US organisation to sue prison for denying inmate imam

US Muslim organisation to sue prison for denying Muslim death row inmate imam at execution
2 min read
04 February, 2021
Prison officials refused to grant Domineque "Hakim" Ray the religious accommodation request to have an Imam present at his execution.
The state allowed Ray's request not to have a Christian chaplain present [Getty]
The largest US Muslim civil rights organisation plans to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of an imam the group says was denied the right to accompany a Muslim death row inmate during his execution on Thursday.

The Alabama branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday called on the state to grant the religious accommodation request of Domineque "Hakim" Ray to have a Muslim chaplain, Imam Yousef Maisonet, present at his execution.

Ali Massoud, government affairs coordinator for CAIR-Alabama, said: "Mr. Ray is asking for the same thing that every other inmate on death row is afforded - for a spiritual advisor to be present with him in his last moments".

While the state granted Ray's request not to have a Christian prison chaplain present, prison officials would not allow access to someone who was not employed by the state's corrections department, NPR reported.

A federal appeals court granted a stay of execution on Wednesday to determine whether the prison had violated a US amendment by favoring one religion over another.

But on Thursday, the US Supreme Court allowed the execution to go forward by a vote of 5-4.

The court's four liberal justices called the decision "profoundly wrong".

Justice Elena Kegan told NPR that Alabama's state policy allowed one religious denomination to be "officially preferred over another" and criticised the "wholesale prohibition on outside spiritual advisers" in the name of prison security.

"Why couldn’t Ray's imam receive whatever training in execution protocol the Christian chaplain received? The state has no answer," she said.

Imam Maisonet watched Ray’s execution from a separate room, the Associated Press reported.

Ray was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.

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