Muslims find Ramadan an inspiring time to help
SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2012 LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY AUGUST 19, 2012, 8:55 AM
Though the name of his organization is Muslims Against Hunger, Zamir Hassan says the group's mission is more about bringing people of all faiths together than anything else.
KATE COLLINS/SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Jasin Ame, 9, and his father, Eddie, of Staten Island helping serve food at Eva's Village in Paterson on Saturday.
"It's not just about the food, it's about engaging the entire community," said Hassan, national program director for the group. "We want to bring all faiths together with this group. Hunger has no religion."
Hassan and 10 local volunteers cooked and served lunch Saturday at Eva's Village, a Paterson-based charity founded 30 years ago by Monsignor Vincent E. Puma, a Roman Catholic cleric who died in June, which provides shelter, meals, medical care and more for the homeless and poor.
When the cafeteria hit the capacity of about 350 people at noon, the apron-clad assembly line of volunteers was ready to serve pounds of chicken, rice and vegetables. "In our religion it says a prince and a pauper should be treated the same," said Aisha Khan, 13, of Paramus. "So I wanted to go out and show that's true."
Muslim Americans are finishing celebrations of the holy month of Ramadan, which ends today with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Though charity is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, giving back is emphasized during Ramadan as it increases spiritual benefits.
Though Paterson and the surrounding area is home to a large Muslim community, Hassan noted that, because they're a newer group of immigrants, "they're not quite part of the community yet," so work like this helps fight against negative stereotypes.
"Especially since 9/11, people have the wrong impression of Muslim Americans," said Faiza Sheikh ofTeaneck as she peeled tinfoil off a pan of steaming vegetables. "This is a good way to counteract those impressions."
Sheikh added one of her favorite parts about the organization is that you don't have to be Muslim to get involved, and she's met friends of many faiths through her volunteer work.
A year-round need
For Ramadan, Muslims Against Hunger, which has chapters in at least a dozen East Coast cities, launched a campaign called "Good Deed Ramadan" with the goal of serving 30,000 meals in 30 days. But Hassan hopes Ramadan volunteers realize the need is year-round.
Saturday morning was the first time Bilal Abboud and his wife, Zenna Hamade of Englewood, volunteered with the organization, but they don't plan on it being their last. "We're so fortunate to have food and water when so many other people don't," Hamade said. "It crosses all denominations."
The organization has worked with other faiths in the past to help the needy, from Hindus to Christians. A few days after the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, the group worked with a Bridgewater temple to cook meals and serve them in Harlem. The effort was part of the group's Drive Against Hunger project, where meals are prepared at an office, home or religious institution and then delivered directly to the needy.
The Paterson chapter was formed around Thanksgiving of last year, and Hassan hopes more and more local volunteers will mobilize and start organizing more events at Eva's Village and other area charities.
"Feeding people is an Eastern tradition. When somebody dies, you cook. When somebody gets married, you cook," Hassan said. "Muslim Americans have lost that tradition here, and hopefully we can revive it."
Observe Eid-ul-Fitr by helping those in need
Muslims connect to Islam by helping needy
| firstname.lastname@example.org PM EST, December 29, 2008 20089:27
For Bushra Syed, serving the hungry on New Year's Eve is a way to connect more deeply to Islam.
"One of the main principles is feeding the needy," said Syed, 22. "It's one of the main parts of your faith as a Muslim."
The Floral Park resident will join about 50 Muslims who plan to spend the last day of 2008 volunteering at the Mary Brennan INN soup kitchen in Hempstead.
The event, which is organized by the Long Island chapter of Muslims Against Hunger, comes on the heels of Eid ul-Adha, a major Islamic holiday celebrated earlier this month that commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim, or Abraham - a Biblical patriarch common to Islam, Judaism and Christianity - to sacrifice his son at the behest of God. The holiday usually is celebrated with the sacrifice of an animal and the donation of its meat to the poor.
Since giving and doing without are major themes of Eid ul-Adha, Wednesday's event is appropriate, said Pervez Ahmed, coordinator of Long Island Muslims Against Hunger. "We want to start the year with a noble cause," said Ahmed, 41, of Levittown. "The noble cause is to eliminate hunger and poverty from the world, especially the USA."
Ahmed said his group will use money collected from individuals and area mosques to buy prepared chicken and rice from a local halal restaurant, and volunteers will spend the morning supplementing the meal by making soups and salads.
While guests will receive a meal, Ahmed said he hopes that volunteers will receive something more intangible: an awareness of poverty, and compassion for the less fortunate.
Syed, a psychology student at Queens College, said she has taken those lessons to heart.
"The concept is to feed, and not just be fed yourself," Syed said. "We forget about those people who don't have as much as we have."
Helping Hand For the Holidays;
Jewish, Muslim groups spread some Christmas spirit
by Erin Donaghue | Staff Writer,
The Gazette, Gaithersburg, Maryland
When Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt was growing up 40 years ago in Baltimore, he remembers that his father would always help out at the local police department on Christmas Day to try to lighten the load for Christian officers who hoped to spend the day with their families.
Today, lending a hand on Christmas Day — whether it's cooking meals for the hungry or pitching in to allow Christians to celebrate at home —has become a tradition for many Jews, said Weinblatt, a rabbi at Congregation B'Nai Tzedek in Potomac. "It's a time when our Christian neighbors are trying to celebrate, and we want to be able to help them make that possible," Weinblatt said.
This year, area Jewish and Muslim groups countywide are following along with tradition by making the season a bit brighter for those who celebrate Christmas. "On Christmas, we usually would otherwise just get Chinese food and watch a movie," said North Potomac resident Melissa Crow, who has worked in the past to organize a volunteer group through her temple, the Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, to serve meals on Christmas Day at the Shepherd's Table soup kitchen in Silver Spring.
Many area Jews volunteer through the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, which hosts widespread volunteering programs throughout the Washington area on Christmas Day annually, such as preparing and delivering meals to homebound seniors. However, like many volunteer programs around the holidays, faith-based volunteers are not limited to Jewish groups. Over the years, the day of service has morphed into a widely interfaith effort, according to Erica Steen, who directs the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service at the DCJCC.
