Islamic Law in U.S. Courts: Matiyn v. Comm’r Dep’t of Corr. (W.D.N.Y. 1989): Prison Prayer Space

Faris Matiyn, an inmate at the Attica prison, mounted a § 1983 claim against the commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and prison superintendent Walter Kelly. The plaintiff alleged that the prison violated his First Amendment free exercise right by not allowing Sunnī and Shīʿī Muslims—the two major Muslim denominations—to have separate worship services. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that the plaintiff did not speak for the majority of the Sunnī Muslim community and that keeping the two groups together satisfied legitimate penological objectives, such as maintaining a safe prison environment.

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