Ham sandwich blunder could cost taxpayers millions
SCORES of Muslim inmates at a high security prison are set to launch a multi-million pound claim for compensation after they were offered ham sandwiches during the holy month of Ramadan, according to a report by Paul Sims in the Daily Mail on Friday.
They say their human rights were breached when they were given a special nightly Ramadan menu by officers at HMP Leeds last month.
More than 200 Muslim inmates at the jail are said to have been offered a choice of three meals on a special menu card – one of them being a ham sandwich.
When prisoners complained to prison officers on duty they were told that the menus had been printed in error. Yet when they opened the sandwiches, having ordered cheese, some claim they were still filled with ham.
One Muslim inmate, a 28-year-old who was serving a 16-week sentence for driving whilst disqualified, said:
When I opened my meal that night I found I’d been given a ham sandwich. I’d asked for cheese. It was a breach of my human rights and I want compensation.
He claimed that some inmates were so hungry from their Ramadan fast they ended up eating the sandwiches.
They are now launching legal action, insisting that their human rights were breached, and could each be entitled to up to Â£10,000 in compensation if they win their case at court.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said:
An inappropriate menu card was printed during Ramadan. This mistake was rectified immediately.
The incident comes as 16 Muslim inmates at Leeds Prison prepare to launch a separate legal case over claims of mistreatment, including being given food that is forbidden by their religion.
They are expected to claim at a hearing next year that they were given meat which was not halal. Kate Maynard, from law firm Hickman and Rose Solicitors who is representing some of the men, said:
One of the issues they are worried about is that they were being told food was halal when it wasn’t. They are taking this to court to try to change conditions in the prison and make conditions better.
Last year the Prison Service was forced to apologise to Muslim inmates at a category B jail after a kitchen worker was caught throwing ham into halal curries. Prisoners at HMP Blakenhurst in Worcestershire each received a written apology.
The inmate behind the incident at the prison, which houses 1,070 offenders, was observed throwing tinned ham into curries destined for Muslim inmates and suspended from his job in the kitchen.
This reports leads us to the inevitable conclusion that operation of the British Prison service would be so much easier if all inmates were atheists.
Just how complicated religious prisoners make life for Prison Service staff is spelled out in a lengthy document unimaginatively entitled the PSO 4550 Religious Manual. This document – which you can access here, then scroll to PSO 4550 – is in no way critical about religious inmates. On the contrary, it is grovellingly deferential, and spells out in minute detail the rights of religious prisoners, and how to ensure that these rights are in no way breached.
You will not be surprised to learn that Muslim inmates, who make up around 10 percent of the prison population – there are now over 7,000 in British jails – make more demands on the system than those of any other religious group.
Here are some extracts from the manual, in which the name of the Prophet Muhammad is always nauseatingly followed by the words “Peace be Upon Him.”
In giving an overview of Islam, the document states:
Islam is the religion of the Unity/Oneness of Allah (God) and tolerance towards all mankind. As such, Islam stands for purity, peace and complete submission to the will of Allah. A Muslim is one who submits to Allah’s Will and sincerely professes the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) ‘I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is His Messenger’.
Islam has its primary source of teaching and law in the Qur’an. This is the actual message of Allah giving His final statement on the meaning, purpose and conduct of human existence. The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) during the last twenty-three years of his life, early in the seventh century (CE).
The manual informs us that, in accordance with Islamic teaching, ritual washing is required before Muslim prayers.
Muslim prisoners should be allowed to have a shower before Friday prayers; this need not be immediately before prayers but can be anytime after sunrise on Friday. Where Muslim prisoners work on Friday mornings in an area that might be classed as unclean (eg as a cleaner or on farms), a shower should be allowed before prayers.
In addition to a shower on Friday morning, Muslim prisoners will need to carry out ablutions immediately before Friday prayers. As a minimum requirement Muslim prisoners will need to have access to toilets with jugs of water or washing facilities. Where possible and practical, mixer taps with seating should be installed conveniently close to the prayer room. Toilet facilities also need to be accessible from the prayer room. A jug, water container or plastic bottle needs to be available in these toilets for Muslim prisoners to wash themselves after visiting the toilet.
Muslims will wish to perform the daily prayers whether they are in their cell, or in work/education. On occasions (particularly in Winter) certain prayers will fall within work/education time and time off should be allowed. Where this happens, a clean, quiet area in or nearby work or education rooms should be provided for the prayer which would normally take about 15 minutes. Muslim prisoners at work or education will also need access to toilets with jugs and washing facilities so that ritual washing may be performed before prayers.
Muslims are only allowed to eat Halal Food. The term “halal” is defined as that which is permissible under Islamic Law. In the context of meat this means those animals which are permitted to be eaten and which have been slaughtered according to Islamic Law. In particular, halal food must be free from any product or by-product derived from pigs, eg pork, bacon, ham; and from all alcohol. The term “haram” defines all that is not permitted under Islamic law.
Where normal evening mealtime is more than an hour after sunset , the Muslim prisoner who is at work or education should be provided with a snack, eg sandwiches to be consumed before the main evening meal; he/she also needs to be allowed a 20 minute recess to break the fast and to read prayers.
In the evening each Muslim prisoner should be provided with sufficient food for two meals: one evening meal to break their fast, the second corresponding in amount to both breakfast and lunch to be taken away for consumption by the Muslim prisoner later in their cell.
With regard to religious texts and artefacts, the manual states:
Muslims treat the Holy Qur’an, whether in Arabic or any other language, with great reverence and store it on a high shelf; likewise religious articles are also given reverence.
Copies of the Holy Qur’an in English translation are available for Muslim prisoners from the Muslim Chaplain or Muslim Advisors Office
Religious items which can be allowed in personal possession are:
- The Qur’an and books on Islam which contain special supplications/extracts from the Qur’an, and other religious books that contribute to a better understanding of Islam. For further advice consult the Muslim Chaplain or Muslim Adviser’s office.
- Clear plastic pouch – for storage of Qu’ran
- Prayer mat
- Small piece of clay from Karbala (Iraq) for head rest – for Shi’a Muslims only
- prayer beads – Tasbee
- Skull cap or turban
- Scarf and loose clothing to wear during and after prayers – for female Muslim prisoners
- Miswak/Salvak stick (small toothbrush size twig for religious and dental benefits)
- Plastic jug – for personal hygiene
- Alarm clock – to be used to awaken for morning prayer and Ramadhan
- A pendant, which has extracts from the Quran or name of Allah (God).
- Musk or Itar – non alcohol perfume in small plastic bottle