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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.

Letter To Iran

April 26, 2016
tags: ,

A letter I have recently joined in.

Your Excellency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Hassan Rouhani


We the undersigned, a group of university professors in North America, write you concerning the dire circumstances of a number of political prisoners in Iran. It is our hope that you would consider intervening on their behalf and arranging for their immediate hospitalization under the care of competent and expert physicians.  


Much distressing news is emerging concerning the battle some of these political prisoners are waging against cancer. It is common knowledge that in such cases the patient must be diagnosed in a timely manner and put under the care of competent physicians.  


According to reliable sources, political prisoners are routinely denied access to immediate medical care. Prison authorities seem to routinely delay or limit access of inmates to the prison hospital. Medical care providers who have attended to these seriously ill prisoners have lacked proper medical qualifications. They may even have violated their medical oaths. We call upon you to order an immediate investigation of the medical files of the political prisoners named in this letter to ascertain the veracity of our charges.  


Many of these political prisoners who are battling cancer are not allowed to visit outside hospitals specializing in oncology. The conditions of prisons add to the stress that cannot help but worsen their conditions. Prisoners who are serving their sentences often come under pressure to collaborate with the security forces as spies or to appear on national television and confess to crimes they have not committed.


Meanwhile, the entire prison is flooded in harmful and potentially carcinogenic telecommunication waves aimed at jamming mobile phones. Prisoners often complain of headaches that may be related to this reckless policy. Drinking water in Evin prison is not safe for consumption. Prisoners’ daily diet is poor and ill-suited to their conditions.


Prisoners are often subjected to psychological pressures which border on “white torture”. The families of these political prisoners are also under constant pressure. Contrary to the rules and regulations of Iranian prisons, political inmates are denied brief furloughs allowed to non-political prisoners.


The number of political prisoners that during the last few months have protested their conditions by engaging in hunger strike has increased. Some have gone so far as sewing their lips in protest. Unfortunately the judicial authorities in the Islamic Republic have no respect for the rudimentary principles of human rights, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, or even their own rules and regulations governing prisons. The relationship between the totality of these conditions and the epidemic of cancer and other chronic diseases sweeping Iran’s prisons must be carefully studied.  


The affliction of the young physicist Omid Kowkabi with cancer of the kidney and the reckless procrastinating policy of prison authorities in failing to provide him with proper care (leading to the removal of his kidney in a recent operation) is a glaring example of the condition we have outlined above.  


We also bring to your attention another political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi, who is suffering from severe kidney failure and who has started a hunger strike to protest his unbearable conditions.  


The third example is Isa Saharkhiz who after a prolonged hunger strike is now diagnosed with the cancer of the adrenal glands – a condition that should have been diagnosed and treated much earlier.  


The fourth case is Dr. Alireza Raja’i, who after enduring five years of imprisonment is now battling the cancer of the jaw and face. Physicians are dismayed that he was not reported for treatment in a timely fashion.  


The fifth case is Dr. Hossein Rafi’i, retired professor of Chemistry at Tehran University, suffering from multiple ailments.  


These are just a few, long suffering political prisoners who are still alive. Mohsen Dokmehchi lost his life to cancer while incarcerated. Ahmad Qabel was diagnosed with brain cancer while in prison. He died soon after he was sent to the hospital in the final stages of his affliction.  


Contrary to the official promise by the state that old and sick prisoners would be freed to receive treatment, no such accommodations have been made for political prisoners.  


Mr. President, although you are not in charge of the Judiciary, you remain the highest ranking elected official in Iran. As such, you are duty-bound to protect the basic rights of Iranian people and those imprisoned on political charges.  


We are witness to your admirable work on the global stage for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issues based on mutual respect. You have done much to achieve a more respectable image for Iran. We are confident that addressing the dire condition of political prisoners in Iran and their urgent medical needs will enhance the humanitarian image of Iran around the globe.  


If the urgent release of these political prisoners is not possible, please allow for a group of independent specialist physicians from within Iran or international organizations such as Doctors without Borders, International Red Crescent/Red Cross and the United Nations) to visit these prisoners and those who have been recently released but who suffer from a variety of ailments. The physicians should be allowed to examine their medical files and assist the medical experts engaged in treatment of these individuals.




Mohsen Kadivar (Duke University)

Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University)

Mahmoud Sadri (Texas Woman’s University)


Copies to:

Minister of Health and Medical Training of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Doctors Without Borders

International Red Crescent/Red Cross

United Nations  


Maximizing Prosociality and Reintegration with Society following Prison

March 28, 2016

My latest presentation on connecting pro social change while in prison with potential for maximum social reintegration in community upon release. 22 March, 2016 presentation at the Sixth International Conference of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Washington, DC.
Thank you for listening to my presentation.

