A group of volunteers from different faiths groups joined the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City on Saturday for a project aimed at shedding light on the issue of domestic violence in Oklahoma.
Putting their love into action, the crowd of about 150 gathered at the Grand Mosque, 3201 NW 48, to fill numerous pastel-colored totes with hygiene products, baby formula and other items destined for women and children at the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter.
Doctors Basheer and Asiya Shakir, project coordinators for the “Totes of Love” initiative, said they were thrilled with the turnout Saturday.
“It was amazing,” said Asiya Shakir.
And they said it wasn’t that shocking, either.
“We weren’t surprised because we were already impressed with the support we had already received to help the women and children,” said Basheer Shakir.
The husband-and-wife team said the project was created in response to State Rep. John Bennett’s questionnaire given to several Muslims who visited his office during a “Muslim Day at the Capitol” gathering on March 2. Among the questions regarding the Islamic faith, the questionnaire asked, “The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”
Bennett, R-Sallisaw, told The Tulsa World that the questions were based on passages from the Quran and other Islamic texts, which some believe indicate it is allowable for a husband to strike his wife in some instances.
The Shakirs said they wanted to combat hate with love and education after learning about Bennett’s questionnaire.
Saturday, love carried on.
Love in numbers
Basheer Shakir is chief of neurosurgery at the VA Hospital in Oklahoma City, while his wife is a local pediatrician.
They said perhaps one of the best ways to show the project’s success could be found in the donations that came through.
Asiya Shakir said the goal of $2,500 was set for Totes for Love but that amount was raised within the first 12 hours of the initiative.
Saturday, she said $10,597 was raised as part of the effort and donated to YWCA. She said about $5,000 in baby formula was presented to the YWCA on Saturday, as well as a numerous totes filled with sippy cups, diapers, hygiene products and other items for women and children living at the Y’s domestic violence shelter.
Asiya Shakir said she was also excited to see people of different backgrounds coming together in the name of love. “Some of them said you know this is not Republic or Democrat — this is beyond any political persuasion. This is unity for humanity,” she said.
“I think today, we were the realization of Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s dream.”
The Shakirs said members of the Jewish and Christian community came out to support the effort and the couple was especially heartened when teachers from their daughter’s Jewish day school arrived to help.
“It was so nice to see all the people,” Asiya Shakir said.
The couple said the totes full of donated items were packed up quickly with the help of so many volunteers. The items were taken to the YWCA Oklahoma City on Saturday, where they were welcomed.
“Clients and their children often arrive at our shelter with nothing but the clothes on their back,” said Jan Peery, chief executive officer of YWCA Oklahoma City.
“When clients arrive, ‘Totes of Love’ from the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City will go a long way in helping provide an immediate sense of comfort through basic necessities.”