Muslim Piety Collides with Prison Work Rules

October 6, 2006


Source: Times Union

For nine years, Abdus Samad N. Haqq wore a kufi, a traditional Islamic religious head covering, along with his uniform as a state correction officer in Harlem.

On May 8, 2005, his supervisor ordered him to remove it.

Haqq, 53, who was born in Brooklyn and converted to Islam in the 1980s, complied with the request, but that decision has been difficult emotionally and spiritually, the New York Civil Liberties Union stated in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan.

The challenge to the policy that forbids state prison guards from wearing religious head coverings comes just months after another NYCLU suit persuaded the U.S. Coast Guard to change its rule that barred members of the Merchant Marine from wearing religious head coverings in their license photographs.

The latest case raises questions about freedom of religion and the state's fairness to its workers.

"The state of New York cannot force public employees to surrender their religious beliefs as a condition of keeping their jobs," said Donna Lieberman, the NCYLU's Manhattan-based executive director.