November 23, 2009
By LINDA SADLOUSKOS
The traditions of the Islamic Hajj and an American Thanksgiving were combined in a food giveaway for needy residents held Sunday in front of the city’s Center of Islamic Enlightenment.
“We are here to help people with their need for food,” said Mohamed Ali, a volunteer from the Piscataway branch of the Islamic Circle of North America, one of the umbrella groups organizing the donation of food to the general public.
The need this year was greater than ever, Ali said, and 800 bags of food were earmarked to be given out at Islamic centers in New Brunswick, Plainfield and Newark.
Later in the afternoon, Ali said about 200 bags of food had been distributed at a display set up outdoors along North Avenue in Plainfield. The food items had been donated by five Islamic organizations in Central Jersey through the 877-Why-Islam Food Bank, organized by the Islamic Food Circle of North America in 2007, according to the ICNA.
“People need food right now,” Atif Nazir, another of the organizers, said before the event. “Then, they can enjoy their Thanksgiving.” The Muslim Center of Middlesex County and Annoor Academy, both in Piscataway, were among the donors.
People gather for the food distribution in front of the Center for Islamic Enlightenment in Plainfield on Sunday. (AUGUSTO F. MENEZES/ MyCentralJersey)
In a few days, some of the same Islamic centers will also be distributing meat to needy families as part of a far more ancient tradition at the end of the 10 days of Hajj, which recognizes the Islamic obligation to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime.
Sayed Ibraham, an elder at the Center for Islamic Enlightenment, said meat from animals specifically slaughtered to celebrate the end of Hajj on Nov. 27 will be distributed to those in need in the neighborhood. If the weather remains mild, he said meat donated from about 300 center families may be distributed outdoors on North Avenue.
Martha Janajri, a member of the Plainfield center who said she had been raised as a Catholic, said many people misinterpret the message and the peacefulness of Islam because of the way the religion is portrayed in the media.
Sunday’s display included a table with free books about Islam.
Noe Lainez Hernandez of Plainfield was one of those passing by who stopped and ended up taking home some books on the subject of Islam, even without accepting the food donation.
Hernandez said he picked up the books, some printed in Spanish, because he knows little about Islam, and he would like to know more.
Maria Mendez of New Brunswick said she was thankful to receive the donation of food. She said she had not planned the visit, but happened to be walking by on Sunday afternoon.
Ali said community members started lining up around 11:30 a.m., when volunteers began giving away bags filled with basic foods, including rice, corn, tuna fish, vegetables and fruits, along with noodles. A variety of other foods were available for those who wanted something different.
The display remained outdoors until after 1 p.m., when a few people were still picking up food or leafing through the books.
Linda Sadlouskos: 908-243-6608; lsadlouskos@MyCentralJersey com