Started by a group of five or six people 22 years ago, the day of service has snowballed and now boasts more than 1,000 volunteers. "It's an easy way for people to give back to their community," Steen said.
Area Muslims are also pitching in this season. A national group known as Muslims Against Hunger launched its newly minted Gaithersburg and North Potomac chapter this year by serving up hot meals at the Gaithersburg Community Soup Kitchen last week. Giving back to the community around the holidays falls in line with the Muslim tradition of service, said Zamir Hassan, national program director for the group. "In places like North Potomac where there are big houses, nobody thinks there are homeless and poor people who need food," Hassan said.
The help is much appreciated, especially at a time when soup kitchens are facing an increased demand due to tight economic circumstances.
"We're trying to give a break to our Christian volunteers," said Thierry Nusel, the kitchen manager at Shepherd's Table. The soup kitchen has served about 127 meals each evening, regardless of whether there is a holiday, since its founding in 1983. "It's nice for people to be able to be with their families on Christmas." This Christmas will mark the third year that a group from Adat Shalom has served the Christmas meal at the shelter.
Another local charity that benefits from Jewish volunteers around Christmas is Stepping Stones Shelter in Rockville. Temple Emanuel in Kensington has "adopted" the shelter as a main recipient of their charitable giving, and Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac also volunteers regularly with the shelter. This year, congregant Marjorie Klein coordinated a group of volunteers from the congregation who wrapped gifts at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore to raise funds for Stepping Stones.
"You're not tied up doing a bunch of holiday preparations — there's no tree, no house decorations," Klein said. Har Shalom congregants who are looking for ways to give back will often volunteer on Christmas because it's a time where their schedule may be free and when they know others are in need, Klein said.
However, Klein added that shelters such as Stepping Stones need year-round support. "It's very sad that someone should be in a homeless situation at any time of the year, not just at Christmas," she said.
Copyright © 2009 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net
The Gazette | 9030 Comprint Court | Gaithersburg, MD 20877 | main number: 301-670-2565, classifieds: 301-670-2500
BRIDGEWATER: Muslim charity looks to raise $50G in fight vs. hunger
BRIDGEWATER —Comedian Azhar Usman will perform today at Matawan Regional High School, 450 Atlantic Ave., for a Muslims Against Hunger benefit. The Bridgewater-based charity expects to raise $50,000 to continue existing projects and launch new ones, said Zamir Hassan, its founding coordinator. The event also aims to promote a better understanding between the Islamic community and the community-at-large, Hassan said.
"Azhar is very popular with Muslim youth and is able to communicate with the old and new generation the message of intergrating with the greater community," he said. "He has been going around the country after 9/11, participating in interfaith dialogue sessions to show that Muslims are people just like you and me, although they may have a different physical look or attire."About half of of the money raised will fund Muslims Against Hunger's In Our Backyard Campaign, which serves 6,000 meals annually in soup kitchens in Morristown, Hackensack and New York's Long Island. Each meal costs the group $5.74, Hassan said.
The program will use $5,000 to continue its Hunger Awareness Week School Program, which launched Feb. 18 at Darul Arqam School, a Muslim school in South River. Students baked cookies for and served at the Morristown Soup Kitchen. They also gathered clothes for the homeless and wrote essays or drew pictures based on their charitable experience.
"We have had conversations with schools in Trenton, Teaneck and Westbury, New York," Hassan said. "We just need to get some funding to support these activities."
New programming will include a Hunger Van, a meals-on-wheels type of program that will cost $10,000 to launch, Hassan said.
If enough money is raised, the charity will donate proceeds to poverty programs that are threatened with closing, he said.
"The mission of Muslims Against Hunger is to raise awareness of the poverty and homelessness in our backyard among Muslims and the community-at-large," Hassan said. "Our projects not only help to feed the hungry but also are creating a dialogue to get a diverse group of individuals together to work for a common cause. In doing so, we begin to learn from and grow in our understanding of one another."
Usman is in agreement with Muslims Against Hunger's cause to feed the hungry and foster understanding, Hassan said.
A Chicago-based attorney and community activist of Indian origin, Usman turned to comedy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, organizing the Allah Made Me Funny tour. The ongoing interfaith trek pits him with rabbis and pastors. His solo performance begins at 8 p.m., following dinner at 6. Tickets are $20, $60 per family and $100 for V.I.P. seats, which are in the first four rows. For more information, go to www.muslimsagainsthunger.org or email@example.com.
Muslims Against Hunger launches nationwide school program Monday, Feb 18th, 2008
Muslims help battle hunger
Darul Arqam School students make cookies for the Muslims Against Hunger School Program on Wednesday.
Muslim students learn to help
VIDEO: Muslim kids battle hunger
by Jennifer Merkel
Children at Darul Arqam School in South River bake and wrap chocolate chip cookies for the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown
Bergen Record, Sunday January 6, 2008
TheMORRISTOWN GREEN -- ON THE TOWN
The Islamic holiday spirit
Thursday December 20, 2007, 2:21 PM
You don't have to be Christian to have the holiday spirit this time of year.
Twenty volunteers from the Muslims Against Hunger Project fed 190 people Thursday at the Morristown Community Soup Kitchen. The volunteers were celebrating Eid-ul-Adha, a three-day Muslim holiday that commemorates the sacrifice of Ibrahim (Abraham).
Afsheen Shamsi of CAIR-NJ, Sandra Jones, coordinator of the Morristown Community Soup Kitchen, and Zamir Hassan of the Muslims Against Hunger Project, at the soup kitchen.
Feeding the poor on special occasions is an Islamic tradition, said Zamir Hassan, who is a trustee of the soup kitchen. The Bedminster resident said the Muslims Against Hunger Project also tries to counter the backlash from 9/11.
"One of the reasons we are doing this is to educate people that Muslims are people like me and you. We go to mosque like everyone goes to church and synagogues. . . People just don't know who we are. This is one way to let people know who we are," said Hassan, who is a computer systems integrator.
