Published September 15, 2018 by Anne

CAIR Advocates for Inmates’ Religious Freedom

Should one prisoner’s right to worship be the same as that of a prisoner of a different religion? One would hope so. In reality, equal treatment may not always be the case.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed suit in federal court on behalf of Islamic inmates in Maryland prisons who say the prisoners have been denied the right to assemble for worship, while inmates of other religions are afforded this right. The original complaint is available here.

The case just got a green light from the federal court, which allowed the case to proceed. See “CAIR Welcomes Federal Court’s Decision to Allow Suit Challenging Maryland Islam-Specific Prison Policy to Move Forward,” CAIR press release, August 16, 2018. The court’s decision is available here.

According to a press release from CAIR, “As a result of this decision, CAIR lawyers will now have the authority to demand documents and information from Prince George’s County about their unequal treatment of Muslim inmates. CAIR will also be able to depose key officials who created and enforced the Islam-specific prison policy challenged by the lawsuit.”

“Inmates are among the most vulnerable populations of Americans at risk of having their rights violated,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “This decision is a critical step in the right direction to help ensure that Muslim prisoners are able to observe their faith free from discrimination.”

CAIR also represents inmates in Alaska and Washington in lawsuits defending the rights of Muslim inmates to practice their faith while in prison. See “Judge Orders Washington Prisons to Serve Ramadan Meals,” by Gene Johnson, Associated Press/The Spokesman-Review, June 11, 2018, and “Judge Orders Alaska Prison to Stop Serving Pork Products to Muslim Inmates,” by Maria Perez, Newsweek, May 25, 2018.

In a past case, the Supreme Court of the United Stats held that prisoners may grow beards for religious purposes, regardless of the prison rules about facial hair. See “Ban on Prison Beards Violates Muslim Rights, Supreme Court Says,” by Adam Liptak, New York Times, January 20, 2015. Will the new case be treated differently by the courts? Stay tuned.


CAIR offers several educational toolkits and pocket guides advising about rights, community safety, and religious liberty. CAIR also publishes A Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices.

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati’s Muslim Mothers Against Violence has produced a Bullying Prevention Guide for parents, schools, and community members.

The Tayba Foundation’s mission is “holistic education and support for incarcerated Muslims.” The site includes podcasts, news, information about volunteer opportunities, and other resources.

Zoukis Prisoner Resources has extensive information for federal inmates and their families, from surviving your first day in prison to finding a job upon release.


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