Open Arms at The Muslim Center in Detroit

Salman Aznan is a Marketing Specialist at IRUSA. He recently attended the Detroit Day of Dignity and wrote a reflection about the experience.

“The buses won’t move” said Mika’il Saadiq.

“That’s not good.” I thought to myself.

“The buses with the beneficiaries?” Maab replied.

“Yes.” answered Mika’il.

“That is definitely not good!” I screamed in my head.

It was a cold, bitter Detroit morning and we arrived at the Muslim center with banners and notebooks in hand ready to document the event. We entered the masjid and walked into the auditorium and the place was bustling with energy. Men and women were unpacking boxes, categorizing coats, socks, and other articles of clothing while others were putting meat into IRUSA bags and packaging lunches for the beneficiaries. The place was filled with frenzied energy as everyone was trying to make sure everything was set before the masjid opened their doors to the general public.

And then this happened.

“The buses won’t move”

Maab, US Programs Coordinator, frantically called her boss trying her best to sort it all out.

1 hour, 20 minutes and 4 coffee cups later, the problem was resolved and the work began.

The beneficiaries walked into the building and they made their way around the line gathering coats, socks, scarves and other winter essentials.

As someone who works for a humanitarian organization, sometimes it’s easy to lose touch with our beneficiaries and we don’t see the benefit that we bring to communities in need. After working in this industry for some time, all we see are numbers and dollar signs. But what I witnessed in Detroit last weekend was something special.

I met Syrian refugees and long-time residents of the city. I met a woman named Susan who was enjoying her lunch of chicken shawarma and apples and enjoying the company around her. I asked her what she liked about Day of Dignity and she said that she loves the event because she gets to sit down and enjoy herself, meet other nice people and have nice gifts.

Open Arms at The Muslim Center in DetroitI met Ghada, a Syrian refugee who arrived to America 3 months ago. A mother of 4, she traveled from Damascus then to Egypt before arriving to Detroit. A soft-spoken individual, she described to me her experiences so far in America. She says she feels right at home, there is a sense of community here. The Unity Center, the organization she frequents most often, has helped her tremendously with her transition and she says there are a lot of Muslims, consisting of mostly Indonesians and Arabs, who have made her life easier to transition to.

And lastly, I spoke to Mika’il Saadiq, Outreach Director and Imam Counsel of Michigan Muslim Community Council. He spoke about the strong bond of community and how The Muslim Center, the location where Day of Dignity was organized at, is helping refurbish homes around their masjid in order to help the neighborhood, beautify the houses and help Muslims with finding good housing.

What I saw on that day was a city, although no longer as glorious and powerful as it was in its heyday, proud of its community and the sense of family it fosters. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a refugee just settling into a new country, this city graciously and proudly opens its arms seeking peace of mind and refuge.