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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Donate School Supplies to Islamic Relief USA

Islamic Relief USA is asking for donations for "Be Cool For School," a project started in the summer of 2009 by IR USA volunteer Chynna Wendell to help give Washington, D.C.-area students (and students in other states this year) the proper tools they need to succeed.

The project is a school supply drive that runs from mid-summer until a week before school starts. New school supplies are collected at various locations and then distributed to needy D.C.-area students in time for the first day of school.

Thanks to Islamic Relief USA's support of the project, "Be Cool for School" has expanded to include IR USA chapters in Detroit, Chicago and New Jersey. Additionally, the Domestic Programs department at IR USA will be sponsoring Hendley Elementary School in Washington, D.C. by providing the school with much needed supplies.

Drop sites have been arranged at IR USA headquarters and other locations (see below), and the word has spread about project through the help of IR USA's strong volunteer base.

Last year the project collected enough school supplies to fill several boxes, bags and even one suitcase. Half of these supplies went to the Alexandria Baptist Church, where they not only distributed school supplies, but gave free haircuts and manicures for the young girls.

Giving in Ramadan
Coincidentally, this project falls during Ramadan this year (as well as last year), which makes it even more special to us. The Holy Qu'ran tells us that seeking knowledge is a duty and that doing so is actually a form of prayer. And because giving to charity is a main component to Ramadan, this project is very fitting indeed. Giving during Ramadan is a gift unto us, so we urge you to give to this project.

What is needed:
Notebooks, pencils, pens, folders, notebooks, binders, crayons, markers, scissors, rulers, erasers, backpacks, calculators, glue, glue sticks, graphing paper, protractors and compasses, colored pencils, school uniforms, pencil boxes, pencil sharpeners, and more. We ask that all items be new.

Join our cause on Facebook and let your friends know how they too can give the gift of giving.

Collection Dates:

July 15 - August 20 2010

Drop Off Locations:

In Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia:

Ballston: 850 N Randolph St, Arlington, VA 22203; 24 hours a day 7 days a week (LEAVE AT THE FRONT DESK FOR APT. 406)

Washington D.C.: 1300 N St NW, Washington, DC 20009; 9:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Monday-Friday (LEAVE AT THE FRONT DESK FOR APT. 401)

Alexandria: Islamic Relief Headquarters; 3655 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria, VA 22304; 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday

In Illinois:

Islamic Relief USA Midwest Office; 10101 S. Roberts Rd.,Palos Hills, IL 60465

In New Jersey:

409 Minnisink Rd, Totowa, NJ 07512

--Nazia A. Hossain, National Volunteer Coordinator for Islamic Relief USA

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Imams Learn How to Address Domestic Violence

One travelled more than 3,000 miles from California. Another spent over a day in New York amidst cancelled flights and mix-ups. And one more drove more than nine hours from Detroit without rest to arrive in time. They shared the fact that they were Muslim men and imams–religious leaders–but more importantly they were also united against a common and often hushed crisis in their communities: domestic violence.

More than a dozen imams from around the country came to a special workshop, “Preventing and Responding to Domestic Violence,” last weekend at The Fairfax Institute in Herndon, Va., to share, learn and gain effective tools to address domestic violence in their respective communities. Initiated by Peaceful Families Project (PFP), a nonprofit organization devoted to ending domestic violence in Muslim families through awareness workshops for Muslim leaders and communities, the two-day workshop was sponsored by Islamic Relief USA.

“[This is] about learning from each other,” said Imam Mohamed Magid, Executive Director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va.

In a u-shaped classroom that served as their meeting space, imams relayed stories of how domestic violence affected their lives and communities. “[Domestic violence] knows no prejudice in who it affects, even the well-respected college professor who goes home everyday and beats his wife,” said Imam Said Seddouk, Director of the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley in Rowland Heights, Calif.

Other imams shared Seddouk’s sentiments. “Anyone can be a victim, and anyone can be an oppressor,” said Imam Jamil Dasti of the Islamic Center of Maryland in Gaithersburg, Md.

According to Salma Abugideiri, co-director of PFP, licensed professional counselor and event facilitator, perpetrators of abuse can include spouses, parents, adult or adolescent children, in-laws and other relatives.

More than 85 percent of abuse victims are women, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. During pregnancy, a woman is at greatest risk for being battered. And while physical abuse is the most obvious form of violence, other forms–including mental, sexual, financial and spiritual–can be more psychologically devastating.

Abugideiri discussed the cycle of violence that affects a victim and perpetrator: When a victim doesn’t align with the abuser’s demands, tension builds that may escalate to violence. Afterwards, the abuser may feel remorse and seek forgiveness, with the victim often relenting.“It’s hard when you see a man crying not to believe he is genuine and sincere,” she said. “But as soon as the woman starts to act ‘defiant,’ the abuse will start again.

Imams expressed the necessity for active listening in counseling families. “Being an effective counselor means hearing both sides of the story,” said Imam F. Qasim Khan of Muslim Alliance in North America.

Abugideiri also discussed the residual scars of abuse: Children are often permanently psychologically affected by the abuse inflicted on them or a loved one. Children bombarded by negative gender roles will often imitate those roles in adulthood by becoming abusers or abused themselves.

At the end of the two-day workshop, attending imams signed a proclamation taking a firm stance against domestic violence. “People can get a clear sense that there’s a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence in each of their communities,” said Maha Alkhateeb, co-director of PFP.

Saleem Khalid, Islamic Relief USA’s domestic programs manager, said it was an honor for the relief and charity organization to be involved in the workshop. “Alhamdulillah, we’re pleased to be a part of the solution,” he said.

