Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has stepped into some controversy after providing special meals for Muslim inmates during Ramadan, the annual Islamic month of fasting.
Pakistani outlet The News reported last week that Valdez acknowledged providing halal meals in Dallas County Jail during this year's observances between July 8 and Aug. 7.
The sheriff spoke of the effort to meet incarcerated Muslims' needs during her 66th birthday celebration at the home of American Muslim Democratic Caucus co-chair Syed Fayyaz Hassan earlier this month.
Local Muslim leaders applauded the move, but some critics have been less than content over the county's decision to provide specialized foods, KTVT-TV reported. Those in opposition say there should be no extra accommodations for inmates, regardless of religion.
Carole Haynes, a conservative blogger, told KTVT that she finds it "strange" that the local government would provide these meals and that she "can see why people are outraged."
Regina Imburgia, founder if Activists for Truth and Liberty, a conservative group, added, "As a kid we always heard when you went to jail you got bread and water; it was deterrent to going to jail."
But not everyone agrees.
Bilal Khaleeq, who attends a local mosque, told KTVT that offering the meals does not constitute special treatment. Because kosher foods are already available for Jewish inmates, providing meals for Ramadan is only fair, he pointed out.
"We’ve got kosher meals so the Muslims would like some accommodations so they are able to fast," he said.
In a statement, the sheriff's department defended the decision to serve special food during Ramadan.
"It is the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department mission to serve the county without any discrimination or prejudice," the statement said. "We offer services in English and Spanish and have offered them in Chinese and sign language as requested. Ramadan is a time for spiritual purification achieved through fasting, self sacrifice and prayers."