CHICAGO: Muslims are very “giving” and that generosity is reflected in local and global charity drives, especially during the celebration of Islamic holidays such as Eid Al-Adha, which begins this week, American and Saudi Muslims said Wednesday.
Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” reflects the historical tradition embraced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faith in Allah (God), but who was instead directed by the Almighty to sacrifice a lamb.
Rawan Radwan, deputy sections head and regional correspondent for Arab News, said that “giving” is a core belief in Islam, especially during the Eid celebrations.
“After prayers, Muslims traditionally honor the Prophet Abraham’s … devotion by sacrificing sheep, goats, cows. Every person has to contribute a portion, of course depending on the animal, to those who are in need. We give to our families, our friends. But, of course, the biggest chunk goes to those who are most in need, the poor,” Radwan explained during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Show.
“Every year during Eid Al-Adha there are different charities that are giving aid and food or produce or even sacrificial animals. That is from one side. And of course here (Saudi Arabia) charities. (A) lot of these charities are funded by the government, and funded also by the people who contribute very much. They are given food, and produce and clothes.”
“That is just the power of giving here. You are surrounded by this so it is a part of nature. It is just second nature to a lot of the people here as a community. For Saudis, and I am sure a lot of different and other communities, the power of giving is something that is very much felt here.”
The spirit of community solidarity and inclusivity during the Eid holidays is reflected in the conduct of Muslims who immigrated to America, said both PEW Senior Researcher Besheer Mohamed and Atya Kazmi, the Chicago area manager for the Islamic Circle of North America Relief.
Kazmi described how the ICNA, which has chapters throughout the US, supervises up to 70 food pantries for the poor, manages 20 transitional houses for homeless families, and even organizes events to coincide with holidays such as Eid Al-Adha to bring cheer to everyone.
ICNA Relief, Kazmi said, is hosting a 1,000 Toy Drive so children can celebrate the Eid Al-Adha holiday this week.
“Not just toys we also try to give clothing to them, we also (ensure) food distribution. As we all know, it is an obligation on Muslims to help the needy people no matter where they are and whichever religion or ethnicity or culture that they belong to, so our services are for everyone,” Kazmi said.
“Those who are in need step into our offices and we do proper case management for them to provide much-needed services.”
Kazmi emphasized that while the toy drive is focused on the Muslim children of refugees who have recently fled Afghanistan to America, ICNA Relief’s efforts also helps all families in need.
“We are open to everyone,” Kazmi said. “(W)e are a faith-based organization and support the Muslim community, but no one is left out, regardless of their religion.”
ICNA Relief Chicago is a chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief, operating across the nation with programs including transitional shelter for homeless women, food pantries, back-to-school giveaways, Muslim family services, refugee empowerment, women’s hygiene kits, winter clothing drives, disaster relief, and free health screenings.
Mohamed said PEW research suggests most Americans do not understand Islam because they have never met a Muslim.
“One of the things we see on our data of Muslims and that applies to everyone, is that people who say they personally know a member of a group tend to have more positive views. So people who say they personally know someone who is Muslim tend to have more positive views towards Muslims, tend to have more positive views of Islam.
“And this may be a surprise to some of your (radio) listeners … given where you are broadcasting (Detroit, Washington DC and Chicago), about how half the American public say they don’t personally know a Muslim,” Mohamed said of the PEW research.
We “So there are lots of folks who say I don’t know anybody who is Muslim except for the people I see on TV. A lot of people say they don’t know very much about something. Only about one in 10 Americans say they think they know a lot about the religion of Islam.”
“Only about six in 10 Americans can correctly identify in a multiple-choice survey, that the Hajj is to Makkah, and not to Madinah and not to Jerusalem. So four in 10 Americans say I don’t know.”
The data shows that when Muslims directly engage the American public, it has “a serious impact and can result in a more positive views” of Muslims.
He said that because Muslim communities are concentrated in certain areas like Dearborn or Chicago, misunderstandings and stereotypes are reinforced in areas where Muslims do not live.
The majority of Americans, Mohamed said, are unfamiliar with Muslim traditions and religious holidays like Eid Al-Adha. That results in both sympathy and fear.
Eight in 10 Americans, the data shows, believe Muslims face greater discrimination than Jews and Evangelical Christians. It’s more distinct when it comes to American politics, he added.
“The data shows that there is a large divide between Republican and Democratic perceptions of Muslims,” he said.
According to PEW’s research data, Mohamed said, 72 percent of Republicans say that Muslims are more likely to encourage violence (than other religious groups) while only 32 percent of Democrats believe Muslims are more likely to encourage violence.
The first Iftar was hosted by former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and Eid celebrations were recognized by presidents ever since including by former president George W. Bush, a Republican. Former president Donald Trump, a Republican, suspended the formal White House Eid Iftars, but they were restored by President Joseph Biden, a Democrat.
But the more government officials acknowledge events like Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr, the more Americans are willing to understand Muslims, Mohamed said. The public celebration of these festivals by American governments impacts not only American understanding but also encourages more Muslims to partake in the festivities.
“One of the things that we see is that engagement with the Eid holiday, this Eid holiday and the other Eid holiday that happens after Ramadan, both of those things is actually quite high, even among Muslims who say they don’t attend religious services very often or who don’t pray five times a day which is normatively prescribed,” Mohamed said.
“You see large numbers saying that they do attend religious services around the Eid a couple times of the year. They think that the Hajj to Makkah is very important and they hope to do that at some point.”
The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.
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