Faith mo­ti­vates Mus­lim teen to serve her com­mu­nity through youth group

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY HOLLY MEYER Reach Holly Meyer at hmeyer@ten­nessean.com or 615-259-8241 and on Twit­ter @Hol­lyAMeyer.

Vol­un­teer­ing makes Sarah Alz­a­bet happy, but that’s not the Murfreesboro teen’s only mo­ti­va­tor.

“When­ever I’m do­ing it, I feel like I’m mak­ing God happy,” Alz­a­bet said.

The 17-year-old high school se­nior, who is a Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth board mem­ber, sees the vol­un­teer work she does through the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a way to live out one of the tenets of her faith. One of the Five Pil­lars of Is­lam is char­ity.

“We’re sup­posed to care for peo­ple no mat­ter what, no mat­ter what their re­li­gion is, no mat­ter what their race is,” Alz­a­bet said. “You’re sup­posed to take care of your neigh­bor.”

Alz­a­bet has taken that di­rec­tive se­ri­ously, mak­ing ser­vice to her com­mu­nity an in­te­gral part of her ev­ery­day life.

“I try to do as many things as pos­si­ble,” Alz­a­bet said.

She chan­nels much of her char­ity work through Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple while fos­ter­ing com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ships and pride in Mus­lim iden­tity. The group was formed in 2015 in re­sponse to the slay­ing of three young adult Mus­lims in Chapel Hill, N.C.

In 2017, the or­ga­ni­za­tion dis­trib­uted more than 4,000 meals, do­nated more than 2,000 school items, gave more than 5,000 items to peo­ple in need and helped more than 300 refugees, ac­cord­ing to the group’s an­nual re­port.

Alz­a­bet started serv­ing through Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth af­ter see­ing its calls for vol­un­teers on­line. She wanted to be a part of some­thing big­ger than her­self and loves help­ing peo­ple. Alz­a­bet also rec­og­nizes that she has al­ways had ev­ery­thing she’s needed, but oth­ers have not.

She went from help­ing out here and there to be­ing a piv­otal part of the group’s work.

“Sarah is one of the in­di­vid­u­als that has re­ally been a fine ex­am­ple of our ob­jec­tive,” said Ab­dou Kat­tih, the pres­i­dent of Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth. “She grew from a teenager to barely vol­un­teer­ing to be­ing a vol­un­teer to be­ing a driver for other vol­un­teers and tak­ing on mis­sions by her­self.”

Alz­a­bet has packed care kits for the home­less, as­sisted refugees, served food at a Ra­madan event and ad­vo­cated for sup­port for mi­nor­ity groups through com­mu­nity vig­ils and ral­lies.

She also runs Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts and uses them to en­cour­age peo­ple to at­tend events such as the in­ter­faith Love Your Neigh­bor pic­nics meant to build bridges and fos­ter peace. The or­ga­ni­za­tion part­ners with a lo­cal Chris­tian group to put on the potluck gath­er­ings three times a year.

“When­ever I’m do­ing that, I feel like I’m pro­ject­ing the things that I be­lieve in my re­li­gion,” Alz­a­bet said.

Alz­a­bet’s ad­vice to those who want to serve their com­mu­nity is not to stress about be­ing un­able to do­nate money to a cause or those in need.

“In re­al­ity, just meet­ing some­one and speak­ing to them and hav­ing them tell their story, or even just help­ing cook a meal or go serve a meal is enough,” Alz­a­bet said. “Just mak­ing some­body’s day is enough and it will def­i­nitely mean the world to them.”

PHOTO BY HE­LEN COMER / DNJ

Sarah Alz­a­bet, 17, vol­un­teers with Murfreesboro Mus­lim Youth. “We’re sup­posed to care for peo­ple no mat­ter what, no mat­ter what their re­li­gion is, no mat­ter what their race is,” she said. “You’re sup­posed to take care of your neigh­bor.”

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