CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [PRESS RELEASE]

PRESS RELEASE: “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [Press Release]

Muslim inmates in the Jumu'ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Muslim inmates in the Jumu’ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/20/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

SEE: Supreme Court Rules for Muslim Inmate Over Prison Beard Policy (Reuters)
Supreme Court Upholds Religious Rights of Prisoners (USA Today)

“We applaud the ruling in this important case, which firmly underscores that courts should not blindly defer when the government invokes ‘security’ as a reason to curtail rights,” said CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks. “The state has the burden of proving that a compelling government interest justifies its burden on the exercise of religion beliefs and practices. In this case, the court rightfully rejected arguments the growing of a beard in any way harmed prison safety and security.”

Wicks noted that CAIR recently filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief on inmate religious rights with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is considering whether the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) policy requiring direct supervision by a chaplain or outside volunteer of inmates who gather in groups for religious services is unconstitutional.

Late last year, CAIR also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s refusal to hire a Muslim woman wearing a religious headscarf (hijab) was discriminatory.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Supreme Court says Arkansas prison inmate can grow beard to meet religious beliefs, for now

November 14, 2013

 

The Supreme Court says an Arkansas prison inmate must be allowed to grow a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs, at least temporarily.

The justices said in a brief order Thursday that state corrections officials may not enforce their grooming policy prohibiting beards against Gregory Holt, who says his Muslim beliefs require him to grow a beard.

Holt filed a handwritten plea to the court asking that he be allowed to grow and keep a half-inch beard, at least until the justices decide whether to take up his full appeal.

The 38-year-old Holt is serving a life sentence for domestic violence and burglary. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said in 2012 that prosecutors said Holt cut his girlfriend’s throat and stabbed her in the chest at her mobile home.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-says-arkansas-prison-inmate-can-grow-beard-to-meet-religious-beliefs-for-now/2013/11/14/e0e8146c-4d79-11e3-97f6-ed8e3053083b_story.html

British Guantanamo Bay inmate Shaker Aamer speaks from prison cell for first time on US TV show

November 19, 2013

 

The last British prisoner being held at Guantanamo Bay has spoken from his prison cell for the first time. Shaker Aamer, who has been incarcerated at the US military prison since 2002, spoke to CBS’s 60 Minutes show.

Shouting from his cell he said: “Tell the world the truth … Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace – or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place. Let the world come and visit. Let the world hear what’s happening. “Please colonel, act with us like a human being, not like slaves.”

Mr Aamer, one of 164 prisoners at Guantanamo, has been held for 11 years without charge and is accused of being a close associate of Osama bin Laden, which he denies. He has been cleared for transfer by both the Bush and Obama administrations, according to Reprieve, the legal charity and human rights group which is representing him.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Barack Obama at a G8 summit and the British government has repeatedly stated that it wants him returned to the UK. Despite having British residency and a British wife and four children living in Battersea, London, US authorities have repeatedly threatened to send him back to Saudi Arabia, his birthplace, against his wishes.

Mr Aamer was detained in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001 after he went to the country to carry out voluntary work for an Islamic charity, Reprieve said. It is alleged that he was tortured at the Bagram Air Force base while being questioned by US forces and in February 2010 it emerged that the Metropolitan police was investigating allegations of MI5 complicity in his torture.

“The Deputy Prime Minister went on to raise Mr Aamer’s case with Vice-President Biden in September. We are confident that the US government understands the seriousness of the UK’s request for Mr Aamer’s release. Although he admitted that “Any decision regarding Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States government. We continue to monitor Mr Aamer’s welfare through engagement with the US authorities.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/british-guantanamo-bay-inmate-shaker-aamer-speaks-from-prison-cell-for-first-time-on-us-tv-show-8949925.html

NC man sentenced in conspiracy to behead witnesses from homegrown terrorism trial

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man was sentenced Friday to four life terms for plotting to behead federal witnesses whose testimony helped convict him for his role in an earlier plot to slaughter U.S. servicemen and their families.

Hysen Sherifi, 29, was one of six Raleigh-area Muslims convicted in 2011 of planning to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Va., and overseas targets.