The event had a festive feel, with balloons and green table cloths. The tandoori chicken and rice palau were big hits. Hassan said Thursday's lunch crowd was larger than usual because bad weather has put many day laborers out of work lately. Also, seniors on fixed incomes are running low on cash as the month wears down.
Courier News -- c-n.com
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
Daily Record of Morristown
December 6, 2007
Feed the homeless 12/20 in Morristown
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Dec 20 – Celebrate Eid-ul-Adha and remember the Ultimate Sacrifice of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) by Serving Homeless & Hungry at the Morristown Community Soup Kitchen
"Muslims Against Hunger" Project is organizing a special “Muslims Serve Day” to remember the ultimate sacrifice of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) and celebrate Eid-ul-Adha. It is an Islamic tradition to feed the poor and needy on any kind of memorable occasion in our life.
The volunteers will prepare and help serve 200 plus hot lunches to working poor, homeless, and hungry at the Interfaith Community Soup Kitchen located on 36 South St
in downtown Morristown, New Jersey. Please Volunteer WHERE: Morristown Interfaith Community Soup Kitchen 36 South St in Morristown, New Jersey 07960
WHEN: Thursday, December 20th TIME: 10am-1:30pm Full work shift (option to work partial shifts i.e. 10am 11:30 or 11:15 to 12:30 or 12:30 to 1:30) Contact: Zamir Hassan firstname.lastname@example.org)by Monday morning Dec 17th for a time slot.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
1. Volunteer Your Time We need 20 volunteers to work between 10:00am to 1:30pm to help us set up, prepare food, serve, and cleanup. If one can't work for full 10:00 to 1:30pm shift, they can register to work for 10:00am to 11:30am period or 11:15am to 12:30pm or 12:30 to 1:30pm time slot.
2. Donate to Buy Food: Sponsor cost of the meals we serve on the Muslims serve day, you can sponsor meals at $5.30 per meal.
3. Tell others who may want to participate with us and help Muslims Against Hunger project gives Muslims an opportunity to participate in the "Act of Righteousness" and show the greater community true and compassionate face of the Muslim Community living in this area.
To help this project and more information please contact:
Zamir Hassan Vice President & Trustee Community Soup Kitchen
and National Coordinator, Muslims Against Hunger Project
New12 NJ, Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Muslim community honors 9/11 victims at the Soup kitchen
New12 NJ, Tuesday, September 4
(09/04/07) MORRISTOWN- Members of the Muslim community used their religious tradition Tuesday to pay homage to the victims of 9/11 and their families.
Members of the Muslims Against Hunger Project say it is a tradition to feed the poor on any kind of occasion, happy or sad. The group served food to homeless individuals to remember and honor victims of 9/11.
Those who volunteered say helping others often goes beyond a religious experience for them. They say they like to volunteer to help out those who are less fortunate.
Muslims Against Hunger Project
The poor and sickeningly rich living side by side is a fascinating paradox
By Farrah Mohsin
Sept 18 to 24, 2008
Generation Next, Magazine section of Pakistn Post USA
Te complete article can be viewed at:
Fasting Muslims to feed the hungry
The complete article can be viewed at:
Home News Tribune/Courier News/MyCentralJersey.com/CommunityReporter
STAFF REPORT • August 29, 2008
NEW BRUNSWICK —While fasting during Ramadan, volunteers of Muslims Against Hunger Project will serve on Sept. 12 at Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen, 18 Neilson St.
The charitable marks the launch of the Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean County chapter of the Bridgewater-based organization.
"Ramadan provides us an opportunity to practice the generosity of Islam and to educate our friends and neighbors about Islam and Muslims,'' said Zamir Hussan, founding director of Muslims Against Hunger.
"Muslims in Ramadan are commanded to abstain from food and remember people who are less fortunate and are unable to eat a proper meal. Those who are temporarily unable to fast must make up the missed days by feeding the needy and poor for each day that was missed.
'' Volunteers are needed for three shifts from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Community service certificates for up to four hours will be available upon request.
For more information, call 908-364-4441, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.muslimsagainsthunger.org. Meals cost $5.74 each.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to "Al-Hilal Hunger and Homeless Shelter Fund" at P.O. Box 12, Pluckemin NJ 07978
Muslim volunteers help fight hunger on Long Island
The complete article can be viewed at:
BY RHODA AMON | firstname.lastname@example.org
August 3, 2008
It was Muslim Serve Day at the Mary Brennan soup kitchen in Hempstead.
Wearing a bright smile beneath her white head scarf, volunteer Homa Khowaja, a recent graduate of Stony Brook University, was popping delicate cherry tomatoes and carrot pieces into 400 cups of salad.
Nearby Zamir Hassan, a computer consultant, was tasting the rice cooking in huge cauldrons. Fragrant trays of tandoori chicken, prepared in volunteers' homes, stood waiting to be served to 400 expected guests. The pace quickened to a feverish pitch as the hour for the guests' arrival approached.
Khowaja, 22, of Massapequa, and Hassan, 58, and about 25 other volunteers were wearing name tags that identified them as Muslims Against Hunger, an organization founded by Hassan in 2002.
Hassan was inspired, he said, when he worked with his son on a school project in a Morristown, soup kitchen and discovered that the New Jersey community, one of the wealthiest in the country, had hidden poverty and hunger.
Through the volunteers the New Jersey resident also learned that there are as many as 259,000 hungry on Long Island, where there is a large Muslim population from which he could recruit volunteers.
The group, which also serves at New Jersey soup kitchens, sponsored its first Long Island charity lunch at the Mary Brennan soup kitchen last fall and has returned four times. Hassan now hopes to expand the charity mission to Suffolk County.
Why they do it
Charity, Hassan noted, is "the third pillar of Islam." The group's Web site, muslims againsthunger.org, offers volunteers "an opportunity to support and participate in the 'Act of Righteousness'" and to "show the greater community the true and compassionate face of the Muslim and Islam." The Prophet Muhammad directed his followers to "Help the weak among you, Help your neighbor, if he seeks your help, Feed him if he is hungry."
