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