Virtual Voices

Muslim charities meet local needs

Religion

American Muslims are expanding their charity efforts, Chicago Tribune says, and that may speed the assimilation of Muslim immigrants.

Instead of simply building Islamic centers and building the Muslim community, Muslim charities are expanding their efforts to help all needy, regardless of their faith. In Chicago, over 50 mosques have joined with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to give away over 25,000 pounds of meat. Organizations like the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, The Inner-City Muslim Action Network, and The Downtown Project have all expanded to include services for non-Muslims.

Experts say the shift shows that Muslim immigrants are beginning to think of themselves as Americans. Omar McRoberts, associate professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, told Chicago Tribune, "These sorts of shifts should be of interest at least as much as people have been interested in and drawn into depictions of Muslims as uniformly violent and worthy of suspicion. … To pay attention to only one kind of depiction and to ignore alternative self-depictions coming out of Muslim communities is sort of a dereliction of citizenship."

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Some Muslim charities have been the target of suspicion in the past. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development came under suspicion last year for supporting organizations linked with Hamas, but the trial ended in a mistrial last October. The bulk of Muslim charity still goes to international aid, but attention to local needs is increasing.

MuslimCharities.com explains that Islam requires its devotees to give away 2.5% of their possessions to "take from those who have wealth and give it away to those who do not … to balance social inequality." Islamic law includes all impoverished people, not just Muslims, among the people Muslims have a duty to aid. Charity, the website says, "is a way of bringing justice to society. And justice is the essence of religion."

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