Beliefnet
London, Dec. 28--Britain's prison service said Friday it had dismissed one Muslim cleric and suspended another for allegedly making inappropriate comments about the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. "We have made it very plain to all our imams that there are certain comments about being critical of the USA or in praise of what's happened on Sept. 11 which are utterly unacceptable," prison service director Martin Narey told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

A prison service spokesman said Ahmed Bilal, an imam at Aylesbury young offenders' institution west of London, was dismissed on Oct. 1 after he circulated the transcript of a "potentially inflammatory radio interview" to Muslim inmates.

An imam at Belmarsh prison in southeast London was investigated over alleged "inappropriate links" but was cleared and had been reinstated, the spokesman said, on customary condition of anonymity. A third imam at Feltham young offenders' institution in west London was suspended over allegations of unprofessional behavior related to Sept. 11. That investigation was continuing, the spokesman said.

Feltham reportedly once housed Richard C. Reid, the man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight last week with explosives hidden in his shoes. Reid reportedly converted to Islam while in prison. Abdul Haqq Baker, the head of the London mosque Reid attended, said Islamic radicals targeted young Muslim converts at his mosque.

From 1996 to 1998, Reid worshipped at the Brixton Mosque at the same time as Zacarias Moussaoui, the Frenchman charged with conspiracy to murder thousands in the Sept. 11 attacks. Some 130 imams are employed as chaplains in British prisons, which house an estimated 4,000 Muslim prisoners.

Narey said all prison imams underwent security checks and were interviewed by a Muslim adviser to the prison service. He said he doubted Reid's prison conversion had set him on the road to extremism. "If someone converts to Islam or returns to their faith it is more likely that when they are released they will go home to a stable community, be accepted by the mosque in that community, which means it is less likely they will commit crimes, and that is very important," Narey added.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributedMonsignor Mattia Pei Shangde, imprisoned by Chinese authorities, dead at 83 The Associated Press Vatican City, Dec. 27--(AP) Monsignor Mattia Pei Shangde, a Roman Catholic priest loyal to the pope who was imprisoned by Chinese authorities after the Vatican and Beijing severed ties, has died. He was 83.

Pei, considered by some the unofficial bishop of Beijing, died Dec. 24 of kidney failure at a hospital in the city of Zhangjiakou, in Hebei province near Beijing, according to the news service of the Vatican's missionary arm, Fides. He had been under house arrest since April and had been under surveillance at the hospital, Fides said.

Pei was one of millions of Chinese Catholics who remained loyal to the pope after the Vatican and Beijing broke formal relations in 1951. The rupture occurred after China's new communist rulers kicked out missionaries and forced Catholics to sever ties with Rome. China's state-sanctioned Patriotic Church doesn't recognize papal authority, including the right to name bishops. Millions of Chinese Catholics still loyal to the pope worship in underground churches where they risk arrest. Leaders of the underground flock have sometimes been imprisoned, some for years.

Pope John Paul II in October appealed to Beijing to normalize relations. China has said it was studying the appeal but says it won't bend on demands that the Holy See sever relations with Taiwan and pledge not to interfere in China's internal affairs.

Pei entered a seminary in Beijing at age 13 and was ordained in May 1948. He later taught in Catholic school in Beijing diocese. When the communists came to power he was forced to work in a drug factory, and was condemned to 10 years of reeducation and forced labor, Fides said. He left prison in 1980.

Pei's funeral will be on Jan. 2 in his hometown Zhangjiapu, in the Zhou Lu district of Hebei province. Fides said police have restricted attendance to village residents, which effectively bars any worshippers from Beijing. There was no information on survivors, according to Fides.

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