UK Muslims providing food for the vulnerable during pandemic

Bearded Broz has been working for five years, but it has been flooded with calls during the pandemic. (Social media)
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Updated 13 May 2020

UK Muslims providing food for the vulnerable during pandemic

  • Imran Hameed: “As a Muslim, it’s not allowed for me to let my neighbor go without food”

LONDON: Muslim communities across the UK are stepping up to meet a surge in reliance on food banks from the country’s poor and vulnerable.
As children are forced to stay home from school and millions of workers face reduced hours, pay cuts or redundancies, the coronavirus pandemic has meant an unparalleled increase in demand for food banks in the UK. Muslim communities nationwide have moved to the forefront in confronting this crisis.
Bearded Broz, an emergency food bank based in the city of Birmingham, delivers food directly to people facing acute shortages.
Its founder Imran Hameed told Arab News that it has seen a 50 percent increase in demand compared to this time last year.
Bearded Broz has been working in the Midlands and London for five years, but since the coronavirus outbreak it has been “inundated” with phone calls, Hameed said.
“As a Muslim, it’s not allowed for me to let my neighbor go without food,” he added. “It has been amazing how the community has pulled together to support each other in this time.”
Bearded Broz has been particularly active over Ramadan. It is running a project where people can donate whole goats directly through a meat supplier, and Bearded Broz will provide the rest of the food needed for a full meal — a “Ramadan pack,” as Hameed calls it.
Much like Bearded Broz, the Green Lane Masjid in Birmingham has seen the number of people needing food assistance swell.
Its CEO Kamran Hussain told Arab News that he has seen the number of people visiting the food bank quadruple.
Green Lane Masjid has had to massively increase the scope of its humanitarian services. It used to operate just a few days a week, but it is now open daily and demand “has gone through the roof — it’s busy every day,” Hussain said.

HIGHLIGHT

Bearded Broz, an emergency food bank based in the city of Birmingham, delivers food directly to people facing acute shortages.

“The community has really come together — we’ve recruited hundreds of new volunteers. People have been donating their time and their money. These times allow the generous, philanthropic side of us to come through. As a faith organization, this is what we do.”
One upside, Hussain said, is that “the role that faith and community organizations fulfil, — how they form the fabric of our society and the immeasurable value they offer — is truly being realized.”
Larger organizations such as Islamic Relief UK have also been heavily involved in fighting food insecurity caused by the pandemic.
In a statement issued to Arab News, it said it has made £500,000 ($617,352.50) available to community-based organizations across the UK.
That money is being used to provide for the most vulnerable — single parents, asylum seekers and whole impoverished communities are being fed by Islamic Relief UK’s coronavirus appeal.
The UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, said it provided almost double its usual volume of food parcels in the first weeks of the UK lockdown.


“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 16 min 54 sec ago

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.