We are saving lives, sheltering the poor and feeding the homeless. We are Oklahoma Muslims!
As an American Muslim, I have become sharply aware that so many people I meet have no idea about the humanitarian efforts being made by Oklahoma Muslims. Furthermore, despite the horrific headlines, Oklahoma Muslims have a long history of being positive contributors, both uplifting and inspirational, in their Oklahoma communities and cities.
Oklahoma Muslims have been here since the early 1900s. But the largest immigration of Muslims into Oklahoma started in the 1960s. It seems hard to believe that so many of us have been giving back for over 50 years. For instance, The Surayya Anne Foundation, Oklahoma’s first and only all Muslim women-run and -operated humanitarian organization, has housed more than 100 homeless families in a Tulsa-based transitional living facility. It has aided low-income families with electric and gas bill payments and with an emergency rental assistance program to prevent dozens of families from facing eviction and homelessness. In the first eight months of this year, the Foundation’s Oklahoma City branch provided more than 10,000 food assists.
America’s Muslim civil rights and advocacy group — The Council of American Islamic Relations in Oklahoma — has held its annual Ramadan Day of Service for the past eight years at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma with its most recent event in July. The event brought together 175 Muslim volunteers, who showed up during daylight hours when they were fasting from all food and drink, to package enough food to create 21,000 meals for fellow Oklahomans.
In addition to these initiatives, the Islamic Society of Tulsa offers a free walk-in medical clinic on Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings, and feeds over 80 families each month via their partnership with the local food bank.
No matter how difficult times seem to be, or how much criticism is cast upon the Muslim community in general, or aspersions cast on Oklahoma Muslims specifically, they continue to find more ways to help the neediest in Oklahoma. For instance, in July 2017, the Muslim community saw the formation of a new grassroots nonprofit called Muslims4Mercy.
Ravi Sharma, better known as Rami, a native of India and a recent transfer to Tulsa from Seattle, was the impetus behind this new idea. Rami gathered a coalition of Muslim professionals in the Tulsa area, which led to the purchase of a van to distribute food to Tulsa’s homeless population through the establishment of partnerships with several local restaurants. Local restaurant owners and volunteers will prepare food for 100 homeless people each week and distribute that food throughout Tulsa on Fridays. The new non-profit hopes to kick off this new venture by September.
Charitable giving is not the only way that Oklahoma Muslims choose to reach out to help their communities. They do so through many professional arenas as well. For example, in the medical field, a close friend who has worked as a neonatologist providing care for Oklahoma’s premature infants for over 25 years, estimated that nearly 75 percent of preemies born in Tulsa had Muslim medical specialists as their physicians.
Be it operators in the oil and gas industry, taxi drivers, school teachers, store owners, network specialists, nurses, psychologists and even Army veterans, I have Muslim friends from all across the vocational spectrum giving back to their Oklahoma communities in countless ways.
Yes, I am tooting our own horn! That is because I am tired of the negative media and the dehumanizing narrative that continues to confine us and define us. I would like the world to know that we are Muslims, and we love Oklahoma!
Allison Moore is a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board. Opinion pieces by board members appear in the Opinion section each week.