Coming Home Project
Coming Home is a free, confidential counselling service provided by Muslim therapists for Muslims
harmed by the prison system, and their families.
As we launch this service Muslims make up 18% of the prison population. We know from our work Muslims face systemic Islamophobia and racism in prisons. This includes being denied the right to worship - a human right.
Coming Home is a community response to the harms of imprisonment and criminalisation. It relies on building and renewing relationships, care and accountability. It is a way of creating society built on trust rather than suspicion and hope rather than fear.
Our initial focus is a free, confidential therapeutic service provided by Muslim therapists. Coming Home is created in partnership with community organisations and those who have been through the prison system. Our goal is to provide a religiously, culturally, and politically sensitive approach to emotional wellbeing support that responds to the holistic needs of individuals and their communities.
Coming Home allows people to find comfort in their faith if and how they choose to do so, providing a non-judgmental and inclusive space.
Muslims make up 18% of the UK’s prison population compared to just 5% of the general population. Five years on from the Lammy review, Muslim – and other Black and brown people – still report significantly more negative experiences in prison. Annual reports by the Chief Inspector of Prisons show that a disproportionate number of Muslims still report:
- Not receiving basic care
- Not being treated respectfully by staff or able to turn to them for help
- Not easily being able to make complaints
For many Muslims, their faith is an important resource to draw strength from, but instead prisons have become spaces where religious and cultural practice are viewed through the lens of risk and suspicion, leading to people being punished for engaging in such practices.
For example, our research shows that Muslim men in prison are frequently banned from Friday prayers for minor infractions of prison rules. We’ve been told how prison authorities use the threat of denying them their religious freedom as leverage. As one said: “They know that’s the one thing that will get to a Muslim - if he’s not going to get to Friday prayers. That’s their best threat.” Our work with Muslim communities, across education, health, the criminal justice system, gender and the arts, shows we are facing a situation where you can be punished for being ‘too Muslim’ or ‘too Black’.
It’s no surprise that poor mental health is exceptionally common in prison - 45% of adults in prison have anxiety or depression.1 For racialised groups such as Muslims the additional Islamophobia and surveillance creates significant added distress. People we spoke to said they often kept their mental health issues to themselves or were dismissed if they did share them.
What We Did
Coming Home aims to address the unique challenges faced by Muslims impacted by prisons, the criminal justice system, and security.
Muslims may be hesitant to seek mental health support through public services for a wide variety of reasons. The initial focus on a confidential therapeutic service--provided by Muslim therapists--offers a religiously and culturally sensitive approach to mental health support. This allows for a holistic view of wellbeing incorporating spirituality, and the mental, physical, emotional, and political self.
The service allows people to find comfort and safety in their faith if and how they choose to do so. Coming Home commits to providing a non-securitised, non-judgmental and inclusive space.
Working with community organisations and those who have been through the prison system to create Coming Home, we understand that a focus on cultural and religious sensitivity alone is not enough to address the complex issues facing Muslims impacted by the criminal justice system. We believe that the current political climate and the racialisation and stigmatisation of Muslim communities around religion, race, and class must be acknowledged and addressed in our efforts to improve mental health and wellbeing.
We therefore resist the public narratives put on Muslims, and other black and brown communities. We hold onto the Islamic principles of the sanctity of life, and the right to live in dignity and safety. This means we recognise that an individual’s actions are mirrored in the wider systems that our communities endure, and that we need to respond in ways that prevent further harm. Coming Home envisions a supportive and politically conscious therapeutic space where individuals, families, and the wider community can find the help they need to heal and thrive. We stand in solidarity with other communities disproportionately harmed by the criminal justice system and commit to support their work if we can in line with shared ethics.
We also recognise that Islamophobia is an integral part of the criminal justice experience for many Muslims, and we strive to increase our own understanding of their lived experiences.
This project is co-developed by Maslaha, The Lantern Initiative and Dr Tarek Younis.
Please note that this project is due to be launched in October 2023.
For more information about the service, please email us at email@example.com
To access this service, please complete the support service form below.