Comparative World Religions
3 October 2014
Current Event News Journal
Gregory Holt, an inmate at Arkansas State Prison for stabbing his girlfriend in the neck, is fighting for his right to practice religious practices while serving his life sentence. Holt, or, Abdul Maalik Muhammad, claims to have recently converted to Islam and is requesting that he be allowed to grow out his beard to a maximum of half an inch. The main concern with Arkansas officials is safety amongst the inmates and the officials themselves. The attorneys that are representing Holt in this case have represented the company, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. last year in their case for their controversial beliefs and exercises. Holt’s attorneys put out a statement saying “Last year, we found out that companies have religious freedom rights,” said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director of Americans United “This year we’re going to find out if individuals do too.”
What interested me the most is the fact that even though state is separated from the church, conflicts such as this still arise. Although the Quran does not specifically state that men are required to grow beards, “three of the four major schools of Sunni Islam consider it mandatory.” So why is it so important that this man be allowed to grow a beard? Although many Muslims hold growing facial hair as an absolute requirement, Arkansas officials say it is a safety issue, claiming that he could potentially hide weapons, drugs, and even cell-phone SIM cards in his beard. Holt has also already shown violent tendencies and has made threats of “war” against the prison barber.
I believe that this controversy will result in either the limiting or placing of strict regulations against the practice of religions; especially amongst prisons and its inmates. Those who practice religions such as Islam might even be segregated into a certain area of the prison so that they might at least lower the threats of violence. This particular event presents the several...