On Friday, an Alaska judge ruled that a state prison must provide its Muslim inmates meals completely free of pork products.
The decision, writes Newsweek, was announced late last week—mere days after the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Muslim prisoners at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
The suit claims Islamic inmates were being ‘starved’ during the religion’s holy month of Ramadan. In a statement explaining the case and its circumstances, the CAIR says the two Muslim men were given “less than half the calories they require—as little as 500 calories on some days—which amounts to a starvation diet.”
Ramadan, observed by Muslims across the world, is a month-long festival and fast. While its dates vary slightly from one year to the next, one of its critical components and core tenants is abstinence. From sun-up ‘til sun-down, the faithful are supposed to refrain from eating or drinking. Even taking a sip of water midday is considered haram—disallowed—during Ramadan.
And the consumption of pork—not dissimilar to dietary restrictions within Christianity and Judaism—is prohibited year-round, regardless of whether it’s Ramadan or an ordinary day in December.
“The Constitution and Congress forbid prisons from compelling inmates to choose between their faith and food,” said CAIR’s National Litigation Director, Lena Masri. “We hope that a court will do what Anchorage Correctional Complex officials will not: ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved or forced to violate the principles of their faith during the holy month of Ramadan.”
The lawsuit, reports Newsweek, states that the jail is ‘required to give prisoners three meals a day, two of which are supposed to be hot meals.’ The Council on American-Islamic Relations alleges that its two clients were provided cold food which covered between 500 and 1,000 calories per day.
An average adult needs anywhere between 1,800 and 2,500 calories per day to maintain their body-weight and health.
But even the scant food provided to the two Muslim inmates, charges CAIR, contained pork.
“[The Department of Corrections] accommodates many different faiths inside our facilities—including those who identify as Muslim,” said DOC spokeswoman Megan Edge, speaking to The Hill. “To the best of our ability, in accordance with Islamic law, we are providing our Muslim residents the opportunity to succeed during Ramadan by being able to abstain totally from food and drink between dawn and dusk.”
Edge told The Hill that the ACC incarcerates inmates belonging to 28 different religions, saying the Department of Corrections is willing to adjust its meals and policies for the practitioner of any recognized faith.
The Alaska judge’s decision will require Anchorage Correctional Complex to provide its Muslim inmates with a minimum of 2,600 calories per day—none of which can be derived from the consumption of pork products.
“The order requires Anchorage Correctional Complex to provide all fasting Muslims, including the plaintiffs, meals that contain a minimum of 2,600 calories and that do not contain any pork products,” said the CAIR on Friday.
Ramadan 2018 began on May 15th and is slated to end on the 14th of June.