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Islamic Center Helps Vulnerable Texans

“Helping each other, helping out the needy and the weaker segments of society is part and parcel of our belief.”

Source :  OnIslam & Newspapers / 21 Jan 2013

Seeking to help the poor and vulnerable residents of America’s second most populous state, an Islamic center is offering medical and counseling services for the unprivileged people of different faiths.

“It comes from our religion,” Aftab Siddiqui, board chairman of the Muslim Community Center for Human Services, told Star-Telegram.

“Helping each other, helping out the needy and the weaker segments of society is part and parcel of our belief.”

The center is offering medical help for low-income residents, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

It also offers counseling services, immigrant resettlement efforts and programs for domestic violence and women-empowering.

The center also helps resettle hundreds of refugees from Muslim countries. It helped resettle about 700 refugees, many of them from Iraq, last year.

It also shoulders the responsibility of teaching native-born Americans about Muslim cultures as well as correcting misconceptions about Muslims.

Siddiqui, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1993, said a praying Muslim is not something that could invite worrying.

"We have to pray five times a day," he said.

He stressed that Muslims avoid looking into the eye of someone of the opposite sex in respect of their religion.

"It is no security threat or anything like that," Siddiqui said. "It's just out of respect for their spouses."

Yet, empowering women, by keeping them healthy and safe through marriage and family counseling, was one of the center’s major achievements.

"If a woman faces domestic violence, the center will create a plan for safety and care management, and if needed, a referral to a shelter", Thompson said.

"When we think about empowerment, we think about information," he said.

"It has so much to do with just the knowledge. Once you know, you can act."

The Islamic center was founded in 1995 and serves more than 4,000 people in Tarrant County and some parts of Dallas County on an annual budget of about $320,000, said Talaun Thompson, the center's program director.

More than half the budget comes from donations and zakat (alms) from the Muslim community.

Grants from the state, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and local hospitals help cover the rest.

Religious Praise

The role of the Muslim center has won praise from Christians and Jewish faith leaders.

"Those resource centers are invaluable," said Daniel Stafford, chaplain and patient advocate at North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills.

"They are a great reference to ask questions."

Stafford said he turns to the Islamic center along with local rabbis and Catholic churches for advice, particularly when someone dies.

Stafford, a Baptist, said he wants to be sensitive to religious beliefs without asking relatives a lot of questions when they're grieving.

The Islamic center was also getting help from non-Muslim doctors.

Allen Roach, a Christian dentist, retired from his Haltom City dental practice about three years ago

Planning to just donate and help set up his equipment, he agreed to volunteer his time at the center after he saw the need.

"I enjoy doing it," Roach said as he peered into patient Malik Ali's mouth.

But Roach added that he wishes he could get some donated help, especially a dental hygienist.

"This is a good doctor. The problem is he talks too much," Ali joked.

Americans Muslims have launched similar initiatives across the country.

Last year, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America established a clinic providing free dental, ophthalmologic, pediatric and pain-management services on Sundays at the Balal Mosque on St. Louis University’s campus.

Another clinic was opened by the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, in partnership with Volunteers in Medicine in October.


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