St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Some of below mentioned incidents in no way reflects the general unmatched, unparalleled superior quality of services offered by various agencies within the United States. In fact, the Government and the people of the United States are in my personal opinion one of the most open minded and generous people in the world. Not surprisingly you could find people settled down in the U.S from almost every corner of the world. The U.S has generously accommodated millions of refugees from across the conflict zones of the world and has assisted them to settle down in the U.S. Having said the above, as in every culture and country in the world, there is always a small minority of people who I call the "bad apples" who are prejudiced and if not noticed, would not mind violating their own work related policies to express their hate and/or ignorance).
WE ARE ONE UMMAH IN PRACTICE WHEN WE HELP EACH OTHER.
One day in a hospital where I worked, a Muslim woman with hijab came and told me that when she went to the appropriate Govt office and tried to apply for Medical insurance, she was denied. She was a new immigrant from overseas and was five months pregnant. I was really surprised of her denial and wondered about it. Even the undocumented aliens illegally entering the country are given Medical insurance if they were pregnant, how could our Muslima, a legal permanent resident be denied the benefit. I have a strong belief that a piece of cloth over the head of a woman should not make such a prejudicial difference in the outcome of delivery of social services and this is “dead wrong”. I then wrote in an official letter head, a letter addressed to the appropriate agency indicating that I was her Social Worker and referring her to apply for Medical insurance and other related benefits. Later, the Muslima came back and told me about the good news of acceptance of her Medical application and also approval of cash aid and food stamps.
I once worked at a Mental Health facility, and there was one Muslim patient who prayed five times a day within the facility and showed extreme distaste of pork. The non-Muslim Clinician in his documentation made a note that the inmate may have “Obsessive-Compulsive disorder” because he was frequently washing his hands. Apparently the Clinician had no idea that Pt had to wash his hands and feet as part of ablution before his prayers five times a day. He just observed Pt washing his hands and feet & gave him a label via a clinical diagnosis. The same clinician did not know that Muslims did not eat pork and when Pt had reacted extremely hard to the topic of eating pork, the Clinician concluded that Pt may be “paranoid” about pork and other related issues. Above Muslim SW educated the Clinician on Islam.
A female Muslim teenager came running inside her home from her front yard, crying and saying to her mother that one of her School female classmates attacked her (right in front of her house) and pulled a part of her hair creating a bald spot on her head and telling her that “Osama is your uncle” and “Osama is hiding in your house”. The mother does not know English and contacted me for help. The same female teenager was physically attacked for the second time by the same female student/ perpetrator. I had talked to the School Vice Principal and learnt that they cannot do anything about it since the incident happened outside the School grounds. I advised the teenager’s mother on appropriate steps to take. Police were called and the perpetrator was given a warning and the teenager was never hassled again in any way by the above perpetrator.
A new Muslim African immigrant female student with very limited knowledge of English was made fun of by few of her African-American female students. In one instance they traumatized her by ganging up close to her and threatening her by pointing a knife at her throat in the female restroom. The victim’s parents don’t speak English and contacted me. I called the School Social Worker and followed up on it. On a follow up phone call, I learnt that the Muslim student’s harassment had subsided and she reported no more harassment since then.
A homeless Muslim woman at a Shelter stated to the staff that she does not eat pork. She was told that she should be happy that she was at least getting something to eat. She was not offered any substitute of either vegetables or any other dish. Upon knowing the above, I arranged for her transfer to a different shelter that was sensitive to her Islamic values and offered substitute food.
A Muslim female who strongly believed in hijab but was scared to identify herself as a Muslim wore a silk hijab that had the picture of an American Flag while going to public places. She stated that she feels safer being visibly patriotic (American) and also a devout Muslim. Should one display an American Flag over their head to be safe? This was not the America that most of us know.
WORST OF ALL, there was a Muslim family that abruptly becomes homeless after loss of job and subsequent eviction. (Note: 83 percent of American families live from pay check to pay check). The father, mother and children were living in a car camping close to the Masjid. When they approached the ISLAMIC CENTER (Masjid) for help, they were given a small amount that hardly lasted for few days. Shockingly, the father was told by the Masjid Management staff that if he again approaches them for help, Police will be called.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WHERE IS THE SPIRIT OF UMMAH and the true feeling that WE ARE ONE COMMUNITY. We don’t expect any Masjid to house the family, but at least they should have referred the family to various family shelters that are available. Unfortunately most of the Masjids do not have a list of such Emergency Housing Resources. We recommend that the Social Service Committees of Islamic Centers have a list of such resources of emergency housing and other basic needs and provide to the needy Muslims as appropriate.
People like the above family are an integral part of our UMMAH and let’s not increase their stressors and anxiety by threatening to call the Police.
In short, the Muslim community in the US is not immune to the social problems that exist in the American society today. Unfortunately, there is no real co-ordinated Islamic infrastructure that currently exists to deal with the social problems faced by the Muslims within the US from an Islamic perspective. The Muslim Community in the US needs to get together and build above infrastructure literally from ground up.
Such Social Service Committees can be like a ONE-STOP center and CLEARING HOUSE to provide needed information and refer the Muslim to the appropriate resources. If they are brushed aside because of their hijab as in the incident mentioned above, or because of their Muslim name or any other prejudicial reason, you can contact us and we can attempt to follow up.
To us, this is what a true UMMAH is about and it goes way and far beyond just reading the Salaat together in a Masjid or during Idd prayers.
We need to explore all possible ways to literally join our hands together and help the needy Muslims to the best of our ability.