The Prison Project: Long overdue Eid ul Fitr celebration for Muslim inmates

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As Muslims across the Illinois and Chicagoland celebrated Eid with prayers, family visits, and traditional meals, Muslim inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center prepared for another year without enjoying that same privilege. Thanks to the efforts of a group of dedicated volunteers from the Bridgeview and Chicago Muslim communities who collaborated with the CAIR-Chicago Prison Project, the inmates had a much needed Eid ul Fitr celebration after fasting during the month of Ramadan. A collaboration of community members and CAIR-Chicago teamed up to give Muslim inmates an Eid they would remember.

Inmates at Stateville Correctional Center always noticed how their Jewish and Christian counterparts were able to celebrate Passover and Christmas every year. Members of the Jewish community collaborated and collected food donations to distribute during Passover. The same was done by the Christian community for Christmas.

CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Law Clerks Claudia Bertacchi and Abubakr Meah reached out to Zakat Foundation, Mansour International Golden Foods, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Missions, the Islamic Circle of North America and volunteers from the Muslim community in Bridgeview and were able to collect boxes of dates, Qur’ans, Islamic literature, tasbeehs and prayer rugs to be given to the Muslim inmates.

But what’s a holiday celebration without a feast?

Amberina Khan, a member of the Bridgeview Muslim community, banded with a group of volunteers in the community and they were able to cook and transport food for the Muslim inmates. Early on Eid morning, August 19, equipped with meat pies, spinach pies and hummus, boxes of cookies, crackers, juice boxes, and fresh fruit, Khan and CAIR-Chicago Staff Attorney Rabya Khan packed and delivered the food and donations to Statesville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois.

“I don’t think any of this would have been possible without the people who volunteered their time, money and energy. This was really a community effort.” said Bertacchi.

The impact of the project was displayed best in the words of the Muslim inmates who sent numerous thank you letters to CAIR-Chicago and the volunteers. Some of their words of gratitude:

“I love you all and may Allah bless you for all your good deeds.”

“This was the best Eid-el-Fitr I’ve had here or at Menard CC.”

“It was truly wonderful to have such a meal from our Muslim community; especially since Muslim prisoners are often forgotten by the Muslim community at large.”

“I truly thank you, that was our first feast since 1996.”

CAIR-Chicago and the local Muslim community hope to coordinate this project every year for both Eid celebrations and are working now on organizing a call for contributions for the next Eid holiday, (October 26, 2012). But Stateville Correctional Center is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of prisons in southern Illinois that are in need of the same service.

The Prison Project is seeking volunteers from the Southern Illinois Muslim community to partner in providing a meal for the next Eid.

“There is a great need for volunteers to lead Jum’mah at prisons, to provide educational seminars, as well as donations for Qur’ans, prayer rugs, tasbeehs, and Islamic literature. We want this to be a regular occurrence for Muslim inmates across Illinois and the Chicagoland area,” said Staff Attorney Khan.

If you’d like to contribute your services, donate goods, or find out more on how to help, please contact our Staff Attorney at rabya.khan@cair.com.

 

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