A food fight is brewing in the Palm Beach County jail after Muslim inmates had their kosher meals replaced with vegan fare.
Imam Jaabir Muhammad, described by local TV station WPTV as the jail chaplain, told the station’s reporters that he is concerned Muslim inmates are being treated unfairly.
“They made all of them vegans, vegetarians against their will,” Muhammad said.
While Jewish inmates will continue to receive kosher meals, Muhammad said Muslim inmates were informed on July 15 that they would no longer receive kosher or halal meals.
Muslims can eat meat, but it must be prepared or butchered in a special way. Followers of Islam prefer “halal” meat but can eat kosher meals as an alternative.
Teri Barbera, spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, released this statement:
“The Sheriff’s Office is in complete compliance with all Jail Accreditation standards prescribed by, the American Correctional Association, the Florida Correctional Accreditation Commission, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, concerning meals given to all inmates. Inmates requiring specialty meals are given meals as it relates to each specific religion, and those meals meet the standards for each specific religion. The Sheriff’s Office is in contact with the leadership of the Muslims community, and will address any of their concerns as it relates to the standards the jail adheres to, but we will not deviate from those standards.”
Barbera said the meal change was a cost-cutting measure, explaining the agency’s reasoning for continuing to supply Jewish prisoners with kosher meals:
“I understand the Muslim religion does not require their meals to be kosher and the Jewish religion does. We provide kosher meals to inmates practicing the Jewish faith. We provide an alternative religious diet to Muslims that follow the Halal dietary requirements. Meals whether they are kosher or alternative religious diet(s), meet ALL the daily nutritional recommendations required.”
Muhammad was not happy with the explanation and plans to meet with jail officials in person to address the issue.
“It sends to me that there’s favoritism, discrimination and that they’re discriminating against the Muslims in favor of other religious beliefs,” he said.