Despite the heavy rain that showered Dallas on Saturday, September 29, the 9th annual Muslim-sponsored Day of Dignity brought smiles to an estimated 900 beneficiaries at Masjid al Islam. The event is a grass root effort that brings compassionate citizens from diverse communities and from all over the country together each year, distributing food, clothing, blankets and hygiene necessities in several cities.
Day of Dignity in Dallas over the weekend was an event sponsored by Islamic Relief, and many Muslim organizations like ICNA andTexas Muslim Women’s Foundations as well as mosques, Islamic Centers, and other faith communities distributed relief items. Beneficiaries who lined up under the rain since 8 in the morning received hot meals, cookies, over 2,500 fruits, gloves, hats, clothing, toys, and hygiene toiletries from dozens of volunteers who braved through the rainy conditions. In addition, health screenings and flu shots were administered at no cost.
Nearly 16 percent of Americans, including 17 million children, live at or below poverty levels (that is $23,000 for a family of four.) According to NPR, the numbers are expected to climb in the upcoming years: America is losing its war on poverty. Yet, Americans do strive to spread compassion and dignity among them, and here in Dallas, Muslim communities are teaming up with other faith-based communities to help out their needy neighbors.
The Muslim community in Dallas is not a casual participant in occasional relief events. It has a food pantry operated by ICNA, serving whoever is in need, regardless of religion. In April and May 2012 alone, the food pantry was able to deliver over 10,000 pounds of food to over 180 families. The food pantry acquires its goodies through community donations and efforts. For example, a group of women have planned a garage sale that benefits the food bank.
Islamic Relief also holds recurrent community training sessions where participants receive disaster relief training to help them support their communities and others when natural disasters strike. Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation is another local charity that spreads its wings to the needy by supporting events such as the Day of Dignity under the leadership of its youth group. TMWF also is a pioneer in social services and is about to open a women’s shelter catering to the needs of Muslim women in the Metroplex.
Dignity and social justice have been at the interest of every religion, including that of Islam. Islam spread its message in the seventh century in the Arabian Peninsula at a time when “tribalism” meant that one would support only the members of the family, clan or tribe against the outsiders, even when this meant oppressing the outsiders at the expense of tribalism. This is what Islam was to denounce and was determined to change. “Tribalism” then was like “nationalism” today: An ideology that cheered for superiority without a humanitarian concern to social problems and justice for all.
To the average American juggling unemployment or poverty, loss of housing or lack of healthcare, and rising prices, any sign of human compassion is a lighthouse. Those citizens getting together to help one another regardless of race or faith are the true embodiment of patriotism and citizenship, including global citizenship. These are society’s transformers and bridge builders.