Charitable giving is a central tenet of Islam and considered equally important to prayer and pilgrimage to Mecca. In 2016, many Muslims feel the positive aspects of their religion are being overlooked by increasingly divisive rhetoric. For the Muslim community in Chicago, Thanksgiving was a time to emphasize their charitable focus.
Muslim professionals in Chicago have given turkeys away since 2000, but this year was their biggest effort yet. The visited eight schools in three Southside neighborhoods and distributed 5,000 turkeys. They also shared information about Sabeel Food Pantry, a Muslim-run effort to help families put food on the table all year round.
The drive originally started when Sadia Warsi, a special education teacher in the public school system, heard a third-grade student wish for food in his home for the holidays. She was touched by his request. Working with her husband, attorney Kamran Memon, she motivated the community to donate turkeys to public schools in the neighborhood. Since then, the project has continued to grow; this year, they were able to get wholesale pricing from the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America.
The current director, Dr. Sofia Shakir, is especially glad to see such a big effort succeeding. Her community is worried about being seen as not American given Donald Trump’s surprising election to the presidency and comments from his campaign about a potential registry of Muslims in the United States. For these Chicago Muslims, allowing families to celebrate American Thanksgiving is one of the most symbolic ways they have to show their loyalty to their country. For the neighborhood, it’s a way to come together over the holidays and focus on what truly matters.