Thursday, September 2, 2010

U.S.-born Taliban federal inmate asks for Muslims to pray together: ACLU flies to the rescue

In the UK Muslim prisoners objected to female guards being present when they pray!! What is a religious right ~ when you are in prison?

ACLU files motion for fighter serving 20 years in Terre Haute facility

American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and another Muslim inmate have asked a judge to order a federal prison to let them and other Muslims in their highly restricted cell block pray as a group, in accordance with their beliefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union last week filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis for summary judgment on behalf of Lindh, 29, and Enaam Arnaout, 47, who claim that the prison's policy restricting group prayer in the Communications Management Unit violates their religious rights. The ACLU contends there are no disputes about the facts of the case and that the law is on the inmates' side, and asks the judge to rule in their favor.

Lindh, who is serving a 20-year sentence for aiding Afghanistan's now-defunct Taliban government, wrote in a legal declaration that his religion requires him to pray five times a day, preferably in a group. "This is one of the primary obligations of Islam," he wrote.

Praying in his cell is not appropriate, he said, because the Quran requires a ritually clean place for prayer, and he is forced to kneel "in close proximity to my toilet."

Lindh wrote that Muslims in the unit are being allowed to pray together once a day during Ramadan. At other times, the group prayers had been limited to once a week, court documents said.

The suit seeks class-action status. Harvey Church, associate warden of the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, testified in a January deposition that 24 of the 41 CMU inmates were Muslim.

The government says in court documents that there is no evidence that Muslims were confined to the CMU because of their religion and that most Muslims don't adhere to the requirement of five daily prayers.

"Plaintiffs have shown . . . only six other Muslim inmates in the CMU who identify themselves as sharing the same views on daily congregate prayer as Plaintiffs," government attorneys wrote.


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