CAIRO – As the winter approaches, Muslim students at Michigan State University have launched a new event titled “Project Downtown” to offer the homeless a free meal and reach out to the wider community.
“What we do is we make sandwiches for the homeless,” psychology sophomore and volunteer chair for Project Downtown Amal Mohamed told the State News on Monday, September 29.
“We provide them with water bottles and chips and cookies and string cheese. And then we wrap them up individually for them.”
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Mohamed is a member of the Muslim Students’ Association of MSU who gathers after Friday prayer, twice a month, to make sandwiches for the homeless.
The people who receive the sandwiches seem grateful, neuroscience sophomore Hiba Abu-Haltam said.
“It’s really fun, we always get together and just make food together,” Abu-Haltam said.
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“Whenever I go there, like this morning I went and they wrote me a thank you letter and it was really nice.”
The project dates back to 2006 when MSA National and Project Downtown joined forces to combat the rising rates of homelessness in America.
Currently, the Michigan group makes about 50 sandwiches peanut butter and jelly, but sometimes they add in meat if they have extra money.
“After the Friday prayer, we have everyone come make these sandwiches,” President of MSA and international relations junior Mohammed Rathur said.
“We take them in a box and we have water, and then we drive (to) downtown Lansing on Larch Street (and go to) Volunteers of America (VOA) and we distribute the sandwiches basically to the homeless people that are there.”
Any leftovers are usually given to VOA’s soup kitchen.
For Muslim volunteers, their effort was necessary to combat the rising rates of homelessness in America.
“Some people say this is the only meal they’ve had all day,” Rathur said.
“You just get a lot of blessings basically from people.”
Rathur said the shelter is especially busy during the winter months, which is when more people hope to receive sandwiches.
“A peanut butter jelly sandwich in the middle of the winter is sometimes the greatest thing for them during the middle of the week, so we do what we can to help everyone,” Rathur said.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the University of California and Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.