New York City announced, on Thursday, plans to serve half a million free halal meals during the month of Ramadan as a part of a meal distribution program.
The news coming from the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio laid out plans to reach vulnerable people struggling to secure food during the Coronavirus pandemic. “There will be 400,000 Halal meals available at 32 specific Department of Education sites” said the mayor during a press briefing.
The 32 specific sites, which are part of 435 locations made available to tackle this issue, will be focused where there are large Muslim communities.
De Blasio emphasized as well the significance the holy month has, especially during the current health crisis saying, “one of Ramadan’s most noble callings is to feed the hungry. It’s a crucial part of how the holiday is celebrated to remember to be there for those in need and that is now harder than ever”.
In addition to the 32 sites, another hundred thousand free halal meals will be distributed through partnerships with community-based organizations, food pantry, and soup kitchens.
The mayor also acknowledged the role mosques play in feeding the hungry throughout the year and especially in Ramadan. Mosques have often been a place that those who were hungry, those who were poor would know for certain they could have a meal to break their fast. This is no longer possible as all worship places of all faiths have been closed to limit large gatherings in response to COVID-19, therefore, there will be no community-wide meals (Iftar) or Taraweeh prayers .
The novel virus ravaged the state of New York which is now considered the epicenter of the disease in the United States. According to the NYC department of health, over 140 thousand people have tested positive for Coronavirus and more than 11 thousand people have lost their lives, as of the 23rd of April.
#Ramadan is a month to reflect, to build discipline and to become closer to God. As our city continues to confront the COVID-19 crisis, every New Yorker can learn from such a profound act of faith. Ramadan Mubarak to all of our neighbors beginning their fast. pic.twitter.com/9zwayRJOFK
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Jeff Goldblum, TV personality and star of the movie Jurassic Park, was a recent guest star on season 12 of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Every judge on the quirky show comments about a contestant’s performance – but rarely do we see comments going as far as to attack a contestant’s religion.
Jackie Cox is an Iranian drag queen whose family has been affected by President Trump’s Muslim ban. After lip syncing to Katy Perry’s song “Firework” while wearing a hijab and dress embellished with the American flag, Goldblum asked Cox, if “Islam is anti-homosexual and anti-woman,” going on to ask if “that complicates the issue” with Cox’s performance.
Goldblum’s statement comes from an inherently fundamental problem that is consistently purported to show that Islam has no place in the West.
In asking whether Islam “complicates” the issue, we can see something more sinister deeply ingrained within the American mindset: Islamophobia. Like all religions, there is a problem with the co-opting of Islam’s sacred texts to be used to justify the agendas of people in power. But, the texts aren’t the problem, it’s the use of out of context phrases and statements that continue to be weaponized in order to paint an inaccurate picture of our religion.
From a fellow queer Muslim who has had to deal with constant ignorant attacks on my religion on campus and daily life, ignorant statements like these are usually the underlying thoughts hidden in comments like “how are you gay and Muslim?”
To be clear, there are millions of queer Muslims around the world whose existences are threatened not by their community but by a Western society that believes they are walking contradictions yearning to be “liberated” from oppressive regimes.
@JackieCoxNYC was making a statement about her Iranian heritage through her fashion and spoke up about the way the Muslim ban has oppressed Muslims. His little comment that "that religion" is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman comes off like a justification for the racist laws.
Cox made our people proud and shed light on the United State’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda by stating that “I’m exploding out on that stage because I’m feeling the weight of everyone who’s ever been told they need to go back home where they come from.” By gaslighting her incredible performance, we can see what Goldblum and many others really mean by their comments – Which is to perpetuate an anti-Islam agenda that portrays a religion that 1.8 Billion people follow as a way of life, into thinking that they have no place in the West.
I am here. I am queer. I am Muslim. We are many.
Queer Muslims are committed to show the world that our identities exist, and have been present for centuries, but comments like Goldblum’s push us back to a place we are actively fighting to come out of.
We don’t need to be liberated from our Muslim communities, we need to be liberated from ignorant statements like those of Goldbum and others. As a public figure, Goldblum’s comments can have implications and it’s imperative that he’s aware of that.
Samer Hassan is a queer Muslim currently studying at Columbia University New York City