While You Were Asleep New Year's Day Morning, Muslims Waged Jihad On Your Streets

01/01/2017 01:56 pm ET Updated Jan 01, 2017

New Year’s Eve is marked by celebrations world over. There is lots of partying involved, and consequently, a lot of work for sanitation workers before the New Year morning. In 2015, the Department of Sanitation in New York City estimated close to 50 tons of trash in Times Square alone.

For the last many years, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in many countries has spent the New Years morning cleaning up the mess left behind from the night prior. Youth typically gather in their local mosques and community centers on New Year’s Eve for a sleep-over, rise early for the pre-dawn Tahajjud prayer to supplicate for peace, harmony and coexistence in the world and then proceed to clean their respective neighborhoods and cities.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, Germany

2017 was no different. Here is a snapshot of what transpired around the world, as shared by Muslims on social media.

Here at home in the United States, young Muslims went out to clean New York City just a few hours after midnight. An aide to the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA, Mr. Salaam Bhatti, who is a full-time attorney and a stand-up comedian from the Queens borough, live streamed (click here) part of the clean-up. He later remarked:

“We cleaned the streets of New York because we are proud Muslim New Yorkers who love our city. Throughout the year, with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, we plant trees, clean roads, feed the hungry, and organize blood drives so that we can better serve our nation and our neighbors. By cleaning the streets in the early hours of New Years Day, we set a standard for the rest of the year of how we will make it a meaningful year. No matter what, we will continue to sacrifice our time for the sake of our nation.”

Earlier, the youth group had tweeted about their passion for service to “faith, country & nation.”

Muslims in various cities in Germany also came out for a national #Neujahrsputz2017 (New Year Clean-up 2017) event. Within minutes, the hashtag was already trending across Germany. 21 year old Business informatics student Daud Nasir, whose parents immigrated to Germany 28 years ago, said he took part in the cause because Prophet Muhammad taught that cleaning the street was an act of charity.

“I am just following the example of the Prophet. As an Ahmadi Muslim, I want the world to see that this is how we live Islam, which is a religion of human service.”

Abdul Noor, a 24 year old refugee from Pakistan (where Ahmadi Muslims remain persecuted), is a graduate in journalism and international relations. Part of a youth group that cleaned around a Church in Bielefeld, Germany, he said:

“This is what our Jihad is - serving the communities we live in.”

Jihad, an often misunderstood word, literally means struggle. In its essence, it refers to the continuous struggle to improve oneself, and the community one lives in. Here is a short piece I wrote on this topic. In this age, Ahmadi Muslims also promote an intellectual #JihadOfThePen to counter false propaganda against the Islamic faith with reasoning and dialogue.

Vadood, a 28 year old aspiring lawyer in London told me he was in Germany to visit his family.

“I grew up in Germany, and this country gave me a lot. I have to give back something and that is all I am trying to do.”

28 year old Design Engineer, Abdul Mutaal, quoted Prophet Muhammad’s famous teaching on cleanliness.

“The prophet said that cleanliness is half of a Muslim’s faith. So, we are only carrying out our faith on the streets. Nothing more,” he said.

In Denmark, Muslim youth came out to clean parts of Copenhagen. Danish Television TV 2 covered this clean-up initiative. Here is a video clip.

Mr. Qasim Rashid, well-known writer, activist and National Spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, applauded Danish youth for their service. Danish Muslims have often been targeted by the far right for their “lack of assimilation.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK also launched a clean-up campaign in cities across the United Kingdom.

Mr. Adam Walker, well-known writer and Muslim youth leader, tweeted a series of pictures from various cities across the U.K where clean-up activities were underway.

You can see his whole thread of picture tweets here.

Bilal Ahmad, a young professional who also serves as the vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in Rotherham, U.K., said cleaning the streets was the Muslim way to welcome the New Year. He further wrote:

“Loving one’s country of residence is part of the Muslim faith. New Year Day is a day when we see lots of festive waste on roads after New Years Eve. So we decided the best way to love the country at this time would be to do litter picking.”

He was referring to the famous teaching my Prophet Muhammad on loyalty to one’s country of residence.

And while the boys and young men cleaned the cities, women visited homeless shelters to provide food and clothing.

Similar activities were underway in the streets of Zurich in Switzerland.

... and in New Zealand

.. and Belgium

In Australia, clean-up activities could not be organized on a large scale because of specific city rules and regulations. But members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Australia still went out in smaller groups (where permissible) to tidy the place early morning on New Years Day.

Muslim youth in the Netherlands also had similar New Year plans.

Examples of coverage in Dutch media here, here and here.

In Sweden, young Muslims did more than just street cleaning. They also celebrated New Year Day by distributing food and clothes to the poor and needy in their neighborhoods. Imam Agha Shahid Khan from Goteborg shared these pictures.

Canada: Shaikh Mazhar Ahmad from Hamilton reported that a group of almost a 100 Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Canada’s Hamilton Chapter went out in cold weather to clean the city downtown. He shared this picture on his personal Facebook page.

Shaikh Mazhar Ahmad

Young Muslims in Saskatoon visited senior living facilities in the region with flowers and gift packets.

Humanity First International, a charity founded by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community over 20 years ago, led clean-up activities in Indonesia. Mr. Kandali Achmad, the National Director of Humanity First Indonesia shared pictures on his Facebook page.

Norway’s TV 2 (Nyhetskanalen) covered the clean-up by local Norwegian Muslims. Here is a short clip shared on the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Norway’s Facebook page.

Young Muslims from Singapore also spent a good part of their New Year morning cleaning local streets.

Muslim youth in the United Arab Emirates marked New Years Day by cleaning up the area in front of Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, before proceeding to donate blood at local blood donation centers. Humanity First Dubai helped organize this event.

Humanity First Dubai
Humanity First Dubai

The media often depicts Muslims in a negative light. One case of a lunatic carrying out an act of violence, and there are special coverages on media platforms around the world with pundits and “Islam experts” pointing fingers at a whole faith community. But this right here is what Muslims really do every day in their communities. And it wouldn’t surprise me if you do not hear about this on mainstream media.

If we care about fighting unjust stereotypes, we must also share these stories with the world. We must all appreciate the fact that while many were asleep, hundreds of young Muslim doctors, engineers, lawyers, businessmen, politicians, cab drivers, students, etc came together to make sure the rest of us have a very good morning and to wish us a Happy New Year.

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