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CAIR, CAIR-CA File Suit Challenging Los Angeles Sheriff Department’s Denial of Muslim Inmates’ Religious Rights

Muslim inmates denied Qurans, grilled about their faith, refused halal diet because ”˜Mexicans are not Muslim’

(LOS ANGELES, CA, 8/27/2019) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today joined its Greater Los Angeles Area chapter (CAIR-LA) in announcing the filing of a lawsuit challenging the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s (LASD) multi-pronged and systematic effort to prevent Muslim inmates from being given the most basic religious accommodations at its correctional facilities. 

CAIR’s lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.


The lawsuit – filed on behalf of three Muslim inmates – details the unreasonably excessive harassment Muslim inmates have to endure to be permitted to have basic religious accommodations such as Qurans (religious text), prayer mats and kufis (religious skullcaps). 

Even if they are ultimately approved, they are only permitted to use them during Friday prayer, which they are not permitted to attend in the first place. LASD also subjects inmates to rigorous and unlawful scrutiny of the knowledge of arcane details of their faith to prove they are Muslim before they are granted a halal diet – questions such as what direction Muslims faced before Mecca 1400 years ago and to list the names of relatives of the Prophet Muhammad. The facility has delayed each Plaintiff’s receipt of a Halal diet through various obstacles, including denying one of the Plaintiffs with the explanation that “Mexicans are not Muslim.” 

The lawsuit also challenges LASD’s policy of requiring special custody inmates to strip to their underwear as condition of access to the law library, violating their religious beliefs regarding modesty. 

LASD is failing to accommodate inmate’s practice of Islam even though they are under court-ordered supervision by the ACLU of Southern California’s Jails Project.

“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department treatment of religious requests from inmates is egregious,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Our clients have had to resort to hunger strikes to get basic religious accommodations to practice their faith after their written requests and grievances were repeatedly ignored and denied.”  

“Our nation’s commitment to religious liberty must extend to the sincere practice of faith by prisoners,” said Patricia Shnell, a trial attorney with CAIR-California’s Los Angeles Area office (CAIR-LA). “We are proud to represent these men to ensure Men’s Central Jail complies with federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”

This case is the latest in a series of lawsuits CAIR has brought to defend the rights of inmates to practice their faith inside jails and prisons across the country. 

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

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


CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri, 202-742-6420,; CAIR Trial Attorney Carolyn Homer, 202-516-4724,; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas,, CAIR-LA Civil Rights Attorney Patricia Shnell,


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