituality into correctional treatment assists desistance (stopping crime) and thereby helps prisoners help themselves not return to prison. It promotes a better understanding of how involving the felon in an active role will promote possible transformation to a pro-social member of society (Norcross & Wampold, 2010; Worthington, Hook, Davis, & McDaniel, 2010).

Importantly, the findings support the need for an interdisciplinary approach where treatment professionals and institutional administrators work holistically with religious services as part of an overall treatment program.  Simultaneously it speaks to the need for trained volunteers for all religious faiths served by the prison chaplaincy programs. It therefore provides support and direction for prison chaplaincy and volunteer programs and enhances chaplaincy as a correctional profession.

The Wahhabi Sack of Karbala (1802 A.D.)

January 15, 2016

Source: The Wahhabi Sack of Karbala (1802 A.D.)

Documentary Film Reviews

January 12, 2016

Here are links to my latest published documentary film reviews hosted by Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO) at the libraries at the University of Buffalo.

The titles are:

Domino: Caught in a Crisis (agarrado por la crisis)
Distributed by Palomino Productions, PO Box 8565, Berkeley, CA 94707; 510-236-3257
Produced by Eva A. Ma
Directed by Eva A. Ma
DVD , color, 62 min.
Middle School – General Adult
Subjects: Domino Effect, Economics, Unemployment, Spain, Globalization, Psychology, Capitalism, Political Science, Family
Date Entered: 1/6/2016

Eva Ma captures the realism of documentary and takes on a highly enjoyable and informative journey into the life of one man and his family during a time of escalating and expanding economic recession. ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby

FLOWER IN OTOMI (Flor en Otomí)
Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by La Casa de Atrás, FOPROCINE, Filmoteca de la UNAM, IMCINE
Directed by Luisa Riley
DVD, color, 78 min.
Middle School – General Adult
Subjects: Adolescence, Biography, Human Rights, Social Movement, Mexico, Central America, Latin America, Politics, Women’s Studies, Capitalism, Activism, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Ecoomics, Psychology
Date Entered: 1/6/2016

Heroes must be remembered lest we lose hope! Flower in Otomi honors the individual and the cause. ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby

Ghost Town: Stories from Hebron
Distributed by Choices, Inc., 3740 Overland Ave., Ste. F, Los Angeles CA 90034; (310) 839-1500
Produced by Ophelias Media Productions
Directed by Ellie Bernstein
DVD , color, 85 min.
Middle School – General Adult
Subjects: Palestine, Hebron, Israel, Arab-Israeli Conflict
Date Entered: 1/6/2016

Ghost Town is an alarming and stark examination of reality in being imprisoned in one’s own homeland! ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby

Miners Shot Down
Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by UHURU Productions
Directed by Rehad Desai
DVD , color, 86 min.
Middle School – General Adult
Subjects: Africa, African National Congress, South Africa, Business, Ethics, Government, Law, Criminal Justice, Labor, Human Rights, Police Violence

A gripping and stark depiction of a new version of apartheid in South Africa. ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby

Open Carry 

January 11, 2016

To Open Carry or Not to OpenCarry: that is the question!

Although as a constitutionalist and a lawyer I believe people have the right own and to ‘reasonably’ bare arms this “open-carry” concept distorts the limits of our freedoms and the constitution.

Here is my point: the open carry response is an animalistic-behavioral knee jerk response driven by a fearing public.
First: Our citizenry has been driven into fear by a media frenzy over several things, all of which have some truth value, but which are driven by aggrandized ‘so-called news reporting’ that is geared to shocking the public into following the media outlet and increasing ratings for the agency/corporation benefit. These reporting facilities have increasingly since the introduction of the mega channels in the late 70s & 80s taken political party positions, become more embedded in politics and in turn become talking heads for spinning government points of view to the exclusion of alternative views, positions and explanations.

Second: the statement that terrorism exists is true. But our picture of terrorism is distorted. It is not only using religion, but also politics and race. All three are seeded by cultural deprivations born in tension over precious commodities: power and economics. But, the media paints a distorted picture of the terrorist that focuses on creating a feared ‘other’ that is mono visually portrayed as one group. Today’s terrorist is multi faced and comes in all shades of skin tone, differing religions, politics… They are of Caucasian as well as African descent as well as other groups. But we have been taught to see them as one.

This brings us to point three which is race. Race is a convenient mythical way to define good and bad in terms of color. Hence race is a distortion. The darker a person’s skin shade, the more evil a person is to be portrayed and easily applied to the ‘created other’ by media and subsequently ‘agreed’ to by the non-thinking public. News agencies and mega corporations seized on the immediacy of digital technology to issue onslaughts of skewed stories that drive home points that fit government agendas to keep the public mystified, lost and in fear of those about they. Why? To keep citizenry from uniting in anything except what the government wants them to.

Fourth: with media and political distortion the public becomes segmented, lost, unable to seek truthful advise as to where to turn. Fear grabs them. Thy reach quickly and jerkingly for anything that seems secure. They become fodder for clever campaigns for ‘change’, any change, as the public desperately seeks ‘something’ to offer a modicum of stability. Any figment or convenient other becomes a rally point.

In truth cultural abuses, economic fears and desire of a power grubbing few for yet more power drives these distorted rally points. Mainstream Media (except for a few brave independents) jump into bed with these powerful and or charismatic leaderships. Not all are governments, some are start up charismatic groups such as skinheads, ISIS, Taliban. Along with established governments. they use the media to snare followers.

