Muslim inmates sue over meal preparation

A death row inmate says Ohio prison meals violate his religious freedoms. / maciek_draba (Flickr)

A Muslim inmate on death row says Ohio prisons refuse to prepare his meals under Islamic law.

The condemned inmate, Abdul Awkal, will pursue a lawsuit against the state in court early next year, claiming the system's failure to provide halal meals violates his civil rights.

"The issue of eating halal meals is especially important to me because I face a death sentence," he wrote in a filing earlier this year. "It is important to me that I follow the requirements of my faith as I approach death."

The Associated Press reports the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction argues it provides both non-pork and vegetarian meals for Muslims, but Awkal says the meals must be prepared in a specific way to meet religious sanctions, such as only eating meat from animals that are bled out through the throat.

Awkal, joined by a second inmate on death row, maintains if Jewish prisoners are provided kosher meals, the state must legally provide halal meals.

A federal district court previously rejected his habeas petition, but a federal appeals court reversed the decision. However, the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals overturned that ruling earlier this year, according to the American Bar Association Journal.

The 52-year-old inmate was convicted of killing his wife and her brother in 1992 while the family prepared for a meeting in the office of Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, according to the Plain Dealer. A sheriff's deputy at the courthouse shot Awkal in the back when he pointed a gun to his 15-month-old daughter.

Do you think Awkal's rights are being violated by the prison's failure to serve meals prepared under Islamic law? Sound off below and on our Facebook page.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Read more: ABA Journal