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Muslim Prison Guard Sues for Prayer Breaks

Religion | IN BRIEF

July 28, 2001|From the Associated Press

GRAFTON, Ohio — A Muslim prison guard is suing the state, claiming his bosses violated his rights by barring him from praying and wearing a skullcap at work.

Dawoud Kareem Muhammad, a seven-year employee at Grafton Correctional Institution, filed the claim in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.

"All I ask is that I have a little spot so I can say my prayers and not be harassed about it," Muhammad said. "If you can allow people to have smoke breaks, why can't I have a break to pray?"

A spokesman for the state prison system declined to comment.

Muhammad began working at the prison in 1994, and soon after became a devout Muslim, changing his name from Dani Bowens.

Prison officials told Muhammad in July 1999 that he could not wear a skullcap under his uniform hat, even though employees were allowed to wear crucifixes under their uniforms, the lawsuit says.

In the Islamic faith, a person must pray five times a day. For a time, Muhammad prayed in a closet at work, but when officials found out, they changed the lock, according to the suit.

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