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In Spirit of Ramadan, Muslims Serve Meals to Homeless - Washington Post, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    In Spirit of Ramadan, Muslims Serve Meals to Homeless Volunteerism High During Holy Month By Julie Rasicot Special to The Washington Post Thursday, November
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2004
      In Spirit of Ramadan, Muslims Serve Meals to Homeless
      Volunteerism High During Holy Month

      By Julie Rasicot
      Special to The Washington Post
      Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page GZ05


      Shaliq Islam knew he could have spent Sunday evening
      munching candy and lounging on the couch in his
      family's Bethesda home, but instead the 13-year-old
      chose to help serve a chicken dinner at a Washington
      homeless shelter.

      So did his friend, Sabir Uddin, 13, of Germantown, and
      dozens of other local Muslims who served food provided
      by the Montgomery County Muslim Council and the
      Bangladesh Association of America to about 600 people
      at the Community for Creative Non-Violence homeless
      shelter and the nearby D.C. Central Kitchen.

      Omar Ayyub, 16, helps the Montgomery County Muslim
      Council feed the needy Sunday at a District homeless
      shelter. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

      "It's pretty cool. I get to help out people," said
      Shaliq as he took a break with several other
      volunteers from serving drinks on the women's floor of
      the homeless shelter on Second Street NW.

      "If nobody did, how is anybody going to get anything
      done?" Sabir added. "If nobody even made this
      building, where would these people go?"

      The event marked the third year that local Muslims
      have donated meals of traditional foods such as
      Sunday's chicken tandoori and vegetable biryani to the
      Washington homeless shelter during the holy month of

      During Ramadan, which ends Sunday, Muslims are
      required to fast most days from dawn to dusk. Charity
      or almsgiving is a fundamental pillar of Islam, and
      Muslims use Ramadan as a time to give more to the
      community, said Rashid Makhdoom, a director and
      spokesman for the Montgomery County Muslim Council.

      "Every Muslim is supposed to give out money in alms
      and charity, and the feeding of the poor is
      prescribed," said Makhdoom, 65, of North Potomac.
      "Before 9/11, Muslims mostly focused on our own
      community and after that we started paying attention
      to the larger community. It's kind of an outreach,
      fulfilling the tenets of Islam."

      The idea for the event began with M. Abu Solaiman,
      president of the Bangladesh Association of America, a
      cultural and social organization with about 700
      members in Maryland, Washington and Virginia.

      Solaiman, 71, a retired businessman who lives in
      Potomac, said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
      served as a wake-up call to him and other area Muslims
      that they needed to help their neighbors here as well
      as those they help with money sent back to their home

      "My idea was that we should do something here. We are
      good Muslims. We have nothing to do with the
      terrorists," he said. "This is our country. We love
      this country. This country gave us opportunity, not
      only for us, but for our children. We should do good
      here, not only in our own country."

      This is the second year that the Montgomery County
      Muslim Council has participated in the event, helping
      the Bangladesh Association of America raise about
      $4,000 to pay for the food prepared by the Bread and
      Kabab restaurant in Gaithersburg and delivered to the
      shelter and soup kitchen.

      Volunteers rubbed elbows in the small kitchen on the
      women's floor of the shelter as they dipped spoons
      into large foil pans of vegetables bathed in a spicy,
      golden sauce, white rice with green peas, and tangy
      chicken tinted red from a marinade of yogurt and

      As the volunteers filled the plates of shelter
      residents, the scent of coriander and cumin filled the
      air. The food was prepared in halal style, in
      accordance with rules and traditions of Islam, with
      the spices toned down a bit to please many palates,
      the volunteers said.

      The shelter residents seemed to enjoy the meal, said
      Sadia Chowdhury, 27, of Columbia, who was volunteering
      at the event for the first time.

      "They were worried it would be spicy, but then they
      came back for seconds," she said.

      At one of the long cafeteria tables, several women
      chatted as they finished their plates of rice and
      chicken. "It's all right. It kills the stomach pain"
      caused by hunger, one 26-year-old woman said of the
      meal. "It's good. I like spicy," added another woman.

      Chowdhury said she enjoyed talking with the residents,
      who were "very upbeat" and friendly despite their
      difficult circumstances. The experience taught her
      some important lessons, she said.

      "How lucky we are. How blessed we are," she said. "How
      to keep a smile on my face during difficult times
      because I see a lot of smiles around here."

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