September 11, 2010 was a day of remembrance, and a day of renewal. As a country we remembered the 9 year anniversary of a great tragedy which occurred on that day. The attacks of 9/11 were a terrible act of terrorism perpetrated on American soil. And as we recall that day, a group of Muslims from Metro Detroit decided to heed President Obamaâ€™s call to also make it a day of service.
The event taking place was called Acts of Kindness (A-OK) Detroit: A Weekend of Remembrance and Restoration. Many different social groups comprising people from different faiths, backgrounds, and ethnicities sponsored it. CIOM, or Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, was one of the organizations among others. CIOM promotes positive collaboration with government, law enforcement, and civic organizations, etc:
One group of Muslim volunteers was from the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit, commonly known as IAGD masjid in Rochester Hills, a suburb of Detroit. This group consisted of the two primary spiritual leaders of the masjid, who are Imam Aly Lela and Haafiz Rabbani. The group arrived at Clark Park in Detroit for the groupâ€™s registration followed by assignment of the dayâ€™s task. There were many community service projects going on throughout the day, ranging from environmental, to restoration, to clean-up around the city. We were assigned to clean up large weeds and bushes surrounding Piquette Square, a newly built homeless shelter for veterans located at 6221 Brush. The complex is one of the largest in Michigan and has 150 apartments.
Once we reached our site and started working, our group of 7 was joined by 10 to 15 other volunteers from the Metro area along with 10 to 15 residents of the homeless shelter. We were able to clean up a large section of the street, even more than what the organizers had anticipated, and we had a great time doing it. After few hours of cleaning it looked totally different. The change was dramatic and we realized our mistake of not taking a picture before and after cleaning the area of the weeds and other rubbish. . The residents were happy to see the change, area looking so spruced up. They said that the area is a common gathering place for drug dealers, and other unwanted criminal elements. The residents were extremely thankful to us and were elated to see that the area no longer will provide any shelter or hiding places to drug dealers and will prevent other criminal activities. It will no longer be their meeting place in the future.
After the cleanup, we went inside for a pizza lunch with some of the residents of the building, and each group was asked to give a short talk describing their organization and why they chose to be there. Imam Lela described IAGD and Ramadan, and said â€œ9/11 happened to all of us,â€ he further said that we as Muslims felt it was important to spend our Eid holiday helping others in the true spirit of Islam. He also invited everyone to come visit our masjid, and let them know that we wonâ€™t make them work in the street if they visit.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and a win-win for everyone involved. The event continued on Sep 12th, and there were more volunteers expected to join us on that day from IAGD and also from other masjids in the area such as MCWS, or Muslim Community of Western Suburbs. The hope is that by working side by side with people of all faiths, everyone can realize that we have more in common than we have differences and that we can do a greater good for the community of Detroit. The Muslim volunteers wanted to make it clear that they are Americans as well, and were also devastated by the attacks of 9/11. We love our country and want it to prosper just like everyone else.