Shortly after starting his 45-year prison sentence in the terror case, Sherifi approached another inmate to help him hire a hit man to behead government informants and FBI agents. He recruited his younger brother Shkumbin Sherifi, 23, and former special education teacher Nevine Aly Elshiekh, 48, to help pay the hit man and organize the murders.

But the inmate whose help Sherifi sought turned out to be yet another government informant. FBI agents then staged an elaborate sting that involved secretly videotaped meetings with a woman posing as the go-between for a fictional hit man named Treetop and doctored photos that appeared to show the corpse of a beheaded witness in a shallow grave.

Judge sides with Virginia prison system in lawsuit by Muslim inmate who wanted 1/8-inch beard

Court sides with Va. in not allowing Muslim inmate’s beard. Virginia’s prison system did not violate a Muslim inmate’s religious rights when it refused to allow him to grow a 1/8-inch beard, which he believes is required by his religion, a federal judge has ruled.

William Couch, a 50-year-old Sunni Muslim, is a medium-security prisoner serving multiple life sentences for rape and other convictions. He challenged the Virginia Department of Corrections’ grooming policy, which bans long hair and beards.

Virginia is among only about a dozen states that limit the length of inmates’ hair and beards, according to the American Correctional Chaplains Association. A handful of those allow religious accommodations for Rastafarians, Muslims, Sikhs, native Americans and others whose religious beliefs prohibit shaving or cutting their hair.

There is no hair policy for federal prisoners.

Bulgaria may take Guantanamo detainees

Detainees with alleged al-Qaida links could be relocated to Bulgaria. As part of the process of deciding whether to oblige the US’s request for the transfer, the governments are working together so that all information regarding their legal status is disclosed.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov stated that taking an inmate would be a strong gesture of cooperation between Europe and the US.

Staff ‘fears’ over Muslim inmates

A prison inspection report has detailed the “fear” felt by staff at Whitemoor high security jail in Cambridgeshire at the radicalisation of Muslim prisoners. The Chief Inspector of Prisons said the findings highlighted a growing “disaffection and distance” between Muslim inmates and the prison system. Anne Owers said the growing situation “urgently” needed addressing. The National Offender Management Service said work to improve prisoner and staff relations was “a priority”. Ms Owers said the Prison Service “needs to equip staff better to deal with the growing number of Muslim prisoners”. Her report comes about four months after the publication of a report by the Prison Service which also expressed concern about problems with the high number of Muslim inmates at Whitemoor.

Ms Owers’ report says a fundamental problem at HMP Whitemoor is the relationship between staff and the 120 Muslim inmates – almost a third of the total number of prisoners. According to inspectors, officers tended to treat Muslim prisoners as extremists and potential security risks, even though only eight of them had been convicted of terrorist offences. Officers expressed a “fear” that increasing numbers of prisoners were converting to Islam and being radicalised.

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Gitmo inmate wins right to see secret ‘torture’ evidence

A British resident facing the death penalty at Guantanamo Bay has won his case for the Government to disclose secret evidence that he says supports claims he was tortured into confessing to crimes he did not commit. Binyam Mohamed, 30, who was arrested in Pakistan six years ago, said the Americans flew him to a prison in Morocco where he was tortured before his transfer to a US detention centre in Afghanistan. In 2004, he was taken to the US Navy base in Cuba where he is awaiting a trial before a military commission on charges that he conspired with al-Qa’ida leaders to plan terror attacks on civilians. But the High Court in London this week said British authorities still held secret material that might help confirm Mr Mohamed’s whereabouts and the nature of his detention after 2002. The judges said his allegations of torture were at least “arguable” and that the Security Service, MI5, had information relating to him that was “not only necessary but essential for his defence”. In the ruling, the judges said the “conduct of the Security Service facilitated interviews by or on behalf of the US when Binyam Mohamed was being detained by the US incommunicado” in 2002 in Pakistan. Working with the Americans after the 9/11 terror attacks, the British authorities sent an officer from MI5 to interview him, the court said. The officer told him he could expect no help from Britain unless he fully co-operated with his US interrogators.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=561D458E078DA4A1A3A1827E&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News