WASHINGTON—More Muslims are volunteering this summer—and not just for traditional Muslim charities.
They're responding to a national Islamic group's appeal to get more involved in community social services and thereby turn back anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
"You can talk about the beauty of Islam until the end of time, but if you're not doing something tangible, then people will always say, `Where are the Muslims?'" explained Dian Alyan, an outreach coordinator for the Muslim Community Association in the San Francisco Bay area. "We need to change the rules of the game ... to concrete action."
To that end, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading advocacy group, recently launched a three-month nationwide initiative called Muslims Care, which focuses on community health awareness, helping the needy and youth services. Like many people of other faiths, Muslims have focused charitable efforts largely on their own faith communities.
"We want to encourage them to go to beyond their mosques and their comfort levels and truly practice the religion," said Rabiah Ahmed, CAIR communications coordinator. "It also helps with the image issue. We find that Americans tend to change their attitude when they see Muslims engaged in service work and not just foreign policy."
In Sacramento, Calif., CAIR organized four visits to homeless shelters this month to provide food and supplies. In Orlando, Fla., volunteers are hosting a community-wide picnic. In Columbus, Ohio, Muslims are coordinating a school supplies drive for underprivileged children. In Cincinnati, they're hosting a public health fair that includes physician counseling and screenings for cholesterol and high blood pressure.
"We have a lot of doctors in our community, so in terms of providing a much needed service, it's something we need to be doing," CAIR-Cincinnati Director Karen Dabdoub said.
Charity is integral to the Islamic faith, one of the five pillars that all Muslims must live by.
"It's very important for us to let our American neighbors and coworkers see that giving back to our communities is an important part of our religion and is something that we're eager to do," Dabdoub said.
Alyan, a founder of the GiveLight Foundation, which aids orphans in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, said she's optimistic that the good works will gain non-Muslim attention.
"Over time when you start building credibility, people will start noticing," she said.
For more information, visit www.muslims-care.org
Also check out www.givelight.org
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Need to map