Thank you Blazing Cat Fur for sending me this.
By JASON HEWLETT
Daily News Staff Reporter
A Muslim believes his human rights were violated when staff at the New Life Mission told him he had to end an alcohol session in Christian prayer.
Adding to Jamal Al-jannati’s outrage is he was told he had to stand and end the Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholic Anonymous session in a prayer circle and could not kneel and pray according to his spiritual beliefs.
“I think they were trying to convert me,” Al-jannati, 50, said Wednesday.
However, staff at The New Life Mission was simply following the guidelines of the AA/NA program, which requires each session to begin and end in prayer, said executive director Kelly Row.
Row said it doesn’t matter if participants pray to Allah or Jesus Christ, but they do have to pray.
“You don’t have to believe in what we believe in,” he said. “It’s the God of your understanding.”
But Al-jannati said Aberra Asress, program director of the men’s recovering program, told him he wouldn’t have to take part in the prayer because he is Muslim.
Recently released from Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, Al-jannati went to the mission on Monday to enroll in the AA/NA program.
He expressed his concerns about the short prayer at the beginning of each session and the serenity prayer circle at the end, saying neither takes into account his spiritual beliefs, he said.
Asress told him he didn’t have to take part in the prayers, said Al-jannati. He sat quietly through the opening prayer but, when the time came to stand for the serenity prayer, he was told he had to join in.
When Al-jannati asked if he could kneel in prayer, he was told he couldn’t. If he wasn’t willing to stand in the circle, he would have to leave, he said.
“We agreed. There was an agreement,” said Al-jannati, adding he was lied to.
Row maintains Al-jannati wasn’t lied to, saying people can pray to whatever faith they want.
But he wouldn’t be allowed to kneel in prayer, as the program requires participants to stand in a circle, he said.
“He can do it on his own after the circle is done. But with the circle, they read the serenity prayer,” said Row.
Al-jannati has found another program to attend with the Interior Health Authority, saying he just wants to stay sober and find a place to live.
“I am trying to be good,” he said.