Friday, November 24, 2006

Why are Muslims distributing Thanksgiving baskets to the needy?

Muslim Thanksgiving Baskets For US Needy
By Sahar Kassaimah, IOL Correspondent

WASHINGTON — On Thanksgiving, an annual one-day holiday to give thanks to God celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday of November, many Muslim communities distribute food baskets among low-income families and veterans.
"The program which started in November 2001 is meant to feed the needy during the Thanksgiving holiday," Ahmed Bedier, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Tampa Director, told
The five-year program is sponsored by CAIR and fundraised by CAIR members in the region in tandem with the Muslim community.
The distribution of the food baskets will be handled by the United Way, a coalition of charitable organizations that have traditionally pooled efforts in fundraising.
Each of the 1350 United Ways has its own local governing volunteer board.
"When the program started, Ramadan and Thanksgiving coincided. So we called it the Ramadan-Thanksgiving food basket program," Bedier recalled.
"Since then local Muslims raise money every year, around $5000, and work with CAIR and the United Way to distribute food baskets for the needy around the Thanksgiving holiday."
According to the Muslim activist, a total of 200 baskets are usually distributed.
"Our goal is to seek the pleasure of God. Islam teaches us to help the needy in our society," Bedier said."The message we are sending is that Islam is a humanitarian religion and that Muslims care about their communities and will give back."Bedier said that distributing food baskets on Thanksgiving was the idea of a local member of CAIR.
"It was the idea of an American Muslim physician who was a local member of CAIR," he recalled.
"The needy people’s reactions and the public are very positive and we receive great praise."
The Muslim activist said the program started locally but has inspired other Muslim communities around the country to hold similar events, such as public dinners to feed the needy.
There are no official figures for the number of Muslims in the United States but CAIR estimates the number at around seven to eight million.