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What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam What is This? A guide to a wide variety of general questions asked by those looking to learn more about Muslim culture and the Islamic world.

Society, Politics, and Economy >
Are Muslim Americans engaged in community service?

The summer of 2009 saw a remarkable example of community service when Muslim Americans across the country participated in United We Serve: Muslim Americans Answer the Call: the call of the president; the call of the needy; and the call of God to serve Him by serving others.

The Muslim Serve campaign identified and worked with existing American Muslim organizations already engaged in regular community service activities in areas such as healthcare, educational aid, and community assistance (food and supplies). This campaign was initiated by Dalia Mogahed, a member of the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The program was part of President Obama's United We Serve, which called upon Americans to participate in the nation's recovery and renewal by serving their communities. Muslim Serve emphasized mobilizing faith communities, especially for interfaith service. Its literature used the Quranic verse “Race one another in good works” (5:48), deriving inspiration from Islamic teachings that encourage acts of charity and “good works.”

A young, Internet-savvy community, Muslim American leaders made use of online organizing tools, social networking, and massive mailing lists to get the word out and call members to action quickly. The Muslim Serve campaign began with an initial goal of involving Muslim volunteers in 1,000 individual day-long service projects, with at least 25 percent to be carried out in cooperation with another faith-based community. These goals were greatly exceeded. Volunteers participated in more than 3,600 individual days of service, and 93 percent were in cooperation with other faith-based communities.

Muslim doctors provided care at more than thirty free clinics nationwide; lawyers gave free legal advice; other Muslim professionals and organizations adopted refugee families and fed the homeless. Muslim charities donated books to under-funded Native American schools, and an army of young people cleaned rivers and parks, made buildings more environmentally friendly, and built homes for the poor.

The success of the Muslim Serve initiative exemplifies the human potential of the Muslim American community to contribute to American society, working to strengthen their country by serving those most in need. As participant Salma Hasan Ali noted: “This is our opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what we believe in through our actions, to reveal what is central to our faith through acts of service and compassion, and to reclaim our place in the American mosaic.”

The following sampling of the projects run by American Muslim organizations highlights the large numbers of Muslims who are coming of age in community service, discovering their capabilities and ability to mobilize collective action for the common good. The projects highlighted below represent only a fraction of those run in communities across America.

Healthcare clinics, staffed by a combination of employees and volunteers, serve Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community alike. The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic (UMMA Clinic) located in the heart of South Central Los Angeles, one of the poorest and most medically underserved areas of the region, provides healthcare for the uninsured to a population made up of 73 percent Latinos and 25 percent African Americans. Other clinics include the Shifa Clinic, which provides healthcare and screenings to low-income residents in Houston, Texas, and Chicago's Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), offering free health services to over 1,200 residents of underserved neighborhoods.

Life for Relief and Development, a Muslim American humanitarian relief and development organization, partners with the Brother's Brother Foundation to distribute textbooks and educational materials to underprivileged schools on Native American reservations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

For thirteen years Zaman International, a worldwide humanitarian organization based in Dearborn, Michigan, has provided food, clothing, shelter, and medicine as well as adult literacy and vocational training programs to empower women, in particular those widowed, orphaned, abandoned, abused, divorced, or the spouse of someone with a terminal illness. In 2009 Zaman launched a Mobile Food Pantry to provide daily hot meals for families with a target of feeding nine thousand individuals in 2010, which it exceeded halfway through the year. Zaman has partnered with IMC (International Medical Corps) in Bosnia, Lebanon, Gaza, New Orleans, Haiti, and in flood relief in Pakistan. It soon will break ground for the construction of a new 62,000-square-foot Hope for Humanity Center in Dearborn that will service its food bank, soup kitchen, vocational training center, and clothing distribution center. Its second phase will focus on a senior wellness center and an early childhood development program in a park setting.

The ILM Foundation, an initiative started in Los Angeles that has since expanded to cities across the United States and internationally, launched Humanitarian Day, a coordinated nationwide effort of community assistance. Volunteers provided the homeless with food, health screenings, hygiene kits, and clothing items, as well as life skills lessons. Similar nationally coordinated initiatives have been sponsored by Islamic Relief USA (Day of Dignity), the Muslim Student Association (Project Downtown), and others—all mobilizing volunteers to serve the broader community of the homeless, hungry, and underserved.

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