Hassan had little difficulty recruiting Long Island volunteers, who range from teenage students (16 is the youngest allowed) to retirees in their 60s. Part of his aim, he said, is to "teach Muslim young people about the problems of hunger, poverty and homelessness in our own neighborhoods."
Khowaja, a psychology graduate, is on her fourth soup-kitchen project. "I love it - it's a great community service," she said. She and other young women in head scarves were enjoying each other's company as they filled the salad cups.
The Interfaith Nutrition Network, which runs soup kitchens across Long Island, welcomes such sponsorship, said communications director Cynthia Sucich. The help is particularly needed when schools are closed and children don't get the school lunches that families depend on.
"The summer months are especially challenging," she said.
The nutrition group depends on 2,000 volunteers who regularly help prepare and serve the meals in the 19 soup kitchens, Sucich said. In addition, a number of corporate, church or senior groups come for a day. Some, like the Muslim group, bring in the food, while others come as volunteers to help with the chores. "We need more groups," she said.
Some companies make it a festive day with T-shirts and hats, Sucich said. "The employees are all enthusiastic and have a great time." They free up the regular volunteers, like Lesley Thomas, 65, of Hempstead, to sort groceries and clothing and do other chores that they normally wouldn't have time for.
A sense of community
Hassan agrees that joy should be part of the occasion. "Come to the soup kitchen prepared to have a good time. The volunteers who have fun together help the guests the most," reads the first lines in his serving instruction sheets. "Most of our guests appreciate your service and will tell you so."
Volunteers are assigned to different shifts, depending on their work or school schedule. Some can come only for the morning hours or at lunchtime. But some come for the whole thing, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., when they are there for the cleanup.
The menu today is unusually gourmet, featuring the tandoori chicken, a savory recipe from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. Then there's the basmati rice pilaf, which, Hassan said, is "a recipe from mom."
That is another rule, according to Hassan. "You must share your own food. We feed the poor what we feed our friends. The clients are our guests."
Another bonus for Mary Brennan clients is "they don't have to stand on line today," said Robert J. Pape Jr., director of fundraising for Interfaith Nutrition Network. The additional volunteers will serve the guests at the tables instead of buffet-style.
The Muslim group will be back at the Brennan soup kitchen on Sept. 8. Groups or individual volunteers can contact the INN at 516-486-8506, ext. 115; the-inn.org.
Rescue Project to Save Poverty Support Programs from closing
"Muslims Against Hunger Project" has joined Our Place inc. the Homeless shelter's board of trustees and created a re-organization plan to help save the shelter from closing. We have also pledged to raise rent ($1800 per month) from the Muslim community as part of the re-org plan. We have received some funds for rent from UCDC -- Teaneck area Muslim community and donation for rent from Somerville masjid area Muslim community, Asim Qamar and his friends. We also have received pledges from CUII, Ghani Khan and his friends in the Monmouth and Ocean county area Muslims community. We still need sponsors to cover the 12 months rent. Please help us meet the pledge we made to the Homeless Shelter from Muslims community or tell your friends and family who may want to help this cause. Please see the front page story in THE RECORD and Star-Ledger publish on June 20th, 2008.
Troubled homeless shelter regroups
by George! The Start-Ledger MORRISTOWN GREEN
Friday June 20, 2008, 10:34 AM
Our Place, a homeless shelter in the basement of Morristown's First Baptist Church, has fallen on hard times. But the organization has scraped together enough resources to continue through October, reports The Daily Record. In November, several church leaders said they cut off funding to the center and stopped sending potential clients there because they were hearing complaints from people seeking help from the organization and volunteers associated with it. . . Officials stressed the need for more people to join the board, serve as volunteers and give donations, and more importantly, direction. . . Plans include naming a volunteer executive director, launching a fund drive and recruiting volunteers from area colleges, the paper reports. please click to see the article http://www.nj.com/morristown/index.ssf/2008/06/troubled_homeless_shelter_regr.html
Morristown homeless center still open to serve
Agency reorganizes, raises funds for rent after director resigns
By Minhaj Hassan • Daily Record • June 20, 2008
MORRISTOWN -- Our Place, the daytime center for homeless individuals housed in the basement of First Baptist Church on Washington Avenue, has been reorganized and has money enough to keep going through October.
"It gives us a little breathing room," Zamir Hassan, vice president of the board of trustees, said of having enough to cover the $1,800 monthly rent. Raising enough money to cover five months' worth of rent was one of the goals set out in a reorganization plan adopted by the group last month.
In November, several church leaders said they cut off funding to the center and stopped sending potential clients there because they were hearing complaints from people seeking help from the organization and volunteers associated with it. Since then, Executive Director Linda Ripley stepped down for medical reasons, and the center has been going through a reorganization.
An open house took place at the center Thursday as an outreach to the community. About 15 church officials, county employees and volunteers were among those present. Officials stressed the need for more people to join the board, serve as volunteers and give donations, and more importantly, direction.
To meet those goals, center officials hope to appoint a volunteer executive director, start a fundraising drive and review policies.
One of the ways it hopes to recruit volunteers is by reaching out to the colleges in Morris County; Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, the County College of Morris and College of St. Elizabeth.
On May 20, a new Web site for Our Place was completed. It can be accessed by logging on to www.ourplacemorristown.org. Treasurer Michele Smith DeBlasi said the organization has about $3,000 to $4,000 on hand. Given the recent downturn in the economy and escalating food prices, donations are needed more than ever, she said. "The funding is getting low," she said. "The economy isn't what it once used to be." They said they barely have enough to pay their one employee, Miro Slaw, a former client who now serves as the operations manager of Our Place.
Tim Tansey with the Morris County Department of Community Development said the center is more than welcome to apply for grants for specific purposes regarding the operation of the place. "It is a wonderful place, and they are filling a need," Tansey said.
Since its inception 13 years ago, Our Place has served thousands of clients. This year alone, between January and May, the center served 6,187 clients, of which 109 were new, officials said.
