Members of a Muslim youth group spent the weekend collecting trash and otherwise cleaning up national parks around the country — helping out in the midst of the government shutdown.
Volunteers with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) emptied overflowing trash cans, picked up piles of litter and swept the streets in Everglades National Park in Florida, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Joshua Tree National Park in California.
Members of the group were joined by additional volunteers. At least 70 volunteers — both Muslims and non-Muslims — took part in the weekend cleanup, group spokesperson Salaam Bhatti, tells MNN.
"Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam," said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of the group, in a press release. "We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash. We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation."
More than a dozen young men worked in the pouring rain to clean up Independence Mall in Philadelphia, according to The Inquirer.
"We just came out here because we thought it’s our responsibility as a Muslim community to help the neighborhood and help the community," Zubair Abaidullah, 17, told the paper, while he scooped up litter, including cigarette butts and plastic bags.
The group has 70 chapters across the country with more than 5,000 members — boys and men ages 7 to 40.
"We are tentatively planning for more park cleanups," Bhatti says. "We have also heard that the government shutdown is going to affect a lot of other things, for example SNAP benefits being cut in February. So we are looking into food support. On Martin Luther King Day, our chapter in Manassas, Virginia, is working with a few other groups to pack 25,000 meals for the hungry."
(SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, which provides 19 million households with nutrition assistance.)
Says Bhatti, "We're doing this because service to our fellow people is part of our faith."