Judge shows ‘thought and respect’ in handling Muslim prayer case


LONDON: A High Court judge showed “thought and respect” to the Islamic community when he ruled in favour of two Muslims who complained that dirty conditions in immigration centre cells hampered their prayers, a solicitor has said.

Justice Holman

Mr Justice Holman decided the men’s ability to pray at specified times in a clean area was hindered when they were locked in 12 metre square cells with other detainees between 9pm and 8am at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport. He concluded earlier this month that their human right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been infringed without justification. Lewis Kett, who represented Mohammad Hussein and Muhammad Rahman and works for Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said Mr Justice Holman has sent a “good message” to the Muslim community.
“The High Court have certainly taken on board the importance of the conditions required for Muslim prayer,” said Mr Kett. “Ultimately, though, it is now down to the Home Office in its review to show the same amount of respect and thought.”
Mr Kett said the judge had not said how long the Home Office would have to review its “lock-in policy” and its impact on Muslim detainees, but added: “This will realistically have to be done over the coming months. “We still believe the lock-in regime itself is unlawful because there is no statutory justification for it. And we’ll be reviewing the situation of other clients.” Mr Justice Holman heard that Mr Hussein, who is in his 20s and comes from Ethiopia, and Mr Rahman, who is in his 30s and comes from Bangladesh, have left Brook House after being detained there for spells during 2017.
The judge analysed the case in a hearing at the Family Division of the High Court in London, and delivered a ruling on Thursday. Lawyers representing the men, who were detained after asylum claims were rejected by immigration officials, said damages would be considered at a later date. They said the ruling would have implications for other detainees. Mr Justice Holman said the men were victims of “indirect discrimination” because of the particular prayer requirements of the Muslim religion. He suggested that ministers had not considered how the regime at Brook House, which is privately run by G4S on behalf of the Home Office, would affect devout Muslims.