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Independence Day, Muslim way

Muslim volunteers getting ready to give out 4th of July gifts to local refugees in Dallas
Muslim volunteers getting ready to give out 4th of July gifts to local refugees in Dallas
Alia Salem, CAIR-DFW

Everyone made sure they visited the grocery store at least once during the past 24 hours; everyone has filled up their fridges and pantries with drinks and snacks, and everyone has made plans for July 4th. Fireworks will be sparkling the skies tonight, celebrating our country's holiday. Fires on barbecues will send with the winds the smell of meat and potatoes. The T.V.s will be on during parades, baseball games, and political speeches.

It's Independence Day in America, and we are celebrating our constitution.

Yet, many Americans today, like every day, are homeless or in shelters, with not enough food to sustain themselves, and with no friends who can look after them. Many children will only watch the fireworks, without a hot dog or a drink. Independence Days of Service by CAIR-DFW in Dallas partnered with several other Muslim and non-Muslim charities to make this 4th of July meaningful to those who are in need.

Today, CAIR-DFW is volunteering at the ICNA Relief food pantry, which is a Muslim humanitarian intiative that is open all year long, restocking shelves with donated items. CAIR-DFW has also assembled children's gifts that were distributed to local refugees. The gifts included colorful 4th of July gift bags with snacks and toys. Everything has been donated by the Muslim community, including the petit-fours made by a local business owner, Simply Sweet Settings.

On July 5th, the celebration of the holiday will continue at Unity Park in Fort Worth, where an estimated 400 homeless and needy people will be served a hot lunch. This event will be made possible by dozens of volunteers from the Muslim community who are observing the Ramadan fast until July 28 as well as local non-Muslim partners. Examples of the organizations partnering up with CAIR-DFW are, Feed by Grace that operates Unity Park and the project GROWTH initiative for the homeless in Fort Worth; and IAMC (the Colleyville Masjid) which operates the charitable "Half-A-Date" program.

For local Muslims, dedicating a day of service on Independence Day that coincides this year with the Month of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, makes total sense. Typically, Muslims during Ramadan fast from Dawn till Sunset and abstain during the daytime hours from food and drinks. They complement their Ramadan worship with extended night prayers called, Taraweeh. They also tend to charitable works in their community by providing food for other Muslims who are in need. But the giving spirit is never limited to Muslims only. This is why this Independence Day initiative is but one of many examples that take place within the Muslim community on a regular basis.

Muslims believe in good relations with others, including taking care of one's neighbors and feeding the hungry. The prophet Muhammad has been quoted saying: "The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry."

CAIR, Council of American Muslim Relations, has been recently recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the best 100 charities in the world. It is a non-profit organization that seeks advocacy for human and civic rights. Its DFW chapter Executive Director is the long time active Alia Salem. Since she started her new position in January, Alia has achieved an enormous amount of work in the organization and has pushed the organization towards more cooperation with the larger community.