A federal judge began hearing testimony Monday on a state prisoner's contention that the Arkansas Department of Correction is violating his right to religious freedom by refusing to provide him a "halal diet" in accordance with his Muslim religion.

In Abdulhakim Muhammad's view, meats from herbivorous animals that are slaughtered in accordance with a specific ritual are halal. Muhammad, a Sunni Muslim formerly known at Curtis Bledsoe, says "halal" means permitted and "haram" means prohibited. He believes haram food includes pork, meat from carnivorous animals, meat from other animals not properly slaughtered, and any food carrying haram ingredients such as gelatin, alcohol, pepsin, monoglycerides and diglycerides, and other animal byproducts.

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