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Muslims Sue Arkansas Prisons Over Failure to Offer Prayer Services

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A number of recent lawsuits allege failures by prisons to protect the religious freedom of Muslim inmates. 

On the heels of a series of lawsuits concerning religious practice in the United States criminal justice system, Muslim-American rights advocates are suing Arkansas prisons for allegedly refusing to offer religious services for Muslim inmates. The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Friday, claims that the Arkansas Department of Corrections requires Muslim-American inmates to attend combined religious services with members of religious groups with practices diverging significantly from their faith.

“Unsurprisingly, no other faith groups, including a variety of Christian denominations, are forced to choose between attending religious services led by other faith groups, or to forego religious obligations to worship altogether,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, many Christian denominations are permitted by Defendants to hold and attend their own separate religious services.”

Muslim inmates in Arkansas who wish to practice are allegedly made to attend a joint service with members of two other religious groups that espouse beliefs that fall outside of mainstream Sunni Islam. The first group is the Nation of Islam, an African-American religious and political movement that espouses several beliefs—including, recently, the adoption of the Church of Scientology’s practice of Dianetics. The other group included in the combined service is the Five-Percent Nation, a religious movement that emerged as an offshoot of the Nation of Islam

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