Religion and Identity

March 12, 2016

I am looking forward to this year’s discussions: Sixth International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. My topic on religion and spirituality as part of an overall treatment program assisting successful reentry to society and desistance from crime following prison. Faith and Identity associate in meaningful ways.

Trump – et Call and the Charge

March 12, 2016

A question begged concerns the Supreme Court’s definition of protected speech. Protected speech is free speech. The 1st Amendment tells us Free Speech is protected in America. However, judicially defined exceptions and special protections exist. These judicially determined cases are narrow and specific so as not to limit free speech more than necessary to protect third party rights under equal protection guidelines.
In 1942 the Supreme Court in Chaplinsky v New Hampshire [315 U.S. 568] held that speech is unprotected if it constitutes “fighting words”. Fighting words, are defined by the Court, as speech that “tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight, so long as it is a “personally abusive word which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, is, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction” (as clarified in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). ‘Personally abusive’ means the words must be “directed to the person of the hearer” and is “thus likely to be seen as a ‘direct personal insult'”. In Virginia v Black [538 U.S. 343 (2003)] threats of violence that are directed at a person or group of persons that has the intent of placing the target at risk of bodily harm or death are generally unprotected; but where the ‘reasonable person’ would understand the words as ‘obvious hyperbole’ there is no protection [Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969)] Also, In NAACP v Claiborne Hardware at 458 U.S. 886 (1982), the Court determined that where threats of ‘social ostracism’ and of ‘politically motivated boycotts’ are generally protected, when it is judged that political speech ‘can be a threat’ even political speech becomes unprotected.This brings us to Trump’s statements especially his statement at the recent rally when he said ‘if any one sees someone with a tomato hit them first’. Add such statements to increasingly hostile depiction of “religious Islam” as opposed to “political terrorists using Religion to build collective effervescence” and the mood of volatile and emotion driven crowds create a frenzy of hate that plays out in collective and behavioral responses to political speech.

A question then was this ‘personally abusive’ according to the Court’s definition? I will allow you to digest this and decide. I argue today’ immediacy in digital communication and media satisfies this need of ‘personal immediacy’. Even if not does Trump fall in the exception to the excepted protection for political speech?

My opinion? Trump has stepped over the line. If not, he is dangerously close. Wake up America!

Free Speech

March 1, 2016

Funny thing; people are always wanting free speech until someone else speaks. ~ Malcolm L Rigsby

The Law

March 1, 2016

“It’s been said: ‘One with the law is a majority.’ – Calvin Coolidge. But I say: The Majority nor the Law are always correct, moral, and/or ethical. The Power Elite write, interpret and administer the law to benefit ‘their’ ranks.” ~ Malcolm L Rigsby 

Trumpisms and Logic

February 27, 2016

So Mr. Trump now wants to relax Libel & Defamation laws to “let us sue when people say things”.  
Let me explain what Mr Trump and every lawyer already knows and he counts on the general lay person to be ignorant of: Libel & Defamation collectively are called slander. All slander laws allow people of whom an untruth is told about them by another person (the publisher) as a ‘fact’ is given the right to sue the publisher. The publisher is the “slandering party” person who is proven to have said the untruth and communicated it to another. Therefore, Publishers are individuals, media, and those who repeat the statement as fact. Publishing does not require recording, printing, it simply means spreading and communicating, verbal, insinuation, or print etc.Hence the Slandered part is always and has in antiquity the right to sue the Slandering Party for damages.  

The Slanderer has defenses: Truth, or they can make sure, whether truth or not that they reasonably and clearly state that what they are saying is ‘their opinion or belief’. However opinion stated in a factual way may still create liability if widely published.

Now. That is the law protecting most people. There is a bend in the law where the Slandered party is a Public Figure such as politicians. The public figure exception simply means when people as part of their public life ‘push themselves to the forefront of public society’ they must have thicker skin. The nature of purposefully pushing yourself to the forefront of society brings controversy and you must expect controversy and liberal constructions about your public self. Mr Trump still has protection in his ‘private’ life, but less expectation in his ‘public’ life.

Having said this don’t be misled. Trumpisms are meant to create emotion driven public response. This means he is counting on crowd-like non-rational and non-logic driven animal-like behavior in voting for him.


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