Muslim Advocates Asks Federal Court to Reverse Dangerous Religious Freedom Decision

WASHINGTON, DC — On Monday, Muslim Advocates filed a brief asking a federal court to reverse a decision to dismiss the case of a Muslim prisoner in Georgia whose religious freedom rights were violated when he was held down by force and had his beard shaved. 

Muslim Advocates’ brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to vacate its previous opinion in the case for not sufficiently protecting religious liberty. Though the plaintiff, Waseem Daker, maintains a beard for religious reasons, prison officials forcibly held him down and shaved him. This process resulted in chemical burns and potentially exposed Daker to hepatitis, which is rampant in the Georgia prison system. A district court previously dismissed the case because Daker had brought a number of unsuccessful legal challenges in the past and had challenged previous instances of forced shaving. Shockingly, the circuit court affirmed this decision. Daker is represented for his petition for rehearing by the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Strickland Webster LLC, and Locke Law Firm LLC.

Muslim Advocates’ amicus curiae brief emphasizes that the court’s wrong-headed interpretation of the law allows for serious accusations of religious discrimination, like Daker’s, to be dismissed because of a technicality. This interpretation is at odds with the long history of federal law protecting religious freedom and, unless the court acts to correct its mistake, will continue to harm future prisoners.

“The federal court’s decision allows this case and other religious freedom cases to be dismissed on unrelated technicalities,” said Muslim Advocates Senior Staff Attorney Matt Callahan. “Mr. Daker, and all incarcerated people, deserve to have their right to religious freedom respected and deserve to have their day in court.”

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.