Religious freedoms rightly extended to prisoner


American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, 31, who was arrested in November 2001 and is serving 20-year sentence in an Indiana federal prison for aiding the terrorist group, was recently granted the right to congregate with fellow Muslim inmates for daily prayers, a right that was long overdue. 

Lindh, who now prefers to be called Abu Sulayman al-Irlandi, was nicknamed “American Taliban” by the media after his capture following the 9/11 attacks, claimed a prison policy that allowed other group activities but disallowed group prayer violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

But Lindh was not asking for much, simply the right to follow Islamic custom of congregated prayer during a period where group activities are allowed. 

According to court documents, Lindh and other Muslim inmates were
prohibited from engaging in group prayer after they ignored lockdown procedures after a fire alarm went off in 2007. 

Religion, regardless of the strife and turmoil that can be the product of conflicting ideals, is a human institution that helps people deal with the complex nature of life. 

Regardless of the crimes that any of the inmates committed, each should be given the right to worship according to his or her specific faith. 

Though inmates should not be allowed most of the rights that Americans are privy to, the freedom of religion is not just an American right – it is a human right. 

Lindh is still in prison and is serving the time that he was sentenced to. If the judge wanted to strip him of human rights, he could have provided a different sentence. The fact that Lindh is Muslim should not be an issue. 

As long as Lindh’s request does not interfere with normal prison procedures and does not disturb the safety and security of the facility, there is no reason to withhold group prayer from him or any other Muslims in prison.

Robert Scime is a senior majoring in mass communications.