SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – More than 250 area Muslims took a couple of hours Monday morning to prepare some 1,500 meals for hungry and homeless people in three cities.
The faithful gathered inside a tent outside of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey mosque on Route 1 Monday morning, forming two long assembly lines that prepared sandwiches and other snacks for needy people in Paterson, Philipsburg and Newark/Jersey City, organizers’ said.
“Hunger is not just Muslim, it is universal,” Society member Faisal Masood said. “This organization (Muslims Against Hunger) helps anyone.”
Masood said that the event, now in its sixth year, takes place during the holy month of Ramadan in the Islamic faith this year and is a perfect time to perform this community service.
During the holy month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown every day.
“Fasting is the principle of feeling hunger around you and the world,” Masood said. “Anyone who makes a good living doesn’t understand what hunger is. Ramadan makes you understand how it feels.”
Masood said that giving back is a very important part of the month-long observance, with many Muslims giving 2.5 percent of their savings, called the “Zakat,” to the less fortunate.
He said that Ramadan is usually the time that Muslims calculate the donation and give it back to the community.
“It could (go to) your neighbors, anyone in the community,” he said. “It could be your friend. It could be anyone in the world.”
He said the organization, Muslims Against Hunger, is very “near and dear” to the hearts of the ISCJ because it teaches volunteerism to the children who are very fortunate and “blessed” to be living in this area.
The Muslims Against Hunger Project is located in 20 cities across the nation and has more than 5,000 volunteers across all faiths worldwide, according to the organization’s website.
Group member Zamir Hassan and his Hunger Van were on hand to distribute the 1,500 meals to the three cities during the day.
Masood said that an estimated two million people in New Jersey, or almost one in four, go hungry and do not know where their next meal is coming from.
The ISCJ decided last year to hold the food event on July 4 as a way of celebrating independence and the freedoms this country offers, he said.
Mujibur Rehman, a member of the ISCJ Board of Directors, said the event also shows “the true Islam” by what the event represents.
“This is very important that we (Muslims) put a positive message out there especially with what is happening now and recently in Orlando (Florida) and the Middle East,” Rehman said. “There are some misperceptions out there about Islam.”
Rehman said that the community service practiced locally by Muslims going outside of the mosque and into the community to help those with a need is much more representative of the faith than the negative actions by some members of the faith in the media.
“Let (the people) see us (Muslims). Who we are and what we represent,” Rehman said. “We don’t know who is getting this food. We are doing it to please God and to take care of humanity.”
Rehman said that if anyone in the community would like to learn more about the society or Islam, they are welcomed at the Mosque.
“If you have any questions, ask us,” he said.