LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - More than 500 Muslim volunteers gathered on a hot day on Skid Row, the notorious Los Angeles street best-known for its thousands of homeless people.
The volunteers distributed clothes, hygiene essentials, food, water, and other necessities to the people who live their lives on the street. Backpacks and school supplies were also provided.
Health screenings, including free HIV tests and dental checks were offered.
Many of the Muslim volunteers were observing the Ramadan fast, which requires that they abstain from food and water during daylight hours.
For 18 years, the Muslim community of Los Angeles has done this kind of outreach to help the homeless toward the end of Ramadan. They say that as Americans what happens in their cities and the country matters to them.
"As a Muslim, it’s important that we treat mankind correctly, the way that we are guided in the Koran," said Umar Hakim of the ILM Foundation, which organized the event. "The Koran is the holy book of Islam, and in this book, it tells us to provide neighborly needs. So this is a way that we show charity. We provide neighborly needs for those who are in need of it."
Organizers say that it’s important for the media to cover events like this that show Muslims serving their communities.
"Because that’s what essentially is not being captured in the media," said Usman Khan, a volunteer at the event. "We’re being scapegoated, and all the Muslims in the media are being scapegoated in the media in a negative way."
Since 1999, the Muslim community in the United States has helped 80,000 homeless people across the country, according to organizers. For them, it’s all about working for the greater good.
"I mean, in society, you think about, you know, your cab driver is a Muslim, your doctor is a Muslim, your nurse is a Muslim. I’m a pharmacist, I’m a Muslim, you know," said volunteer Rayesa Gheewala. "We’re here, spread in the fabric of society, giving and serving and doing our best. And we’re just like every human being on this Earth. We want to contribute, we want to make a difference, we want to have a good life, and we want to participate in that definition of what it means to have an American dream.”
The Skid Row event coincided with World Humanitarian Aid Day.