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Muslim Youth Groups Clean Up National Parks Amid Government Shutdown

"Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam," said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.

Twitter @MKA_DC/ Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association

A group of teen boys and young Muslim men in multiple cities are cleaning up the nation's parks and memorials because Trump's government shutdown over his border wall has debilitated the National Park Service.


"It's just what we do," 23-year-old Sarmad Bhatti told The Washington Post, while emptying trash cans along Independence Avenue in the capital. "If there's an opportunity to serve, that is what Muslims do."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has more than 5,000 members and 50 chapters nationwide, organized cleanups at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Everglades National Park in Florida, Joshua Tree National Park in California and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio over the weekend.

"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."

The AMYA are serving their country and demonstrating their mission to dispel negative stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims and Islam.

"We're here to be part of America," Bhatti said. "We are humbly serving our nation at a time when many tears are being shed."

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes went up 83 and 21 percent respectively, in the second quarter of 2018 from the first. CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.

Outside the capital, volunteers wearing shirts that said #MeetAMuslim, served with the hope of changing those misperceptions.

"These parks belong to us, and they're something we love," said Raheel Tauyyab,18, one of the volunteers and a freshman at George Mason University. "We're breaking stereotypes everywhere, about what people think about Muslims and what people think about young people."

Faizan Tariq, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose Pakistani family arrived in America when he was three years old said, "This is our country, and we have to take care of it, even if politicians are unwilling to," he said.

Fraz Tanvir, the Philly Muslim group's leader, said volunteering and helping in the community are part of their faith.

"Not only do we plant trees, but with His Holiness' guidance we maintain the trees, clean up our highways and parks, and all of this has led to clean up our national parks," Tanvir said.

"We just came out here because we thought it's our responsibility as a Muslim community to help the neighborhood and help the community," Zubair Abaidullah, 17, said as he cleaned up trash at Independence Mall in Philly.

Supporters have rallied around the group and encouraged people to accept this as proof of positive benefits to a diverse America:

Black Student in Kansas Sues School District for Racial Discrimination

The dance team's choreographer told Camille Sturdivant that her skin was "too dark" to perform because she "clashed" with uniforms.

Camille Sturdivant and coaches Kevin Murakami and Carley Fine

Camille Sturdivant has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District for the abuse she was subjected to as a member of the high school dance team.

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Soul Legend Gladys Knight to Sing National Anthem at Super Bowl

"I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta," Knight said. There's mixed reactions on social media.

Gladys Knight

It has been confirmed that legendary soul singer, Gladys Knight, will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 3.

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Louisville to Rename Airport After Muhammad Ali

Though air travel once terrified Ali, he faced his fears to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

The Louisville Regional Airport Authority Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to rename the city's airport after "The Greatest" — Muhammad Ali. The new name is Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

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Vermont Continues to Fail Black Legislator Racially Harassed By White Nationalist

Kiah Morris resigned from her position because of the harassment, but Vermont's attorney general said he will not file charges against the perpetrators, including Max Misch.

Kiah Morris was the only Black woman in the Vermont House of Representatives, until she resigned from her position in September, after enduring years of racially motivated harassment.

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Update: White Man Who Assaulted 11-Year-Old Black Girl is Due in Court Next Month

David Steven Bell's attorney said he wasn't motivated by anything other than defending himself, but nothing spells racist like referring to a group of Black girls as "a pack of youth who trapped and surrounded" his client.

David Steven Bell, 51, is home with his family after punching an 11-year-old Black child in the face this past weekend in an Asheville mall. He was arrested, charged with three counts of assault and released in about a 24-hour period. His court date is Feb. 5.

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Trump's Government Shutdown Closes MLK Historic Sites

Ebenezer Baptist Church and most of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta are closed. "I feel a bit of sadness...I didn't expect to cry over this," said Bernice King.

Tuesday was Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and next Monday is our national celebration of the civil rights icon.

But school field trips, celebrations, families' visits to teach children about civil rights and the values of all people being created equally are being canceled due to President Trump's government shutdown.

Thousands of people who flock to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor, and to his home, as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., will be disappointed. They are all closed.

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