November 23, 2009
By SERGIO BICHAO
The men handing out small containers of donated food to people passing by the New Brunswick Islamic Center, or Masjid-ul-Huda, on Sunday were also hoping to pass along some food for thought.
“Words aren’t enough,” Tariq Zamir said. “You tell people Islam is about peace. Yeah, but where? This is where.”
Zamir is coordinator for 1-877-Why-Islam, a Somerset-based hotline and organization dedicated to promoting Islam and the teachings of the Quran.
“Most of the people misunderstand Muslims and Islam. If you ask them, the first thing that comes out is terrorism and jihad and that’s what they see in the news. But the reality is Islam is a religion of peace and teaches understanding, cooperation and serving humanity,” he said.
Masjid-ul-Huda president Asim Usmani said his organization, which is not officially affiliated with Why-Islam, distributes food to the neighborhood about once a month.
Sunday’s effort by Why Islam distributed more than 5,000 food items, including bottled water, dried macaroni, rice, canned tuna and vegetables to people at the New Brunswick center, the Center for Islamic Enlightenment in Plainfield and the National Islamic Association in Newark.
The food handout happened on the same week of Thanksgiving and “hajj,” the Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca, which this year takes place from Nov. 25 to 29.
The items were collected by the organizations’ members and obtained from food pantries.
Served with the food were sleek pamphlets explaining the pillars of Islam and topics such as life after death, Ramadan, human rights, women and family.
The people who stopped by the table Sunday morning to grab a food container were mostly Latina mothers pushing strollers and holding small children.
“We would be happy to see more non-Muslims who are benefiting from these food drives,” Zamir said.
Zamir said that when he moved to Highland Park, all that his neighbors knew about his faith was “Osama bin Laden.”
But the neighbors chatted and exchanged traditional foods during religious holidays.
“Until a person gets to meet a Muslim, his perception of Muslims and Islam is very negative.”
Sergio Bichao: 732-565-7256; sbichao@MyCentralJersey com
November 23, 2009