Judge orders Washington prison to provide Ramadan meals

Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington, USA, in January 2016. (AP)
Updated 12 June 2018

Judge orders Washington prison to provide Ramadan meals

SEATTLE: A federal judge has ordered the Washington Department of Corrections to provide nighttime meals to all Muslim inmates who have been fasting during the month of Ramadan, after several said prison officials refused to do so.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the department Sunday on behalf of four prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, saying the men had lost an average of more than 20 pounds ( about 9 kilograms) since Ramadan began in mid-May.
US District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma issued his order just hours after the lawsuit was filed, echoing a similar ruling from a federal judge in Alaska last month.
“Muslim inmates have been starved and their health is in danger as a result of the Monroe Correctional Complex’s shameful starvation policy,” Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director, said in a news release. “We welcome the federal court’s swift intervention, which will bring this health crisis to an end and ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved and brutalized for practicing the fundamental principles of their faith.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe it by fasting — neither eating nor drinking — between dawn and sunset.
The lawsuit said the prison’s policy was generally to require inmates to sign up for Ramadan meals by the end of January, with those who failed to do so allowed to receive the meals at the discretion of prison chaplains. Some said they tried to get the food, only to find out after Ramadan began that they weren’t on the list to receive nighttime meals.
Jeremy Livingston, who is serving 22 months for hit-and-run and vehicular assault, said he entered the prison in March, after the deadline, and was denied Ramadan meals despite requesting them upon arrival.
“The Washington Department of Corrections takes very seriously the health and welfare of those sentenced to incarceration in the state’s correctional facilities and was immediately responsive to the court order,” Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said in an email Monday.
One of the plaintiffs, Naim Lao, who is serving three years for vehicular homicide, said he was added to the list and began receiving Ramadan meals after eight days — but not before he lost 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms), became ill and had guards threaten to force-feed him.
Some of the inmates said they had been able to hide breakfast trays in their cell, but that the trays had occasionally been discovered and confiscated. They also said some prisoners who were on the Ramadan list had tried to share their own nighttime meals with them, but that food too had sometimes been seized.
Leighton said the prisoners had shown that the department was likely violating their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as federal law concerning inmates’ rights to free exercise of religion.
Last month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued Alaska prison officials on behalf of two Muslim inmates, arguing that bagged meals the men received each evening were inadequate or inappropriately contained pork, which Muslims do not eat. The meals ranged from about 500 to 1,100 calories, when health guidelines suggest 2,600 to 2,800 calories per day.
US District Judge H. Russel Holland said in a written order that fasting Muslim inmates must be given daily meals containing at least 2,600 calories.
Ramadan ends Friday.


Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

Updated 16 January 2021

Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

  • Abdullah was born prematurely Jan. 9 last year to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims
  • Parents say medical treatment was paid for entirely by Saudi government

ISLAMABAD: A baby born prematurely to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in Makkah last year was returned on Friday evening to his parents in Quetta, Pakistan — a full year after his birth and successful treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Bibi Hajra and her husband Ghulam Haider were forced to leave their baby behind after their Umrah visas expired following the birth of their son on Jan. 9 last year — a premature birth, with the baby weighing only 1 kg and suffering from severe medical complications at the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah.

The baby, named Abdullah, was placed on a ventilator and stayed on in the hospital for a period of 46 days under the observation of doctors and consultants specialized in neonatal intensive care.

After this, the child was transferred to special care under the supervision of the Social Service Department.

“We had to return to Pakistan and leave our baby in the hospital as our visas expired, and then could not go back due to coronavirus,” a tearful Hajra told Arab News on Saturday from Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city.

“Initially, I was very worried about my baby, but the hospital administration remained in touch with us. They used to show me Abdullah on video and also send us his pictures,” she said.

“We are thankful to the Saudi government, hospital authorities, doctors, nurses and Pakistani consulate in Jeddah for their cooperation,” she added.

On Thursday, the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah handed Abdullah over to a delegation from the Pakistani Consulate after taking care of him for a full year.

Abdullah’s father, Haider, who is a dispenser at a small clinic in Quetta, also expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government and the Pakistani mission for their support.

“Our child remained under treatment for one year but we have not even been charged a single penny,” Haider told Arab News.

“All the expenses were taken care of by the Saudi government,” he said.

The return of Abdullah to Quetta, he continued, had been arranged by the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah free of charge.

“The Pakistani Consulate was in contact with the hospital as well as with the parents of the child. They provided all the medical facilities and kept Abdullah in complete care. Now he is absolutely fine and one year old,” the community welfare attache of the Pakistani Consulate, Saqib Ali Khan, who received the boy from the hospital on Thursday, told Arab News.

“When the hospital administration assured us that the child is completely fine, we sent him back to Quetta through a delegation and he was received by the parents,” he said.

Khan thanked the Saudi government, the Saudi Ministry of Health and the medical team at the hospital for providing the child with special care, and for keeping in touch with the family in order to reassure them over the entire year of their separation.