Wednesday, 21 August 2019

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CAIR-Florida Calls on Florida Department of Corrections to Respect the Religious Rights of Muslims During the Holy Month of Ramadan

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(TAMPA, FL, 5/17/2019) – The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Florida), the state’s largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, today announced that it has received an unusually high number of complaints from inmates of Muslim faith indicating that they are being denied necessary reasonable accommodations to practice their faith during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan.

During the holy month’s required periods of fasting, simple adjustments of the meal schedule are necessary to ensure that inmates can exercise their religion without risk to their health.

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. As with fasting in other religious traditions, it’s seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify oneself.

he Constitution, as well as Federal and Florida law, provide that reasonable accommodations must be made for religious practitioners of all faiths unless such accommodations interfere with a compelling state interest, such as safety, security, or rehabilitation. This is not the case here. During Ramadan, when practitioners abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours, this means that meal schedules need to be altered so that nourishment is provided before sunrise and after sunset.

In a recent letter to the Florida Department of Corrections, CAIR-Florida reminded the FDOC of the constitutional rights of observant Muslim inmates and their duty to protect those rights under the law. It reads in the relevant part: 

“While we are taking steps to work with the individual inmates on resolving these complaints - hopefully without the need for litigation - we ask you to remind leadership and personnel in all facilities operating under the Florida Department of Corrections of the legal mandate to provide reasonable accommodations for religious practitioners of all faiths – including Muslims during the month of Ramadan. Denial of these accommodations violates the constitutional rights of inmates to practice their religion and violates their rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) as well as Florida law.”

CAIR-Florida’s Civil Rights Director, Thania Diaz Clevenger, stated, “The Florida Department of Corrections has a legal and moral obligation to cater to all religious minorities including the Muslim inmate population.  Fasting during the month of Ramadan is an essential practice of Muslims worldwide and there is no legal excuse for the Department of Corrections to fail to provide an early morning breakfast and a dinner at sunset to all Muslim inmates fasting during this month. We don’t want to litigate but will not hesitate to do so shall the State refuse to comply with their legal obligations as per federal law.”

CAIR has filed successful civil rights litigations on behalf of Muslim American inmates who suffered from discrimination while institutionalized in various states such as:

  1. Alaska:
    1. CAIR Files Emergency Lawsuit on Behalf of Muslim Inmates in Alaska Being ‘Starved’ and Fed Pork During Ramadan
    2. Breaking News: CAIR, Alaska AG Reach Agreement on Feeding Muslim Inmates During Ramadan
  2. Washington:
    1. Federal Court Orders Washington Prison to Feed ‘Starving’ Muslim Inmates Within Hours of CAIR Filing Suit
  3. Arkansas:
    1. CAIR Sues Arkansas Prison System for Refusing to Provide Islamic Religious Services
  4. Florida:
    1. ACLU, CAIR, Muslim Inmates Sue Over Miami-Dade Jail’s Meals

To further its mission of creating a better understanding of the faith and protecting the civil rights of Americans of the Muslim faith, CAIR-Florida works actively with detention facilities and law enforcement officers throughout the State of Florida to educate officers on religious practices, cultural differences, and the required accommodations needed for Muslim detainees.

Interested agencies can take advantage of our offer of CAIR-Florida’s no-cost educational programs by contacting us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 833-CAIRFLA (833-224-7352). CAIR-Florida also provides several other course offerings that bridge the information gap, such as courses on combating bullying based on religious affiliation in schools.

 

CAIR-Florida is the state’s largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

 La misión de CAIR-Florida es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.