Muslim prisoners at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., are again allowed to gather for daily prayers after a U.S. district judge ruled in favor of John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban” who spearheaded a lawsuit.
Lindh argued that before 2007 the prisoners were allowed to meet for prayer at least three times for the five daily prayers Muslims are required to carry out. They have been able to meet only once a week since then, with the exception of the holy month of Ramadan. Lindh is housed in a unit with 55 cells, and most of the inmates there practice Islam, according to CNN.
U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson found the prison's warden was violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by not allowing inmates meet for prayers, while permitting group board games and similar activities.
Magnus-Stinson put in place an injunction "prohibiting the warden from enforcing the policy against daily congregate prayer for Muslims, including Mr. Lindh, for whom daily congregate prayer is a sincerely held religious belief,” according to CNN’s report on the court documents.
The warden instituted the rule disallowing daily prayers in 2007, citing security concerns. During the court proceedings, Lindh spent more than two hours on the witness stand and was joined in testifying by at least two of the “Lackawanna Six,” an al Qaeda cell in upstate New York whose members were convicted of providing material support for terrorism. All six have completed their prison sentences.
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"[Lindh] addressed his personal need to pray, to pray in congregation, and how he was able to do it previously on the unit before it was stopped," Lindh’s attorney Kenneth Falk said about his client's testimony last August. "Being forced to pray in his cell is not a satisfactory alternative."
Lindh made global headlines when he was apprehended by the Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001. He was nicknamed the “American Taliban” when it was revealed he had traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 and trained in an al Qaeda camp, even meeting Osama bin Laden at one point.