A group of teen boys and young Muslim men in multiple cities are cleaning up the nation’s parks and memorials because President Trump’s government shutdown over his border wall has debilitated the National Park Service.
“It’s just what we do,” 23-year-old Sarmad Bhatti told The Washington Post, while emptying trash cans along Independence Avenue in the capital. “If there’s an opportunity to serve, that is what Muslims do.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has more than 5,000 members and 50 chapters nationwide, organized cleanups at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Everglades National Park in Florida, Joshua Tree National Park in California and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio over the weekend.
“Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam,” said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of youth group, in a press release. “We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash. We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation.”
The AMYA are serving their country and demonstrating their mission to dispel negative stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims and Islam.
“We’re here to be part of America,” Bhatti said. “We are humbly serving our nation at a time when many tears are being shed.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes went up 83 and 21 percent respectively, in the second quarter of 2018 from the first. CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.
Outside the capital, volunteers wearing shirts that said #MeetAMuslim, served with the hope of changing those misperceptions.
“These parks belong to us, and they’re something we love,” said Raheel Tauyyab,18, one of the volunteers and a freshman at George Mason University. “We’re breaking stereotypes everywhere, about what people think about Muslims and what people think about young people.”
Faizan Tariq, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose Pakistani family arrived in America when he was 3 years old said, “This is our country, and we have to take care of it, even if politicians are unwilling to,” he said.
Fraz Tanvir, the Philly Muslim group’s leader, said volunteering and helping in the community are part of their faith.
“Not only do we plant trees, but with His Holiness’ guidance we maintain the trees, clean up our highways and parks, and all of this has led to clean up our national parks,” Tanvir said.
“We just came out here because we thought it’s our responsibility as a Muslim community to help the neighborhood and help the community,” Zubair Abaidullah, 17, said as he cleaned up trash at Independence Mall in Philly.
Supporters have rallied around the group and encouraged people to accept this as proof of positive benefits to a diverse America: