Court Interactions with Muslims Bench Card

  1. Greeting: A good way to break ice with a new Muslim party is to greet them with: Salam alaykum which means “peace be upon you.” The response is Wa alaykum salam or “peace be upon you too.”

  2. Muslim names: When verifying IDs, names may differ across IDs due to allowable space and variant spellings of a party’s name.

  3. Family dynamics: Muslim families are generally close-knit and may include extended family members who are likely to be involved in decisions concerning another family member. If you find this to be the case, consider asking the family to assign a representative.

  4. Gender interaction: Out of modesty, some Muslim men and women may avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, including shaking hands. They may also try to maintain a physical distance, avoid direct eye contact, and keep interactions formal. This should not be interpreted as suspicious or rude behavior, but rather due to cultural or religious modesty.

  5. Beards: Inmates or employees should be allowed to maintain beards for religious reasons.

  6. Modest attire for women: Muslim women dress in a variety of ways based on personal choice and interpretation of what they religiously consider required or modest. Some Muslim women wear a head covering or hijab which takes many forms, including a face veil or niqab which is worn for religious or cultural reasons. Hijab or niqab should only be removed if absolutely necessary by a female in a private room. Public removal of hijab or niqab can be traumatic for the woman and considered a violation of a Muslim woman’s privacy and constitutional religious rights.

  7. Religious practices which impact Muslim colleagues, parties, and inmates:
  • Diet: Observant Muslims avoid alcohol, pork, or pork by-products, such as lard and gelatin. Some Muslims only eat halal meat, which is similar to kosher; if halal is unavailable, vegetarian, fish, or kosher meals are good alternatives.
  • Prayer: Observant Muslims pray five times a day: before sunrise, around noon, in the afternoon, after sunset, and at night. While privacy is not required, it is desirable; an empty room suffices. A person praying cannot communicate during the prayer, which lasts five to ten minutes. On Fridays, Muslims attend congregational prayers in the early afternoon, so attending important meetings on Friday afternoon may be challenging for Muslims.
  • Quran: Since the Quran is a holy book, it should be treated with respect, including not placing something on top of it, writing on it, or putting it on the floor. Muslim inmates may request a copy of the Quran in English or Arabic and English or another language.
  • Fasting: Observant Muslims fast—abstain from food and drink —from pre-dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Because it is a lunar month, Ramadan moves eleven days earlier each year. Muslims can attend lunch meetings but will not eat. Fasting inmates may request special arrangements for meals since they need to eat before dawn and break their fast at sunset.
  • Holidays: Muslim holidays also follow the lunar calendar. The “Festival of Breaking the Fast” comes at the end of Ramadan and the “Festival of the Sacrifice” occurs during the pilgrimage to Mecca or hajj. Including both dates on the calendar helps avoid scheduling important meetings on those days. Both holidays begin with morning congregational prayers, which Muslim inmates will need to perform. To view the date for these holidays, visit: www.ing.org/calendar
  1. Social taboos: Providing parties access to Muslim therapists and lawyers and other culturally sensitive court officials may help them to be more transparent about cases involving social taboos.
  • Mental health issues: While religious teachings recognize the role of mental health, it carries a stigma as in many communities which may impact conversations about a party’s mental health.
  • Suicide:  Since committing suicide is viewed as sinful, Muslim parties may fail to disclose suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Substance abuse: Since religious teachings prohibit recreational drugs and alcohol, substance abuse is less common for Muslims than other groups but exists. This taboo may lead to denial of use or stigma towards those struggling with substance abuse.
  • Extramarital sex: Since sexual relations are only allowed within marriage, extramarital relations may be hidden from the family as well as pregnancies or children from such unions.
  • Domestic violence: While normative Islamic teachings unequivocally forbid domestic violence, it occurs as in all communities. Some Muslims may avoid disclosure due to stigma.

ING Resources:
Diversity Training for Professional Groups: www.ing.org/dei
Online Resources: www.ing.org/professional_resources

California Organizations that Support Incarcerated Muslims:
Tayba Foundation: www.taybafoundation.org
MCC Prison Support: www.mcceastbay.org/prison
Link Outside: https://www.linkoutside.com/
islaLA: https://islahla.org/fellowship/
Prison Outreach Program: https://shuracouncil.org

California Muslim Therapists:
Maristan Therapists: www.maristan.org
Khalil Center: www.khalilcenter.com
So Cal Muslim Therapists directory: http://www.socalmuslimtherapists.org/

California Domestic Violence Organizations:
North American Islamic Shelter for the Abused (NISA) based in South Bay: www.asknisa.org
Hotline: 1-888-ASK-NISA (1-888-275-6472)
SoCal: Niswa Association: https://niswainc.org/; hotline: 310-748-9086

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