In an attempt to fulfill their civic duty, DMV area masajid and Muslim organizations collaborated to collect winter apparel for the homeless in Washington D.C.- Baltimore area. Organized as part of a "Faith in Action" campaign, CAIR-MD partnered with Project Affinity and the Islamic Society of Annapolis (ISA).
An initial small effort evolved into a collaboration. With each iteration, more masajid sponsored the drive, spreading the word through their listservs and social media. Imam Safi Khan recorded a video appeal on behalf of Dar-us-Salaam and DUS offered to host the sorting. Islamic Society of Baltimore let people know where the donation boxes were located through their newsletter. Donations came in from Muslim Community Center, Islamic Society of Washington Area, Islamic Society of Western Maryland, Dar Al Taqwa, Masjid Mustafa, Masjid Ibn Taymiyyah, Islamic Society of Annapolis, Islamic Center of Laurel. A now annual effort that reached all of the major Islamic Centers in Maryland, and the result was a great use of resources, with an even greater result.
A truck owned by Noor-ud-Deen’s tree cutting business rolled up in front of Dar-us-Salaam in College Park, MD. He is a board member from ISA. On December 22, 2013, thousands of blankets, men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, socks, gloves, scarves, coats and Islamic attire-- gently used, and brand new still in shopping bags from the store--were piled up in the multi-purpose room at Dar-us-Salaam.
Imam Mikaeel Ahmed Smith sent a large group of volunteers from Annapolis to help sort the donations; many were university students-- off for winter break. Dalia Elamawy and other sisters from the local area also joined the CAIR-Maryland team. It took several hours for the group to sort and pack 60 industrial size bags of winter clothing (50 gallons each), which lined the walls of Dar us Salaam.
The items were marked for distribution to Baltimore shelters Muslimaat Al-Nisaa (a Muslim women and children's shelter), Catholic Charities, and Helping Up Mission, Central Union Mission, D.C. Zainab Chaudry and Mariam Mirza of CAIR made the deliveries in Baltimore.
Project Affinity planned on distributing several bags by hand to the needy in Washington, D.C. 25 additional bags of summer clothing were taken to local Goodwill stores. Shefa Ahsan, an eleventh grader at Al-Huda School and Zaynub Siddiqui, a homeschooler bundled the Islamic attire, which was taken by volunteers to masajid who could make better use of them.
“We formed some new bonds and we can find ways to work together,” stated Irfan Aziz,”we can reach out when in need of help; we have traction in all communities,” Aziz, an organizer with Project Affinity, expressed gratefulness for the volunteers and urged them to relay the message of how much was collected and how many lives were impacted to their communities.
Asfar Aziz from the Makkah Learning Center Youth Group bonded with brothers, Khuzeman and Rushain Abbasi, while making an impact. “Amazing, help[ing] keep everyone warm.” Ahmed Gondal, 19, from Annapolis, MD agrees, “we should be doing this again and again.”
Group texts were sent out and the youth met the next day at Franklin Square in Downtown DC. Dispersing into smaller groups, they walked around buildings looking for people seeking shelter from the weather. Luweila Babiker noticed that there was a homeless man in the corner covered with a cardboard box. She was awed by her first experience working with the homeless; the humbleness and dependence on God displayed by those most in need.
“As we gathered at the end and reflected upon the experience we agreed that it’s definitely something we’d like to do more often. I feel like it purifies our hearts and more so our intentions. The sad part is that these conditions are a part of everyday life for some people, yet many of us usually just walk past them,” reflects Babiker, ”I asked myself if it weren’t for this event; would I have been one of those people who would’ve just walked past?”
"Charity is not only our duty as Muslims, but our civic duty as human beings and as Americans," said CAIR-MD Outreach Coordinator Mariam Mirza, who helped lead the effort. "Many mosques in Maryland came together for one cause, and we worked together to help the less fortunate in our communities. CAIR-MD thanks everyone who helped make our drive such a success."