While employees of our national parks are unable to work due to the government shutdown, a group of young Muslims are volunteering to clean up the litter left by tourists. Because that’s the sort of thing you do when you love this country.
These particular volunteers were associated with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.
More than a dozen young men with @MuslimYouthUSA are cleaning up Independence Mall today in pouring rain. They say they are doing their part in helping amid government shutdown. pic.twitter.com/xxTvyubo9W
— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) January 5, 2019
They cleaned up litter, emptied garbage cans and swept the grounds — from the Everglades National Park in Florida to Joshua Tree, California and the Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio.
“Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam,” said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of youth group, in a press release. “We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash. We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation.”
As incredible as the gesture is, their willingness to do this isn’t an excuse for the Republican government to continue holding federal workers hostage just so Donald Trump can fulfill a campaign pledge that he lied about and wouldn’t do what he says it does.
There’s also a benefit for the volunteers. This activism wasn’t just about cleaning up parks but also to build bridges by engaging in conversation with people who may never have met a Muslim before:
“I hope it shows that we’re not here just to talk about Islam the whole time,” [spokesperson Salaam] Bhatti said. “We’re here to be part of America.”
An important part of Islam is to help “wipe away the tears of our neighbors during time of distress,” he said. “We are humbly serving our nation at a time when many tears are being shed.”
That same concept is known as “doing Mitzvot” in Judaism and “Do unto others as you’d have them do to you” in Christianity. It’s also called just being a decent human being. And it’s all more than we can say for a president who claims to have the support of conservative Christians but very little of the Jesus they claim to follow.