MEMPHIS - Like thousands of American Muslims, Nadeem Zafar was setting a role model for a true Muslim who extends hands of help to his community to help needy and sick people.
After 9/11, because of the actions of a few terrorists, all Muslim Americans were in the spotlight, Zafar, director of the Pathology Residency Program at the UT Health Science Center, told The Commercial Appeal on Saturday, September 8.
I think it's important for us as Muslim Americans not only to talk about the good we can do but to show it, he added.
Becoming a US citizen in 2008, Zafar has been leading his fellow Asian Americans in Memphis over the past years to help needy Americans.
Last year, while Tennesseans were leading a protest against the Islamic center construction, he was leading a Memphis food drive.
Weeks ago, as some rural politicos were distributing flyers opposing the appointment of a native Middle Tennessean (and Muslim) to the governor's cabinet, Zafar and his fellow Pakistani physicians were distributing food to hungry people in rural West Tennessee.
Last month, while congressional candidates near Nashville were waging a rhetorical war on Islam, Zafar and his fellow Memphis-area Muslims were fasting and praying and collecting money for the cash-starved Mid-South Food Bank.
We want to change perceptions, Zafar said.
We want to show people that we are here to help.
Zafar, now a Food Bank board member, has enlisted the Association of Pakistani Physicians in organizing similar food drives around the country.
He's also working with Masjid Al-Mu'Minun, the city's oldest mosque on South Third, to open a food pantry, becoming the first Muslim food pantry in the country to be associated with the Food Bank network.
"There's no religion that does not promote feeding of the poor," Zafar said.
Seeing increasing demand for help from food banks, Muslim efforts to feed the hungry were urged.
"The need is constant," said Estella Mayhue-Greer, Food Bank president and CEO.
"As soon as the food comes in, it goes right back out."
Zafar and his fellow US Muslims were also turning to help the poor American patients.
Next weekend, the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America will administer free flu shots around the country.
"The Asian-American community has benefited much from America, and for many it is important to contribute back to the community," said Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician and member of the Greater Memphis Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force.
Zafar and his wife, Dr. Seema Abbasi, a pediatrician, also volunteer at the Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic (MMMC) on Stratford.
Since opening in 1996, the weekend clinic and its medical volunteers have managed more than 4,000 patient visits.
Financed entirely by private donations from the Muslim community, the clinic serves people of all faiths.
Last month, the clinic was recognized at the Methodist Healthcare Foundation's 2012 Living Awards banquet for its commitment to faith and healing.
Though there are no official statistics, the US is believed to be home to 7-8 million Muslim.
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims have complained of discrimination and stereotypes because of their Islamic attires or identities.
Despite the frenzy, they seized the opportunity to introduce a true message of Islam, through activism.
Extending new bridges into the community, new groups were established, such as American Muslim Voice, founded by Samina Sundas of Palo Alto.
There is also the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was founded to help Muslims engage with their neighbors in civic life.
A Muslim program, Day of Dignity, was also introduced nationwide seven years ago, aiming at serving homeless and vulnerable Americans, whether Muslim or not.
Every year, the nation-wide effort aims to serve more than 20,000 homeless and people in need in 15 cities throughout the United States.
People receive health screenings, free food, and a variety of goods depending on their particular city.