As they prepared for a month of fasting, seven young Muslim men decided it was an auspicious time to give away tuna, bread and other food they cannot eat during the day.

Today, the Islamic Center of Passaic County begins a monthly food pantry open to the area’s needy. It is believed to be one of few food pantries in North Jersey mosques.

The circle of young professionals who founded the pantry collected donations and paid for its start-up costs. They view it as an act of charity, a central part of Islam that becomes more significant during the devout month of Ramadan, which begins Monday. And those involved see it as a sign of the increasing sense of civic responsibility among younger Muslims.

“We are growing up,” said Tariq Hussain, 27, a North Haledon resident and recent law school graduate at the mosque Friday. “We are reaching out more to the community.”

Many Paterson churches host food pantries. But few local mosques offer them on an ongoing basis. The mosque on Crooks Avenue in Clifton hosts an extensive breakfast for members after prayers, but does not have a drop-in center for food. The Omar Mosque on Getty Avenue currently has no worship or programs because it is closed for renovations.

At the Islamic Center, the food pantry idea hatched during lunch. In June, Hussain and six friends who regularly eat together decided they needed to do something to benefit the poor in Paterson and help bridge the disconnect they often felt between the mosque and surrounding city. They put together a PowerPoint presentation for the mosque’s board and received approval last month.

The 1,000 North Jersey residents who regularly attend the mosque are mostly middle-class. Pantry organizers advertised the service at churches throughout the city, and within the mosque. (MORE)


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