3 Ramadan 1435 / 30 June 2014
A Letter from Jacob Bender, Executive Director, CAIR-Philadelphia
Assalamu Alaikum. I am writing to thank you for your past support of the Philadelphia Chapter of CAIR, the nation’s leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, working daily to defeat Islamophobia and educate the general public about Islam and the Muslim community.
Just yesterday, Sunday 29 June, the 2nd day of Ramadan, The Philadelphia Inquirer published my “Letter to the Editor” about Ramadan:
To the Editor,
Non-Muslims often view the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan and its accompanying fast as another manifestation of an oppressive religion.
Like many misinterpretations of Islam, this is way off the mark, for at its heart, Ramadan is imbued with thankfulness, joy and compassion. Thankfulness that God created the amazing world in which we live, overflowing with life and natural wonders. Joy for the gift of the Qur’an, which brought the message of justice and mercy to a people mired in ignorance, and set them on a path to creating a great civilization. And compassion, for by forsaking food, water, and sex, Muslims are reminded, according to one interpretation, of all they have by temporarily living the life of those who have not.
Hence, the giving of charity takes on a special aura of sacredness during Ramadan, and it is common for Muslims to give an even larger donation than usual to those in need. Here in Philadelphia, several mosques will be collecting and distributing fresh produce to homeless shelters around the city, and Councilman Curtis Jones and our organization, along with others, will be co-sponsoring the annual Ramadan Iftar (“breaking the fast”) Dinner at City Hall.
At a time when bloodshed has erupted again throughout the Middle East—in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine—Ramadan declares that religion can yet be a source of reconciliation, not revenge, in our wounded world.
Nine months ago, I was honored to be hired as Executive Director of CAIR-Philadelphia. It has been a tremendously exciting time, filled with many activities serving the Muslim community and dozens of press and media appearances that attest to the impact and importance of the work of CAIR’s Philadelphia Chapter.
I have also had the pleasure of getting to know many of you in the Greater Philadelphia area — being welcomed into your homes for our “Meet & Greets,” speaking at your masajid, and seeing you and your families at CAIR-Philadelphia’s wonderful Annual Banquet.
During this time, I have also been expanding my knowledge of Islam and Muslim history and traditions. As you well know, Ramadan is a time to reach out to those who have wronged you; a time to renew ties with your family and friends; and a time to purify one’s soul by fasting and self-sacrifice. Ramadan is also a time, I have learned, of giving to the Muslim community and its organizations so that it may defend itself against acts of hatred and bigotry.
How accurately this description applies to CAIR and its multi-dimensional approach, combining legal services, education, and advocacy. Consider the following:
Ryan Tack-Hooper, CAIR-Philadelphia’s staff attorney, personally reviews the complaints of dozens of callers each month, offering free legal advice, connecting them to legal resources, and at times representing them personally when appropriate. Currently, Ryan is assisting:
- A Muslim prisoner denied halal meals;
- A Muslim middle-school student who was teased at school and severely injured;
- A Muslim immigrant family, including three young children, who were mistreated at the US-Canada border;
- A Muslim college student whose professor made insulting comments about Islam in an anatomy class;
- A Muslim security guard who was improperly forced to remove her hijab for a permit photo;
- Muslim families approached by the FBI; and A Muslim chaplain retaliated against by his supervisors for complaining about religious harassment at work.
Our Legal Department also continues to train both Muslim youth and adults in anti-bullying workshops and “Know Your Rights” seminars.
CAIR is the key line of defense of the Muslim American community against the bigoted attacks of the well-funded national Islamophobic network. To facedown the Islamophobes, and promote a greater degree of understanding of Islam in the media, I have represented CAIR-Philadelphia over 50 times in print and broadcast venues (appearing on CBS TV/Radio and Aljazeera, and in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker Magazine, among others), with literally thousands of postings on the internet about our Chapter’s work.
We are also planning several major events in the fall, including:
- A campaign aimed at the Philadelphia public schools to have Eid-al-Fitr designated an official school holiday;
- A conference on “The Role of Women in the Muslim American Community”;
- And a series of workshops on “The Muslim Community and Local and National Civic Engagement,” and “Intra-Muslim Dialogue: Bridging the Suburban-Inner City Divide.”
The work of CAIR has been classified as fi-sabilillah (working in the way of Allah), and many commentators on the Qur’an have interpreted that term to apply to all beneficial works and initiatives that are of community benefit to society. Supporting the community in this way has been recognized as zakat-eligible by numerous ulamah around the world.
CAIR’s ability to continue and expand upon this vital work rests solely upon the generosity of the Philadelphia’s Muslim community. Here’s how you can help:
Donate all or part of your zakat or make a general donation to CAIR this Ramadan. Urge the zakat committee of your mosque to dedicate a portion of its distribution of zakat for CAIR.
Your zakah-eligible and tax-deductible donation will show support for CAIR’s steady perseverance and commitment. Although we had a successful banquet on March 15th, raising close to $180,000, we must still raise another $70,000 during Ramadan to meet program costs, office expenses and staff salaries. Please visit pa.cair.com/donate/ to make your contribution.
I thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this appeal and your help in serving the needs of your community.
Wishing you and your families a Ramadan Mubarak,