Thursday, May 2, 2013
Michigan's Muslim inmates being denied halal meals, lawsuit claims
A federal lawsuit was filed today against the Michigan Department of Corrections, alleging several Muslim inmates aren’t getting enough “nutritional” food during the month-long fast of Ramadan and are being forced to eat foods that violate their religious beliefs.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the state’s “Ramadan Bagged Meal” contains about 1,100-1,400 calories, which is roughly less than half the amount of calories that the other inmates get on any given day. Under state prison policy, all inmate meals total 2,600 to 2,900 calories a day.
The lawsuit, filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), is challenging a policy that it claims requires Muslim inmates to sacrifice an adequate diet when they participate in the Ramadan fast. The suit also challenges a policy that prevents Muslims from maintaining a religiously-mandated —or halal — diet. Halal is a term used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic teachings. Under the halal food diet, pork and pork-based food products are forbidden, an addition to all meat that is not slaughtered and prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
The lawsuit claims that the MDOC has refused to provide Muslim inmates with a halal diet, “despite repeated requests.” As a result, Muslim inmates have been forced to “violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs by eating foods that violate the restrictions of the halal food diet,” according to the lawsuit.
CAIR-MI is seeking a court order enjoining the department from denying Muslim inmates an adequate diet during the upcoming month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to start July 9.
“The Michigan Department of Corrections’ Ramadan policy is discriminatory and subjects Muslim inmates participating in the Ramadan fast to cruel and unusual punishment by denying them a proper nutritional and caloric diet on a daily basis,” CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri said in a statement.
John Cordell, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown by, among other things, abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual relations. Ramadan is considered among the Five Pillars of Islam and is recognized by Muslims worldwide.