By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento Loaves & Fishes organization (ﾠhttp://www.sacloaves.org/ ) has many projects catering to the needy in the area since its 1983 founding. They include Advocacy (for housing the homeless), Genesis (a free mental health program), Maryhouse (a daytime shelter for homeless women and children) and a Dining Room open 7 days a week/364 days a year to feed the homeless of the area. These are just a few of the programs that are being operated by them and they are all funded by private donations and not government money.
The Dining Room is of great importance to the region because there is always an immediate need to feed the homeless, people down on their luck or even the working poor of the area. It is ironic that we have the need for such services in one of the richest countries in the world but it is a fact. And being homeless and poor around Christmas time especially hits people quite hard. Christmas Eve is supposed to be about bounty, blessings, high expectations and joy for Christians worldwide, so when followers of Islam like the American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV) announced their desire to pitch in and help them with a 1000 meals effort here at Loaves & Fishes the day before Christmas, this became newsworthy. Not only did Muslims fund this effort but they helped in the preparation and the serving of the food here.
Approximately 15 volunteers worked between 6:30 and 9:30 am to help prepare the meals. A second shift of 25 more helped to serve the food between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. I saw the second group in action, predominantly our Muslim youth getting directions on how to handle and distribute food and the necessary attire (Health Department Regulations). Some worked both shifts and that is additionally commendable.
The prayer leader of the Downtown Sacramento Muslim Mosque Imam Mumtaz Qasmi made a special trip here to bless the efforts of all the volunteers. He said that on the Day of Judgment people who cared for poor people will earn a place for themselves in paradise. He said that by serving people we are serving Allah (SWT), especially those people in need. He also said a prayer for Dr Shahid Khan, an active participant in last year’s event here who passed away recently. Mo Mohanna, a long-time Sacramento resident and supporter of meals at Loaves & Fishes and other projects, also came in and talked to the event organizers and volunteers.
Once the food serving started, people trickled in to partake in a main course of chicken and many side dishes. Dessert appeared in the shape of Donut holes. The fact that our Musllm youth including girls in Hijab served Christians and people of other faiths on Christmas Eve did not escape notice. Local TV Channels covered the event.
The AMV Foundation Executive Director and founder Samina Sundas who often drives quite a distance to Sacramento from the Bay Area said that she was very proud of the Sacramento Chapter for hosting and feeding the guests who are close to God, the needy. She said that she would travel every day to Sacramento (no matter how tired she was) for these kind of events. May Allah accept all of their hard work, she added. She was especially thankful and proud of our youth for being there and providing service with a smile. Samina had hosted a very successful “Neighborly” Eid Festival on December 12 th in Palo Alto and these kinds of activities are part and parcel of the AMV Foundation vision today.
I also asked the AMV National President Khalid Saeed to share some of his thoughts. He said that from the beginning American Muslim Voice Foundation has been working hard to build interfaith relations on the grassroots level. There is so much misinformation and disinformation floating around about our religion and Muslims which is causing fear in people's mind about us. AMV provides education with social interaction to enhance better understanding of Muslims and Islam and to cultivate personal relationships. The secret of our success has been being comfortable with ourselves and being proud of our beautiful faith and practice it in mainstream with confidence, he said.
And last but not least Mohammad Sattar, of the AMV Foundation Sacramento Chapter, a man of few words let this great effort do all the talking for him. But after my insistence he said that since Christmas Eve is a day when all the Christian community is busy celebrating their biggest annual event, it is an excellent opportunity for us to participate in the joy with them by helping poor people and the homeless around us. He added that this is the reason that AMV has booked December 24th here for next five years, to serve the needy of Sacramento.
To conclude, this was the religion of Islam in action, not the politics of some really misguided individuals or groups who somehow always grab the headlines. Our youth certainly made us proud here with their volunteer effort. For the vast majority of America’s Muslims no matter what their backgrounds; African American, South Asian, other Asian, Middle Easterners etc., for all America is a permanent home. And any effort that we can undertake to make our home more beautiful must remain a part of our faith. Please contact the AMV Foundation at (www.amuslimvoice.org or at 650-387-1994) if you wish to participate in sharing Islam in practice and in making your country and neighborhood more beautiful. Happy New Year! [Courtesy Pakistan Link]