An American convicted of fighting alongside the Taliban must be allowed to pray daily in a group with other Muslim inmates at his high-security prison in Indiana, a federal judge ruled yesterday. Barring John Walker Lindh and his fellow Muslims from engaging in daily group ritual prayer violates a 1993 law that bans the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest, wrote US District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson. The judge blocked the prison from enforcing its ban on daily group prayer, but she noted that her ruling does not prohibit the prison from taking less restrictive security measures.
Group prayers had been allowed once a week and on high holy days such as Ramadan or Christmas in the prison unit where Lindh was housed, the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute. But at other times, inmates had to pray alone in their cells. Lindh said that didn't meet the Koran's requirements, and that the Hanbali school of Islam to which he adheres requires him to pray daily with other Muslims. The prison, which maintains the group prayers are a security risk, might appeal.