CAIRO - Driven by their religion to make life better, Muslim volunteers in Chicago are joining hands to serve social justice for poor Americans.
Charity is an important part of our religion, said Dr. Adiba Khan, a staff member of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) in Chicago, told The Washington Post.
Volunteers from several Muslim NGOs have been working to improve living conditions for residents in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.
One of these NGOs is IMAN, which has opened a free clinic to offer medical help for poor residents.
The quality of the care is excellent, patient Yolanda Voss said, while waiting to see a doctor for a follow-up visit about her high blood pressure.
The doctor is very understanding.
IMAN, which is run by Rami Nashashibi, a 40-year-old Muslim activist, is also helping ex-convicts in Chicago to find jobs and housing.
It has also hosted a series of poetry slams and urban street fairs to connect Muslims to the arts and social justice work.
Similar initiatives are championed by other Muslim NGOs as the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, which organizes the country's largest political gathering of young Muslims at the Illinois State Capitol each spring and the Webb Foundation, a group dedicated to shaping a new model of diverse, indigenous US Muslims.
Young Muslims are going about the process of institution building in concretely American ways, said Kambiz GhaneaBassiri of Reed College.
GhaneaBassiri, the author of A History of Islam in America, opines that the 9/11 attacks shaped a generation of young Muslim activists.
The sheer numbers are absolutely new and the funding available for these organizations is absolutely new.
Chicago has the largest Muslim community in the United States with about 400,000 Muslims live there.
The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.
Observers opine that the growing Muslim activism reflects the true image of Islam in the United States.
This surge in new Muslim institutions, led by a nationwide network of young activists, is the most important story in Islam in America right now, Eboo Patel, founder of the college campus-based Interfaith Youth Core, told The Washington Post.
Jane I. Smith, a former dean at Harvard Divinity School, agrees.
There are good things happening in many places, but Chicago seems to me to kind of have it all, he said.
It's got all different backgrounds represented, and different ways of approaching Islam.
The success of IMAN and other NGOs in Chicago has inspired many Muslim activists across the country to launch similar initiatives in different cities, including Detroit, Atlanta, New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Efforts of Muslim activists in Chicago were not confined to only social service, but also extended to clear misconceptions about the religion.
Recently, Muslim activists have launched a campaign to reclaim the true meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims.
The campaign has later expanded to San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
A recent US survey had revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.A Gallup poll had also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.