Center volunteers said Our Place serves as a safe place for the homeless to connect with various social services for housing, job placement and public assistance among others things. The center also serves as a mailing address for individuals, as well as a locale for them to make phone calls and receive messages, and obtain hygiene kits.
Hassan said there are also plans in place to have computers with Internet access to enable job searches. Assumption Church had provided funds to Our Place in the past but it was not clear whether it would do so in the future. Monsignor Martin Rauscher was out of town Thursday and did not attend the open house. Church Deacon Mike Hanly, who said he was attending the open house as an independent observer and not as a church representative, said that "it looks like they're moving in the right direction and have a clear set of goals."
Board President James Oppenheimer said he can't overestimate the importance of the center. "It is a true family atmosphere," he said. "When I was homeless, this was my home."
Minhaj Hassan can be reached at (973) 267-9038 or email@example.com.
Please click here to see the article http://dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? ID=/20080620/COMMUNITIES32/806200341/1203
Muslims are people like me and you, Muslims feed homeless in Hackensack
Sunday, January 6, 2008
BY STEPHANIE AKIN, STAFF WRITER
Everyone ate halal Saturday at a local soup kitchen. Serving the carefully selected menu, prepared in conformance with Islamic law, signified an important step for the group Muslims Against Hunger, which was volunteering for the first time at the Bergen County Community Action Partnership's Drop-in Center in Hackensack.
"We hope this will show that Muslims are people like me and you," said organizer Zamir Hassan. "Some people go to church and synagogues. We go to mosques. People do soup kitchens, we do soup kitchens."
Charity is a pillar of Islam, but for a variety of reasons, Hassan said, local Islamic groups are just starting to participate in activities like this.
To them, doing this kind of work offers several opportunities: It provides a chance to dispel negative stereotypes; strengthen ties within the Islamic community, and get a sense of the poverty that is often hidden in Bergen County, one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.
Many of the Muslims who participated Saturday said such organized volunteer efforts had been difficult until recently.
For decades, efforts to develop mosques diverted time and energy from outside volunteer work, Hassan said. Also, immigrants arriving from Middle Eastern countries often did not know where to go to help the poor.
"In those countries, you know where the poor live, you knock on the door and give them food," Hassan said. "Here, there are soup kitchens."
Hassan organized a Muslim volunteer group for a Morristown soup kitchen after a visit with his son's school group in 2000. He said he was shocked by the poverty he rarely saw in his daily life. The trip reminded him, he said, of his mother bringing food to their poorer neighbors in Karachi, Pakistan, a tradition he realized his community had lost.
Troubled by a September story in The Record that said there wasn't a single Islamic group in the Bergen County Inter-religious Fellowship for the Homeless -- a coalition of about 250 congregations -- Hassan said he decided to train Muslim volunteers to work in soup kitchens throughout the region. Saturday was Muslims Against Hunger's first "Muslims Serving Day."
Volunteers serving the catered menu of tandoori chicken, vegetables spiced with curry and turmeric, and a honey-soaked Turkish cake said working at the soup kitchen was significant.
"It's a good step forward," said Daanish Khan of Emerson, a 20-year-old junior at Rutgers University. "It's a good way to get into the community and make a positive change."
A volunteer from the older generation, Mohammad Ali, who came to Teaneck from India 15 years ago, described the event as "damage control" in the wake of Sept. 11.
"For a long time, we've been invested in interfaith dialogue," he said. "Now, this practical work is going on."
Many of the almost 100 diners lined up for seconds, remarking on how tasty the food was.
"I told them to praise Allah for me in their prayers," said Patrick O'Shane of Meridian, Iowa, who said he had been in North Jersey for about a week. "That's one way of saying thank you."
Muslims Against Hunger to volunteer Saturday in North Jersey
Bridgewater-based Muslims Against Hunger will launch its "Fight Against Hunger in Our Backyard" campaign from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Interreligious Fellowship for the Homeless at Bergen County Community Action Partnership's Drop-in Center, 67 Orchard St., Hackensack
More than 20 volunteers from the organization will welcome the New Year by serving hot dinners to the working poor and homeless at the Hackensack soup kitchen.
"It is an important time in northern New Jersey that Muslims volunteers have joined hands together for a local charity project, it is an Islamic tradition to feed the poor and needy on any kind of memorable occasion in our life", said Zamir Hassan, national coordinator of Muslims Against Hunger. "This time of the year, the dinner crowd in soup kitchens is larger than usual because bad weather has put many day laborers out of work. Also, seniors on fixed incomes are running low on cash as the month wears down.
"Serving at the soup kitchen gives Muslim community in northern New Jersey an opportunity to participate in the 'Act of Righteousness' and show the greater community true and compassionate face of the Muslims living in this area," Hassan added. "Muslims Against Hunger Project is a grass-root efforts to educate the Muslim community and the greater community about the problems of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in our backyard. We all need to get involved in local programs like this, as we know charity starts from home."
For more information, contact Hassan at (908) 364-4441, e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.muslimsagainsthungerusa.org.
NJ Star Ledger
on-line Blog Posted by Anisa Mehdi
December 23, 2007 12:23PM
Muslims Against Hunger
Last Thursday I tore myself away from my desk - the piles of notes and contracts for a film festival I'm producing, the rewrites of a short film series already overdue, the fundraising letter for a major documentary project - and did something REAL. I volunteered in a soup kitchen.
With a dozen other Muslims I donned an apron denoting "Muslims Against Hunger," and helped out at the Community Soup Kitchen of Morristown. This soup kitchen is an ecumenical effort supported and run by funding and volunteers from 34 Christian and Jewish congregations, local and corporate from the greater Morristown area, and a smattering of Muslims led by Zamir Hassan, who was elected Vice President and Trustee of the Community Soup Kitchen in 2006. Mr. Hassan is coordinator of the Muslims Against Hunger Project (www.muslimsagainsthungerusa.org) and has succeeded in making New Jersey Muslims a regular presence in this important social service.
