Pregnant Muslim woman claims prison won't let her wear hijab, practice faith

The Council on American Islamic Relations has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections on behalf of a community activist, saying the Muslim woman is not allowed to wear a hijab, not getting meals in line with her faith.

Siwatu-Salama Ra was sentenced in March for felonious assault and weapons charges. The woman is also 6 1/2 months pregnant but terrified of delivering her baby in prison.

"She is extremely fearful of having to give birth in prison, simply because of the way the prison has treated her, she has been treated," her attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris, said.

CAIR filed the civil rights complaint against the DOC, saying that ever since she arrived at the women's Huron Valley correctional facility, she's been discriminated against for her beliefs.

"She has been unable to get a hijab or Islamic head covering, despite many requests by herself and our organization to provide her with one," CAIR attorney Amy Doukoure said.

Prison spokesperson Chris Gautz says she didn't arrive at the prison with a hijab and also didn't ask for one. The request instead came from attorneys representing her. 

"We immediately went to the prisoner and asked her if she would like one. She indicated that she would so we provided her with the form that she can fill out to purchase a hijab," Gautz said.

The prison says the hijab will arrive next week. 

That's not the only problem. She also say she can't get a copy of the Quran in prison and they won't provide her with pork-free meals. 

"MDOC would not allow her her own holy book to read, they tried to give her a bible. So see this is just a pattern," Dawud Walid, Exec. Dir of CAIR, said.

The prison says they don't have any meals with pork and deny allegations of discrimination.

"We have a paper trail and evidence that shows we took every step possible to meet the individual needs," Gautz said.

Additionally, Religious leader Marna Mohammed says she was barred from visiting her in prison. 

"The MDOC's website specifically states that if I come with my letter from the religious organization and my ID that I would be allowed my initial visit. I was denied repeatedly."

Gautz said that's not how the system works.

"(You can't just say) here's this paper that says I'm allowed to come in as a clergy, I want to come into the prison today. That's not how it works."

The civil rights complaint was filed Wednesday and is still be investigated.