In America though crime overall has been in decline since the 90s but this to is overall a distortion. We hear of crime constantly. And we know the villains the media has painted their distorted picture in terms of skin color, religion, economic status, and when convenient by status as homeless. Add terrorists, nut case killers, clothing, religion, even uniforms and you have a recipe for fear. Add to this the fear hype that ‘all’ police are going wild with use of force and the public becomes frenzied. Irrationality and non-rationality begins to dictate behavior. Is there truth in the violence about us? Are some police corrupt? Are some Muslims terrorists? Are some Black Americans thugs? Yes to all. Just as there are good police, Christians & Jewish terrorists, and White Americans thugs. However, media avoids all but the painted picture. Driven by the distorted image all police are evil, driven by prejudice and hate of Blacks, all people that dress culturally in an eastern way are Terrorists (even if Muslim or not), all Black are criminals! If we use our rationality we know these statements are not true. People stand on their own in whether, good/bad, friendly/unfriendly, hateful/loving, or productive/lazy.

The constitution allows reasonable carrying of fire arms. But fearing proponents in response to hype driven fear and political rhetoric have distorted this. The public has come to see the gun as the only viable means for individual safety. We are ensnared in the trap designed to keep us at each other’s throats while the powerful manipulate the economy, politics, and war for their own advantage in creating more power and wealth. Terrorism, crime, race, police use of force are only convenient vehicles that fulfill need to keep the public receptive to prejudice and drive fear that keeps any but a few from waking up and using logic.

The open carry is just another stage of concealed carry. Neither law was required by the constitution. The fear driving these laws has encroached since the 1990s. Now when you walk down the street people are more fearsome for their life than 20 years ago. There is more distrust and this leads to more hate and avoidance when what we need is trust and coming together.

This Land

January 1, 2016

A poem by Mahmoud Darwish.

“This land gives us

all that makes life worth living:

April’s blushing advances,

the aroma of bread at dawn,

a woman’s haranguing of men,

the poetry of Aeschylus,

love’s trembling beginning,

moss on a stone

mothers dancing on a flute’s thread

and the invaders’ fear of memories.
This land gives us

all that makes life worth living:

September’s rustling end,

a woman leaving forty behind with her apricots,

an hour of sunlight in prison,

clouds reflecting swarms of insects,

a people’s applause for those who laugh at their erasure,

and the tyrant’s fear of songs.
This land gives us

all that makes life worth living:

Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings,

She was called Palestine

and she is still called Palestine. 

My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life.”

Is Media the Instigator of Hate: Race, Islam

December 31, 2015

So when an American Jew takes a gun in America and attacks some Muslims saying he wants to spill Muslim blood in America, and when others in a series of attacks on the Muslim community burn Mosques and paint hate messages it is Not Terrorism, and when a group attack an elderly Sikh (non-Muslim) man beating him, breaking his jaw and bones, but not for robbery, our US agendiosentric Media overlooks the report and otherwise refuses to call it terrorizing activity.
 Folks over the past year these terrorizing activities by non-Muslims against Muslims and Muslim looking people have escalated. Statements by power figures have in my estimate added to this growth.
This media and politic sourced type of fear associates positively with hate crime against particular social categories of people. Simply put it drives people animalistically to behavior injuring and killing other people that are perceived to be, or who are Muslim. In America and elsewhere this is wrong. There are good, not so good, not so bad and bad people in all social categories, cultures, religions, militaries, politics, media, and nations. We must never fall so low as to collectify any category of people because of our impression of individuals we know, have related with, seen, heard about, or who are portrayed by the news or created in any other media or policy driven exchange.  
As Mark Twain said after his own experiences, we must go forth and meet people one on one in social intercourse and daily conversation, with open mind toward each person we meet and only then form our own impression of that one person, not the whole collectivity of which it appears they may belong.  
This Islamaphobic age is little different from our current media and politic driven reporting on race coupled with the politically driven racism which is inbred in our country’s social institutions that keeps race a tension in our country. As Karl Marx said, disunity among a citizenry keeps the people from uniting and closely examining the power group’s motives and behavior. Citizen disunity keeps them from collectively examining what those in power have as their true agenda. Citizens are fractured into subcultural groups that see each other with fear, suspicion and hate. As a collective unit the citizenry remain mystified and in continual struggle with each other over issues the power makers create and engineer. Hence, those in power ‘party’ and play capitalistic games while the populous fights and squabbles.
Here is my challenge America. Wake up! Meet individuals, dialogue, look for common ground and critique what the various media (music film and Internet included) tell you to believe. Think for yourself.   

Religion, Conversion and Identity

November 6, 2015
Dr. Malcolm L. Rigsby, Ph.D, JD.

This is my interview by Bro. Leonard, host of Prison Focus an internationally heard program carried by KPOO radio, San Francisco.  Date November 5, 2015.

Religion in Society: Conversion and Identity

November 5, 2015
Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of Criminal Justice, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas

I was so honored today to be interviewed by Bro Leonard host of the International radio program Prison Focus on KPOO San Francisco. This is the first of three anticipated interviews. Other segments will evaluate prisoner narratives on conversion and transformation of identity toward a pro-social model followed by a discussion of how we may better equip those who seek to transform their lives in a pro-social way to desist from crime and maximize their likelihood of successful reentry to and reintegration with society as citizens.


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