The following is an interview with Imam Hassan A. Amin, the Executive Director of Baltimore, Maryland based Muslim Social Services Agency, Inc. (MSSA). Imam Amin is also the event coordinator for the historical May 1, 2011 Walk of Hope walkathon in Baltimore City’s Druid Hill Park’s Reservoir area.
KI: Tell us a little about your background.
Imam Amin: Much of my Islamic study has been done in the United States. I have done some studying in Egypt and I am currently pursuing my Master degree in Islamic studies. I was on the administration of Maryland’s oldest Masjid, Masjid As Saffat. I was the Imam at Baltimore City’s oldest Masjid, Masjid Ul-Haqq and I was Imam at one of Baltimore City’s newer Masjid, Masjid Us Salaam. For over five years I have been the volunteer Islamic Chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital and I am currently the part time on staff Imam at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.
KI: What is Muslim Social Services Agency?
Imam Amin: Since its establishment, in 2003, Muslim Social Services Agency has assisted over 3,000 families and individuals with eviction prevention, rental/security deposit, prisoner re-entry, food/clothing and furniture purchases and a variety of other social services needs. Muslim Social Services Agency has provided a comprehensive response to the ever-increasing number of people losing their jobs, homes and health care services. Its goal has been to improve and enrich the quality of life of those in need of resources and services. It provides resources and services meeting the educational, social, housing, employment, counseling, medical and mental health needs of its clients. Muslim Social Services Agency mainly provides resource services to low-income and homeless families and individuals in the Baltimore City metropolitan area. Our organization has been awarded several certificates of recognition from mayors of Baltimore City for its work with the city’s low-income families and victims of domestic violence. Muslim Social Services Agency is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization.
KI: Tell us about the upcoming walkathon and food drive.
Imam Amin: Our walkathon-food drive has several goals. First is to have each walker donate at least five non-perishable food items that that will be donated to local homeless shelters, food bank, soup kitchens and food pantries. Secondly, the twelve dollar registration fee will help Muslim Social Services Agency, Inc. finance its multiple programs, services and projects to help those in need. Historically, we believe that our walkathon is the first of its kind, a walkathon given by Muslims, in Baltimore City to assist homeless providers with replenishing their food stock.
KI: Why have this type of walkathon?
Imam Amin: With the government [talking about] shutting down, a bad economy and funding cuts looming over [organizations which support] the homeless we thought that our walkathon would offer some assistance to those who provide food assistance to those who are poor, low-income and homeless. Additionally, we encourage Muslim and non-Muslims to take advantage of the opportunity to help others by donating to this event. They can donate food, money or time to help make this event successful.
KI: Are there any other reasons for having such an event?
Imam Amin: Yes there are. This year is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. What happened on that day is not the true face of Islam. The true face of Islam is not taking innocent lives, but helping to preserve life – helping our neighbors and those in need, wanting for your brother what you want for yourself and not going to sleep while your neighbor is hungry. Homelessness is a faceless problem. It does not matter what ethnic group you belong to, what religion, if you are male or female, young or old homelessness can grab a hold and not let. It is our hope that we have at least one thousand people participating in the walkathon/food drive and that we collect at least five thousand non-perishable items for the homeless providers.
KI: What kind of activities can I develop in my local community to assist with ending homelessness?
Iman Amin: Those who are interested in helping the fight against homelessness should come to the walkathon and some suggestions will be [discussed] there, inshaAllah
KI: How does one register for the walkathon?
Imam Amin: They can go online and register at www.baltimorewalkofhope.com. They can also contact us at 443 519-7413. If someone is unable to attend the walkathon/food drive then donations are welcomed.