Muslim prisoners in Alaska “fed ham sandwiches by guards” for iftar

Anchorage Correctional Complex in Alaska.

A federal judge has ordered a prison in Alaska to stop feeding Muslim prisoners pork when they break their fasts during Ramadan, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR said a restraining order had been issued by a court on Friday 25 May after it accused the Anchorage Correctional Complex of “cruel and unusual punishment”.

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday 22 May, CAIR claimed two devout Muslim inmates at the jail were being “starved”, as prison guards were offering them pork-based meals as they observed the holy month of Ramadan.

The lawsuit demanded a “balanced nutritional diet” for the prisoners, policy changes and compensatory and punitive damages, the group said.

It claimed those fasting for Ramadan receive bagged meals every evening after sunset that provided between 500 and 1,100 calories a day, arguing the men should be receiving 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day under federal health guidelines.

Food packages given to prisoners consisted of sandwiches filled will ham, which they were prevented from eating by Islam law and no alternatives were offered, the lawsuit stated.

CAIR’s national litigation director Lena Masri said: “The constitution and congress forbid prisons from compelling inmates to choose between their faith and food.

“We hope that a court will do what Anchorage Correctional Complex officials will ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved or forced to violate the principles of their faith during the holy month of Ramadan.”

An attorney for the state, Matthias Cicotte, disputed allegations made by CAIR that the prisoners were deprived.

However, US district court Judge Russel Holland said he would generally uphold the requests of inmates to receive adequate, pork-free food during the month of Ramadan.

The Alaska corrections department has not issued a comment in relation to the case.

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