CAIRO - In a new outreach to show the true face of their religion, Muslim students are volunteering to help build homes for residents of the US state of West Virginia.
"They are one of the most delightful groups of students you are ever going to meet," Gwen Miles, volunteer coordinator for Wood County Habitat for Humanity, told the Parkesburg News and Sentinel on Wednesday, March 7.
"This is the first group of Muslim students (to volunteer here) and the first group we've had from as far away as Washington, D.C.
Muslim students from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. have volunteered to build homes for residents in south Parkesburg in West Virginia.
"Not many students would give up their Spring Break to come work in cold and snowy Parkersburg," Miles said.
"They are making the best of it."
The initiative is part of Muslim efforts to show the American public the truce face of their faith.
"I asked how we can best translate our faith into action, how we can best be Americans, said Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain for Georgetown University.
The idea is to be there for those who are overlooked," he said. "The students decided to take this idea seriously."
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between seven to eight million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
The anti-Muslim frenzy has grown over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site and repeated attempts by Republican lawmakers to ban Islamic Shari`ah in several US states.
US Muslims have been outraged by repeated scandals of FBI spying on their mosques and neighborhoods.
The Associated Press has recently revealed that the New York police monitored Muslim college students miles away from the city.
The agency found that New York police sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and how many times they prayed.
Police detectives also trawled Muslim student websites every day and though professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing
Freshman Erva Khan was happy to help fellow Americans.
"It really doesn't matter what our religion is," Khan said.
"We are all working with our hands, working with the same tools. This is what we should be doing as Muslims, helping people."
Sophomore Zainab Ibrahim is also jubilant.
"The community here has been so warm and welcoming. It's been great," Ibrahim said.
"You realize it is real people you are helping; real lives. It gives weight to our actions."
For Wardah Athar, a junior at Georgetown and president of the college's Muslim Students Association, the volunteering effort was a rewarding experience.
"We are learning so much more than we are helping," she said.
"We are lucky to be here."
Muslim students hope that the volunteering effort would reflect the truce face of the Islamic faith.
"Ours is a religion of compassion and peace," Imam Hendi said."This is the kind of future I want to have for the next generation of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Everyone working together."