Muslims Against Hunger was serving hot lunches to working poor and homeless last September on a special "Muslims Serve Day" - honoring the victims and families of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. They were serving through the month of Ramadan, when helping to feed the hungry enhances the blessing of the fast.
I chose this particular opportunity to help out because it was Eid el Adha, the "Feast of the Sacrifice." While Eid el Fitr, the celebration at the end of the month of Ramadan is becoming known in America, Eid al Adha goes largely unnoticed by the general public. Eid al Adha celebrates the end of the Hajj or Mecca pilgrimage that Muslims are supposed to make once in a lifetime if they are financially or physically able.
The "sacrifice" in the title of the holiday comes from the Biblical story of Abraham who was asked to show his loyalty to his Lord by offering his son in sacrifice. At the last moment a ram was presented for Abraham to kill and his son was spared. This redemption is a central celebration of the Muslim pilgrimage, and this year it occurred last week, conveniently nestled between Hanukah and Christmas.
So alongside Raheel, Salwa, Isa and Daoud, I set tables to accommodate 200 guests. We poured scores of glasses of milk. Sliced tens of loaves of bread. And finally, the best part, served hot tandoori chicken (from the Taj Restaurant in Edison), scented rice, corn, salad and dessert to lots and lots and lots of people. The line wrapped around the large fellowship hall annex of Morristown's Church of the Redeemer.
It took no time to discover that many of the guests responded happily to hearing "Buenos dias" and "Feliz Navidad." Two guests greeted us with "Salaam 'alaykum," the Muslim "hello" that translates as "peace be with you." Men and women welcomed their lunch with dignity and smiles. Men and women served them lunch with humility and gladness.
For all the important things I think I do as a film producer and consultant on inter-cultural and inter-faith matters, it all comes down to participating with others in goodness. As Muslims, indeed as humanists, we are mandated to compete in doing good for one another. Giving a day of my time was no sacrifice at all.
About the Author
Anisa Mehdi is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, media consultant and independent film producer. She directed "Inside Mecca" for National Geographic Television, executive produced "Muslims" for PBS Frontline, writes commentary for National Public Radio, and teaches at Seton Hall University. Anisa is an interfaith activist and plays the flute for fun. Mehdi writes about NJ Muslims in politics, culture, international affairs and interreligious engagement.
Giving Islam a human face
Saturday, September 9, 2006,
By JOHN CHADWICK
It was in many ways a typical day at a New Jersey soup kitchen.
Members of a suburban religious congregation arrived one morning last month in cars and SUVs, entered the church hall through the back door as if they were humble kitchen help and set to work preparing lunch for dozens of poor, hungry people. Except that these volunteers weren't the usual Catholics, Protestants or Jews.
They were Muslims, the first Islamic group to join the rotation of interfaith volunteers at the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown.
And it wasn't typical soup-kitchen fare either. The volunteers from mosques in three New Jersey counties served the South Asian staples of tandoori chicken and basmati rice to a crowd of immigrant day laborers, recovering addicts and destitute seniors.
They said they had come to fulfill Islam's injunction to help the poor.
But their presence also signaled a new priority for America's close-knit and frequently insular Muslim community: showing a humane, caring side of Islam to a public that, since 9/11, is increasingly likely to view Muslims as potential terrorists.
"People need to see Muslim faces working with the community at large," said Ali Chaudry, a longtime Muslim community leader who helped recruit some of the volunteers. "In order for us to be successful with the American public, we should be involved in regular, ordinary roles that every American should be in, like going out and helping our neighbors."
Five years after Islamic radicals murdered more than 2,000 people at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, U.S. Muslims said they're struggling with an immense image problem.
A national poll conducted July 28-30 reported that 34 percent of Americans believe U.S. Muslims back al-Qaida. And, nearly 40 percent surveyed in the USA Today/Gallup Poll said they favored requiring Muslims -- even those with U.S. citizenship -- to carry special identification.
Meanwhile, a pervasive anti-Islam campaign is thriving on the Internet, in think tanks and in some conservative evangelical Protestant ministries.
"America has its own 'Islamic fascists' right here at home," columnist Paul Sperry wrote last month in the online political journal Frontpagemag.com, quoting a phrase sometimes used by President Bush. "Once they amass the numbers, they secretly plan to nullify our Bill of Rights and religious freedoms and create their own Muslim state ruled by Islamic law. They've got a 100-year plan, but they're already making inroads."
Such statements were rarely expressed publicly before 9/11, Muslim-American leaders say. Now they're commonplace.
"There has been a hardening of feelings toward Islam in a significant minority of America," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations. "The polling consistently shows between one in five and one in four Americans have hostility -- and that's disturbing."
Fears for the future
In northern New Jersey, home to one of the largest Islamic populations in the nation, Muslims say they rarely encounter open hostility from their fellow citizens. And, they say that American Muslims are more educated, affluent and patriotic -- and far less susceptible to radicalism -- than Europe's alienated Muslim enclaves.
Yet even those who've lived in New Jersey for decades express new fears about the future. Some worry that their children are growing up feeling defensive about their faith. Others say the Muslim community is becoming politically isolated.
"After 9/11, there's a feeling that some of our political representatives are shying away from us," said Mahmoud Hamza of Ridgewood. "Their message seems to be, 'If you don't agree with us, you are not one of us.' "
Chaudry, who several years ago served as the first foreign-born Muslim mayor in the state, said he's taken aback by how frequently people ask him why Muslims don't condemn terrorism.
"It's the question that won't go away," said Chaudry, a former mayor of Bernards Township in Somerset County. "I wish I had the money to print all the condemnations that have been issued and distribute it to every household in America."
But others say that condemnations won't necessarily change minds.
A Clifton lawyer said Muslims remain under a microscope, in part because they hold positions on the Mideast -- especially on the Israel-Palestinian conflict -- diametrically opposed to American foreign policy.
"Because we constitute a dissent on this policy, we are perceived as aiding and abetting the enemy," Abed Awad said. "And even though we feel we're acting in America's best interests, our patriotism gets questioned."
