PRI first interviewed Abdullah Shawsky last fall when he was helping Syrian refugees as they arrived, wet and terrified, in small dinghies onto the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos. Abdullah is regional Emergencies Director for Islamic Relief USA, and his next mission is not in Europe or the Middle East… it’s in Flint, Michigan.
Abdullah is working with volunteers from the Flint Islamic Center, and though most of the 15000 Muslims who live in the area aren’t directly affected by the contaminated tap water, it is part of the Islamic faith to support those in need. In Imam Muhammad Abdullah Waheed weekly khutbah (sermon) he urges everyone in his congregation to volunteer. “ There’s a community in Flint that needs help. It’s our community. They’re going through a water crisis. Who’s going to support?”
The Imam later said in an interview with PRI, “Sometimes people have this misconception that we are serving people of the same faith. That isn’t true. As Muslims, we are taught by our prophet and our tradition that we need to serve everyone, irrespective of what ethnicity or religion.”
The next day, the Islamic Relief staff and 75 volunteers headed out to a public housing projects in North Flint, arriving with heavy dollies of water. They knocked on doors, shouting out “volunteers with water.” Islamic Relief would eventually distribute two semi-trucks full of water — that’s one 24-bottle case each for 3,000 households.