USA: Landmark Muslim bills on their way to becoming laws

By Madhu Krishnamurthy, Daily Herald

Two landmark pieces of state legislation, one requiring halal/kosher foods be made available at public facilities and another providing Muslim imams access into prisons for chaplaincy, are on their way to becoming laws.

The bills — Faith by Plate Act (H.B. 1574) and Faith Behind Bars Act (H.B. 3055) — recently passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.

Halal (permissible) and kosher (pure, proper or suitable for consumption) meats and foods must follow specific requirements related to their slaughter and preparation as prescribed by Islamic and Jewish laws. Such options often are not available in settings such as state prisons, hospitals and schools.

Members of the Chicago-area Muslim and Jewish communities came together to draft the language and advocate for the Faith By Plate bill.

“H.B. 3643 ensures our children, our incarcerated residents, and our elders and neighbors in state-run hospitals will be better served,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, state Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid. “Each of us has a right to access foods based on our dietary guidelines.”

Meanwhile, the Faith Behind Bars bill provides unhindered access to diverse faith leaders in providing religious, mental health and wellness support for those incarcerated.

Illinois has created a model for the nation through the passage of these and other legislation critical to the Muslim community, said Maaria Mozaffar of Plainfield, policy and legislative counsel for the Muslim Civic Coalition, which spearheaded the bills.

“Now, Muslim kids will play sports without sacrificing modesty, learn about the contributions of Muslims in this country in schools, own Muhammad Ali Day as a day that represents their values, stand up to bullies with pride through mediation, and have the option of halal food in there schools,” said Mozaffar, speaking of legislation the group has championed.