Abugideiri said she hoped “that [the imams] leave feeling more equipped to deal with cases of domestic violence and will become our allies in ending it.” She also expressed her gratitude to Islamic Relief USA for sponsoring the event. “They’ve improved our ability to respond to domestic violence,” she said.

To learn more about Peaceful Families Project, click here. To learn more about Islamic Relief USA, please visit our website.

--Muneeza Tahir

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer is a Busy Time for Islamic Relief USA Volunteers

Has your summer been busy? For the volunteers at Islamic Relief USA, it’s been a constant buzz of activity. With helping out at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention, working in our Washington, D.C.-headquarters, and preparing for Ramadan, IR USA volunteers continue to work hard for the campaigns and relief efforts of this organization.

We began July with helping to get more than 100 orphans sponsored at the annual ISNA convention in Chicago. Volunteers joined together with IR USA's National Events Coordinator, Natasha Isaac, to put together the "best booth" display at the bazaar: a first-hand look at IR USA's Children in Need projects.

And throughout the summer there has been an increase in the number of volunteers at Islamic Relief USA's headquarters. Volunteers have been assisting with community fundraising, public affairs, finance, and constituent relations management department.

Ramadan's Gift
As we head into August, we are all aware that Ramadan, the blessed Islamic month, is around the corner. Muslims around the globe are preparing for a month of fasting, prayers, and charity. One of the blessings of the month is that good deeds done will be rewarded manifold. I am eager for Ramadan to start and to increase our volunteer efforts in this month, inshallah, for the sake of Allah.

Muslims believe that charity, or sadaqa, is what is given voluntarily for the sake of Allah to obtain the spiritual recompense from Allah. This charity is not just monetary. As the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
"Every day the sun rises, charity (sadaqa) is due on every joint of a person. Administering justice between two people is a charity; and assisting a man to mount his beast, or helping him load his luggage on it is a charity; and a good word is a charity; and every step that you take (towards a masjid) for salat (prayer) is a charity; and removing harmful things from the road is a charity. (From Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)”
I spent last weekend in the Midwest speaking about the importance of volunteering and how volunteering itself is a charity. Islamic Relief USA volunteers will be helping at two big projects: a worldwide orphan sponsorship drive ("Drive to Save Lives") and a local school supply drive ("Be Cool for School"). Volunteers will also be assisting the Midwest region with masjid (mosque) bookings, spreading awareness, and crucial office support during the busiest season of the year!

Make Ramadan 2010 spectacular. Give the gift of time, and volunteer today!

Your National Volunteer Coordinator,
Nazia Hossain

Friday, July 9, 2010

Islamic Relief-Sponsored Microfinance Businesses Receive Awards

For two Palestinian entrepreneurs, their hard work to establish small businesses through microcredit loans from Islamic Relief have garnered them first and second prizes in the category of finance in a microenterprise competition held by the Palestinian Network for Small and Micro Finance.

First prize of $2,500 went to Rafat Musa’d Ysusf from the Mughazi area in Palestine, for his business of selling frozen food and establishing a restaurant. Second prize of $1,500 went to Muhammad El Sharif for his tailoring shop north of Gaza. Both business owners were granted microcredit loans from Islamic Relief Palestine, which helped them develop their projects.

The competition, which was also sponsored by Islamic Development Bank, Murabaha Program, United Nations Development Program and Oxfam Novib (a Dutch affiliate of the international Oxfam relief organization), was organized by Sharakeh, a nongovernment organization established in 2002 that represents a forum of microfinance and nonprofit institutions and programs and focuses on the growth of the microfinance industry in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Kareem Okasha, coordinator of the Murabaha Program, said the achievement of the two entrepreneurs shows how successful microfinance is. “This achievement is the result of teamwork efforts of Murabaha Program and the diligence of the borrowers who spare no effort in developing and improving their projects.”

Microfinance is one of the types of income generation projects that Islamic Relief employs to help rehabilitate afflicted peoples. Other programs include cash for work and vocational training. Click here to read more about what Islamic Relief does in Palestine.

Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub, who just returned from a trip visiting IR programs abroad, applauded a similar microfinance program in Mali. To learn about Islamic Relief USA's work in Palestine, click here. To donate to Islamic Relief USA, click here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Changes On Our Website

We’re making some changes to our Islamic Relief USA website! You’ll see that the top of our page will have a different look to it, and as the weeks go by, some of our other pages will be getting a fresh look to feature new information about our campaigns, volunteers, relief efforts, domestic and international programs, and other areas.

It’s all part of our efforts to make our website easier for you to navigate, and to make your donation experience better. So bear with us as we make changes throughout our website. We hope you’ll like what you see in the coming weeks. If you have any comments or questions, you can email us at

Islamic Relief Needs Your Giving Stories!

This year at Islamic Relief USA we are focusing our Ramadan efforts around the theme that "Giving is a Gift." During this blessed month, we know that each supplication we utter, the five daily prayers we perform, each time we remember Allah, read the Qur’an, do a good deed, and every way we give to those in need--we well be rewarded for it inshallah in multitude.

So during Ramadan, more than any other month, the act of giving to others not only helps those in need, but it is a gift for ourselves. Because inshallah Allah will bless us for all we give. Giving is a gift.

With this in mind, we are seeking your giving stories to share on our website to inspire each other to give back for the sake of Allah during Ramadan. Do you donate time or money to a cause or organization? Which ones? Do you volunteer somewhere? Do you give to your family? Share your stories with us in the comments section or please email us (and send photos!) You can email us at: with how you give back in Ramadan. If you don't want to share your whole name, you don't have to. But please share your stories with us. And we need your stories by July 16, 2010.

We'll be posting your stories on our website. Giving is a gift, for inshallah we will receive Allah's blessings for all we give in Ramadan.