CAIRO - Stepping over religious boundaries, US Muslim and Jewish volunteers in the mid-western city of Detroit have joined hands to reach out to needy Americans on Christmas Day.
It's a chance for non-Christian brothers and sisters to take up the helm' of their Christian friends and neighbors who volunteer and give them the opportunity to celebrate their holiday with their friends and family, Kassem Allie of Islamic Center of America in Dearborn told Observer & Eccentric newspaper on Sunday, December 25.
It is as simple as it sounds. People of all faiths, helping out the community, he added.
For the third consecutive year, Allie volunteered with his Wife Zinab and children Jasmine, 15; Khalil, 14; Adam, 10 and Kareem, age 8.
Cooperating with their Jewish neighbors in Detroit,the Muslim family finds a chance on Christmas day to learn about other religious faiths.
It's a tradition that Muslims have had over the centuries that there is collaboration and cooperation between Hebrew and Christian faiths, Allie said.
It is not always highlighted and sometimes it is drowned out by the people who want to point out the friction and focus on the differences.
This year, the family was volunteering to deliver gifts to the needy families at a shelter.
It is such a wonderful opportunity to provide some cheer and joy to families in need. The payback is tremendous because of the reactions of the children and their families, he said.
Falling on the Jewish Mitzvah Month, the idea of the Christmas Day refers to Jewish obligation to help the needy.
Mitzvah is a command from God that you help your neighbor and that you do not turn your back on the needy; it is our religious duty, said Micki Grossman, vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
It is a command that we live with and this is a great chance for the Jewish community to do good things and make a visible community effort in and around Detroit, she added.
During that day, volunteering work varied from soup kitchens to special needs group homes; from orphanages to animal shelters.
We go where we are needed. It gives the staff the chance to cut back and spend time with their families, Grossman said.
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Acknowledging efforts done by volunteering members from Detroit Muslim and Jewish communities, charitable organizations said the day showed solidarity and unity between different faiths.
The Jewish and Muslim people coming to volunteer during this very important Christian holiday is a show of wonderful solidarity, said Jerry Smith, a Capuchin Brother at Capuchin Soup Kitchen in downtown Detroit, run by the Franciscan brotherhood and serving thousands of homeless through the Detroit area.
It's is a most hopeful expression if brotherhood and sisterhood of human beings and the powerful proclamation that we can live together In peace and harmony respecting each other's beliefs and support each other in the name of the creator, Smith said.
Muslims finds in volunteering an opportunity to show the true image of their faith by helping the needy in partnership with the Jewish community.
Even though as Muslims, we do not celebrate Christmas ourselves, we want to provide an opportunity for everyone to enjoy Christmas, said Muzammil Ahmed of Michigan's Council on American Islamic Relations.
We thought this was a great way partner with the Jewish community to get to do something useful and also offers a chance to get to know one another; getting to know one another helps us to overcome any misunderstandings, he added.
In Detroit diverse community, the day also offered Ahmed, the father of four young children, a chance to help his children learn a little bit more about the important religious traditions of their neighbors.
This gives us an opportunity to teach them about it in a unique way and acknowledge Christmas in a respectful and positive manner, he said.
Everyone around us is celebrating Christmas and for the sake of us as a community, we need to acknowledge and recognize the important of other people's religious traditions and holidays. It encourages good feelings and good will, he said. Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.
A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.