Meetings with Jews
But for all its fervent focus on the Mideast, the mosque also is moving in a community-oriented direction similar to that of the Muslims who volunteer at the soup kitchen. The Islamic center has hired a full-time outreach director who has participated in a series of face-to-face discussions with several rabbis and other Jews about subjects other than the Mideast.
"The No. 1 principle is that we're all in this boat together," Mohamed El Filali said. "We all have common hopes when it comes to health, education and poverty. If we don't put our hands together, then we can't achieve our goals."
The mosque also recently joined a Paterson coalition of social service agencies. And last month it signed on to an anti-gang task force set up by state Sen. John A. Girgenti, D-Hawthorne.
Such outreach efforts are relatively new in the Muslim community, which has been traditionally preoccupied with settling immigrants and building mosques. In Bergen County, for example, there isn't a single Islamic group represented at the Inter-religious Fellowship for the Homeless -- a coalition of about 250 congregations.
Yet for those volunteering at the soup kitchen last month, the experience was more than just public relations. Standing behind tables crammed with food, they saw themselves as nurturing a distinctly American brand of Islam.
"In the Muslim world, there's a tradition that when a child is born or someone gets married, you go out and literally feed the poor," said Zamir Hassan, who organized the effort in Morristown. "But coming into this country, we became lost in the whole new culture and stopped practicing this tradition.
"Now people ask, 'How can we combat this negative image?' And my response is we start practicing who we really are."
12/07/02 - Posted 12:56:30 AM from the Daily Record newsroom
Muslim Youths Remember 911 by Serving at the Soup Kitchen
Fifteen Muslim youth age 10 to 16 with 5 adults on Sept 3rd joined the “Muslims Against Hunger Project” to help feed homeless, hungry and working poor. This was a special Muslim community event to remember 911 and honor the 911 victims and their families.
They came from Somerville Bridgewater, Hillsboro, Boonton, Piscataway, and Allentown in Pennsylvania . Raheel Siddiq from Bernards took charge to prepare salad with the help of her teen aged daughter Yusra, 15 and Emma,13 from Hillsboro. Akbar Mirza who came all the way from Allentown Pennsylvania got busy in opening the soup cans with the help of 10 and 15 year old Athar brothers drove in by their Aunt Shazia Sattar from Hillsboro. Aysha Hassan a young high school teacher with the help of her 15 year old brother Ali Hassan started cutting serve size cake pieces and setting up on 125 plates. While 25 years old Zulfi took a day off from work and joined the group in washing 200 pieces of oranges and bananas for distribution to the soup kitchen guests. A couple of volunteers ran down to the nearby Khan Hallal Market and brought 400 pieces of tandoori chicken and rice pilaf.
Around 11:30am all the food is ready to be served, Zamir Hassan the team Capitan asks every one to come out of the kitchen and sit in a circle in the dinning room. He talks to the volunteers and says “It’s Islamic tradition to feed the poor and the needy in any event of our life, today, we are here to remember 911 in the Islamic tradition, The need is there, you can see out side the window there are more than 100 men women and children lined up to get into the dinning hall, they are homeless, hungry and working poor, let us go behind the serving table and take charge of one of the serving station”. Ali Chaudry former Mayor from Baskin Ridge, Dr Amant, Wahid and Shazia Sattar offered prayers for the 911 victims and their families, all volunteers and soup kitchen worker joined in the prayers.
The door opens at 11:45am and food serving starts. The dinning hall is packed with 120 people. Betty calls the attention of the soup kitchen guests and announces “today’s lunch is being served by the Muslims to remember 911” the dinning hall fills up with a round of applause.
Its 1:00pm, all the volunteers are invited to have lunch with the left over from today’s serving. Aysha Hassan wants to come back again, and wants every one to do this more often, Thakur cousins from Bontoon were very happy to come and want to come back. Now its time to clean up all the volunteers get busy cleaning up the tables, floors and kitchen.
Zamir Hassan, left, coordinator of the food drive at the Muslim Center of Somerset County, and Imam Shahid prepare gift bags to be distributed at the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown. During the four weeks of Ramadan, the congregation collected food and gift items for the soup kitchen. The congregation plans to become a permanent supporter of the charity group. Bob Karp / Daily Record
Islamic group feeds hungry
Congregation donates 400 pounds of food, gifts to Morris kitchen
By Pamela Isaacson, Daily Record
MORRISTOWN -- Instead of spending time with his congregation after a service to mark the end of Ramadan Friday morning, congregation leader Imam Shahid hurried to Morristown to distribute food and gifts to the needy.
"We want to be a permanent supporter of the soup kitchen," said Shahid, leader at the Muslim Center of Somerset County.
Friday marked not only the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and the beginning of the three-day holiday Eid ul-Fitr, but also the culmination of a month of collecting food and gifts for the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown.
Congregation member and food drive organizer Zamir Hassan learned about the Community Soup Kitchen from his son, who attends Unity Charter School in Morristown. Students are working on a project for May 2003 to raise money and to prepare and serve a meal to the soup kitchen's hungry.
"I came here for a meeting and I was so impressed," Hassan said. "I went back to the congregation and said, 'I want to do something.'" The congregation responded.
In just four weeks -- the length of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar -- congregants donated 400 pounds of food and filled 160 bags with toiletries, gloves, goodies and socks.
"If you don't fast, you're supposed to feed the needy," Hassan said. "Our religion requires a lot of this."
Charity is the third pillar of Islam, which commands Muslims give 2.5 percent of their income to those in need.
"It's not just that you send a check," Hassan said. "You have to come and physically do it. It's more rewarding."
The items were donated in the name of Samina Azam, a congregation member and teacher at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, who was killed last month, along with her husband, Jaffar Azam, in a fiery five-vehicle crash on Route 287. Azam had gotten her English as a Second Language students involved in the food drive.
Hassan said he was touched by the work done at the Community Soup Kitchen, which typically feeds lunch to between 150-160 people each day. Teresa Connolly, director of the soup kitchen, said the average lunch crowd was 70 people a day five years ago. Now the number has more than doubled.
She said about 70 percent are working poor.
