The death of Matthew McCain—a young Black man killed in state custody at the Durham County Jail as a result of medical neglect—is sounding an alarm bell for us as Muslims. The Black and Brown folks living and dying in U.S. prisons, Muslim or not, are our family. Muslims for Social Justice believes that it is imperative that our communities stand with the McCain family to demand immediate answers about exact circumstances of his death. Reports about continuous denial of medication to Matthew in the past are a matter of grave concern. The circumstances surrounding his death, and medical abuse by detention staff in particular, must be investigated immediately in a transparent and community-accountable manner. Matthew McCain’s mother has been cruelly denied the right to see her son’s body, and we stand behind her demand to be granted this right immediately. We demand the immediate public release of the autopsy report and all relevant video footage that the family requests.
Muslims account for over 18 times the percentage of the U.S prison population as they do of the general population. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world—it constitutes five percent of the world population but accounts for 25% of world’s prisoners. Black and Brown people make 30% of the U.S. population but make 60% of the prison population (source). Medical neglect and abuse has become a growing practice of subjugation faced by Black, Brown, and Muslim prisoners across the US. It is part of the intensifying state repression that produces and sustains the school-to-prison pipeline, the police killings, and other forms of domination that confront our people. For many of us in the Muslim community, the violence and inhumanity of the prison system is a looming part of our daily lives. We are not strangers to entrapment by law enforcement, to violence in ICE detention centers and the threat of deportation, or to daily harassment and assault by police. If we haven’t experienced these things first hand, few of us are unable to name someone we know and love who has.
The news of Matthew McCain’s death will not be ignored in our community the way it has been ignored by local media. We refuse to let our family die silently at the bloody hands of the same state forces that drop bombs in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, and so many other countries that are coded as Muslim.
Muslims for Social Justice believes in social justice and human rights for all. We believe in abolishing white supremacy in its many forms. We are fighting for our survival and the survival of our loved ones, and we do not believe in the bloodthirsty “peace” that demands the death of Black and Brown people in order to be sustained. We are in solidarity with Matthew’s family members, and we, along with other community members, join them in demanding justice for Matthew McCain!
Rest in Power.