Muslim Prisoner Lost Right to Religion When He Murdered Two People

prison barsI'm not going to debate whether or not Abdul Awkal deserves to live. The 52-year-old Ohio inmate who killed his estranged wife and brother-in-law (he actually murdered them in a domestic relations courtroom, believe it or not!) is already on death row, scheduled to be executed in June. No, whether or not Awkal should live or die is not a judgment call I feel qualified to make.

The issue of whether or not Awkal has the right to practice his religion behind bars, however, is a much simpler question to answer.

Awkal, who is Muslim, is suing feds for "violating his civil rights" by not serving him halal food (prepared under Islamic law).


I'm all for religious freedom, but I daresay "civil rights" for a convicted murderer shouldn't be too high on anyone's list of priorities. Awkal ended two human lives. What civil rights do his victims have? They're definitely not making menu selections from beyond the grave.

Awkal argues that being able to observe his religion is especially important precisely because he is on death row, preparing to meet his maker. Again, were his victims given the chance to prepare for their own deaths?

One of the many things that troubles me about this case is the fact that Awkal's case will even be brought to trial. How much time, money, and effort are being wasted on the death row requests of a killer?

Too much, I can say with certainty.

Of course I would never argue against a convicted murderer's right to get down on his knees and pray or chant or sing himself a psalm. But when it comes to asking feds to spend time and money accommodating religious requests, I think that's going way, way too far.

Do you think convicted killers should lose the right to religious freedom?


Image via Amanda Slater/Flickr

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