"They are working full-time or recently laid off," Connolly said. "Housing is so expensive in Morris County that anybody working and earning minimum wage can't make ends meet."
Most of the people who have lunch at the soup kitchen have a place to live, Connolly said. But most of them come for lunch and take home canned goods or a sandwich to feed their children or themselves for a few days.
The Community Soup Kitchen doesn't receive government funding. It's supported almost entirely by individuals and corporate donations.
More than 2,000 volunteers in 33 interfaith congregations rotate preparing and serving meals once a month.
Hassan said he and his congregation want to continue their work with the soup kitchen.
"We're doing this also to educate the Muslim community and the greater community," Hassan said. "Whatever else is needed to become part of this family, we want to do that."
Pamela Isaacson can be reached at (973) 428-6637.
Islamic groups share their bounty
Thursday, August 24, 2006
BY MAURA McDERMOTT
No one goes hungry in the United States.
That's what Shahid Mohammed believed in his native India, where evidence of poverty was all around him.
"Our image is: America is a rich country, there must not be any poor people, there must not be any needy people," the 31-year-old said recently.
Even moving to Somerville six years ago -- to become spiritual leader at the Muslim Center of Somerset County -- did little to dispel that notion. Obvious signs of poverty are scarce in Somerville, he said.
But Mohammed's eyes were opened about three years ago, when he first volunteered at the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown, which serves as many as 200 clients daily.
Mohammed, who is married with a 2-year-old son, soon began urging his congregation to join him.
Now the Somerville mosque is one of four Islamic groups -- along with mosques in Piscataway and Boonton and an educational group in Bernardsville called the Center for Understanding Islam -- to serve lunch regularly in Morristown. Known collectively as Muslims Against Hunger, the volunteers prepare and serve food every other month.
On a recent morning, about 18 volunteers brought 250 pieces of tandoori chicken donated by Khan Market in Parsippany, along with chicken soup, 40 pounds of clove- scented basmati rice and two kinds of cake.
"It's a Muslim tradition," said Zamir Hassan, who started volunteering at the soup kitchen six years ago and joined the organization's board in January. "A child is born, you know what you do? Go feed the hungry, feed the poor. If someone gets married, you go and feed the poor. If someone dies, be fore the funeral and after the fu neral, you feed the poor."
Shazia Sattar keeps a busy schedule running four day care centers. But the Hillsborough woman took time off on a recent Thursday to make a large salad and to serve food in the spacious, sunlight-filled cafeteria, along with her 13-year-old daughter Illaha.
"It's a lovely thing," Sattar said. "It makes you feel good, especially when you're so busy with getting things for yourself. You need to offer yourself for the community, for good causes."
Ali Chaudry, a committeeman and former mayor of Bernards Township, said he hopes the interactions between volunteers and clients might help people understand that Islam is not an extremist religion.
"People need to see us firsthand, face to face, and working in the areas where there's the most need," Chaudry said. "This is one way to show we are part of the larger community. We are concerned about the same issues as everybody else, we are concerned about our neighbors."
The Muslim volunteers "are just very enthusiastic, very committed to the community -- you can tell this is really part of their mission," said Bridget Rivera, the soup kitchen's assistant director.
Since the organization's other member congregations are Christian churches and Jewish temples, the Islamic groups attracted a few curious stares when they first started volunteering, said Teresa Connolly, director of the soup kitchen.
The lunch guests "would kind of question, who are you and where are you from?" Connolly said.
But none of the attention was negative, she added.
"I remember a couple of people coming up to me and coming up to Bridget, and saying, 'It's really nice that they're here,'" Connolly recalled.
Plus, she added with a laugh, "The food's really good."
Maura McDermott covers Morristown.
She may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 539-7910.
© 2006 The Star Ledger
© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.
Muslim charity drive marks end of Ramadan
By CRISSA SHOEMAKER Staff Writer Published in the Courier News on December 1, 2002
SOMERVILLE -- Children's laughter and the crinkle of paper gift bags filled the Muslim Center of Somerset County on Saturday as members prepared food and gifts for the needy and marked the end of a Ramadan charity drive. Several dozen children, ranging in age from 4 to 13, prepared 150 gift bags for clients at the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown. Inside were toiletries, cookies, candy, socks, gloves and a handmade card. The bags will be distributed Friday, the last day of the holy month of Ramadan.
"In Ramadan, we are supposed to fast," said Zamir Hassan, a member of the Muslim Center. "If you cannot fast -- if you are sick or traveling -- as an alternative, you feed the poor." In addition to the gift bags, the center collected canned goods and other nonperishable food items, which will be sent to the soup kitchen on Tuesday. "That's what the holiday is all about," said 10-year-old Ebaad Malick of Raritan Township. The cards in the gift bags explain Ramadan, the holiest time of the Muslim calendar, in which participants fast from daybreak to sundown. Muslims feast on the last day of Ramadan.
The gift bags will be distributed to everyone, regardless of their faith. "There's no Muslim hunger," Hassan said. "When you're hungry, you're hungry." Despite a festive mood, however, not far from their minds was the loss of two of the center's members, Samina and Jaffar Azam, killed more than a week ago in a fiery crash on Interstate 287. Since the drive began on Nov. 6, the first day of the holy month, the center has delivered about 150 pounds of food to the Community Soup Kitchen.
More food is piled in the corner at the center on Southside Avenue, and another 50 to 100 pounds is waiting to be transported from Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg.
Mrs. Azam taught English as a Second Language at the college, and organized the food drive there. She also convinced Wegmans Food Markets to donate food items, Hassan said. Mrs. Azam taught the store's non-English-speaking students. "On this holiday, we're supposed to do righteous things and help whoever we can," said Ammar Athar, 11, of Somerville. "This is something we organized to help the needy people."
Crissa Shoemaker can be reached at (908) 231-9665 or firstname.lastname@example.org What you can do: The food drive ends Tuesday. To donate, items can be dropped off at the Muslim Center, 63 Southside Ave., Somerville .
E-mail Zamir Hassan at email@example.com for more information. from the Courier News website www.c-n.com