The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Florida Chapter and the Council Of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida are suing the state of Florida for purportedly denying Halal meals to Muslim convicts locked up in the Miami-Dade Country prison system.
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Local 10 News, a Miami-based ABC affiliate, reported.
Other inmates have been provided with meals that cooperate with their faith, and Muslims should be afforded the same opportunity, the lawsuit claims.
“Just because individuals are being detained in jail doesn’t mean that the county can unilaterally strip them of their First Amendment right to practice their faith,” commented Shalini Goel Agarwal, an ACLU attorney for their Florida chapter.
“Where the county offers faith-based meals to inmates of other faiths, it should not deny these meals to Muslim inmates just by professing ignorance of Islam-especially when the inmates themselves and Muslim organizations have made clear the requirements of their faith,” Shalini added.
Muslims were first provided with kosher food, which they were initially satisfied with, but when the Kosher meals were pulled altogether in October 2014, the Muslim inmates began to protest the alleged discrimination carried out against them, according to the lawsuit.
“The word ‘halal’ in Arabic simply means permissible, thus a ‘Halal diet’ is food that is permissible for Muslims to consume,” the lawsuit said, which added that the prisoners would likely “go hungry” if their demands for Halal-qualified meals would not be met.
“A Halal diet, among other things, prohibits the consumption of meat from certain animals or their derivatives, such as pork. Animals that are eaten are to be slaughtered in a particular manner, and the diet prohibits the consumption of alcohol or food containing alcohol,” Local 10 News explained.
CAIR Florida’s Thania Diaz added: “The law is clear. The right to practice your religion without government interference is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”