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Muslim Aid and the East London Mosque providing food mountain for the homeless in London

Muslim Aid is planning to provide a tonne of food for the homeless in London on Friday as it hosts “The Big Food Drive” at the East London Mosque. Members of one of the largest Muslim congregations in the UK are encouraged to bring food when attending the Friday prayers and the local university, schools and businesses will also be taking part. The food will then be delivered to the homeless charity Crisis.

“With austerity cuts and the housing crisis, more and more people are ending up on the streets – destitute. We, as a Muslim charity, want to do everything we can to help the most vulnerable people in this country this Christmas, regardless of faith or background,” said Jehangir Malik, Chief Executive of Muslim Aid.

“Helping those in need is one of the five pillars of Islam and as temperatures plummet we need to do everything we can to protect those most at risk.”

The initiative is supported by the stars of Amazon’s inter-faith Christmas video, London Vicar Rev Gary Bradley and Zubeir Hassam, principal of a Muslim school in Leicestershire. In a video message promoting “The Big Food Drive, Rev Gary Bradley said: “Over 90% of the collection will go to non-Muslims, so this is all faiths working together for a common humanity.”

Muslim Aid has produced a video showing Rev Bradley and Zubeir Hassam delivering food to the East London Mosque where the Amazon ad was originally filmed.

The numbers of homeless people have risen dramatically in the UK. Government figures state that in 2015 3,569 people slept rough on any one night, which was a 30% rise on the previous year. But Crisis, says the true figure is far higher.

“Thousands of families are facing benefit cuts or zero hours contracts. And too many people are unable to pay exorbitant rents, putting them in danger of being forced out onto the freezing cold streets. This is quite simply unacceptable,” said Jehangir Malik.

Ian Richards, Head of Crisis at Christmas, said: “Every year, Crisis opens its doors to thousands of homeless people, offering a safe, warm welcome with food and companionship, as well as access to vital services and year-round opportunities. None of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors, and we’d like to thank Muslim Aid and the East London Mosque for their kind support. This food will help us provide a lifeline for homeless people this Christmas and bring them one step closer to escaping homelessness for good.”

The “Big Food Drive” is part of Muslim Aid’s Warm Hearts Winter Appeal reaching out to thousands of homeless and elderly people this winter.

Each year over 43,000 people die in England and Wales due to the effects of the cold weather.

In addition to providing food, Muslim Aid is working alongside various charities to provide “Keep Warm Kits” to 1,600 homeless and elderly people. These kits include blankets, gloves, socks and hats for the elderly and sleeping bags for the homeless.

Rucksack challenge

As part of the Warm Hearts Winter Appeal, Muslim Aid is encouraging members of the public to fill up their rucksacks with winter essentials, such as food, gloves and a sleeping bag and hand this over to a homeless person living nearby. So far, 2,000 rucksacks have been given to homeless people as part of this initiative.

This work of Muslim volunteers helping vulnerable communities across Britain defies some of the messages coming out of the recent UK government report on community cohesion commissioned by David Cameron and carried out by Dame Louise Casey.

“The report highlighted self-segregation of Muslim communities but the work of our volunteers belies this message. As British Muslims, they represent the British values of hospitality, tolerance and generosity. These values are particularly important at the moment when deep divisions have been exposed following the Brexit vote,” concluded Jehangir Malik. “We have a duty to help others, whether we are Christians or Muslims or any other faith, not because of the religions that may differentiate us but by the humanity that unites us.”

Events and/or filming opportunities

16 December The Big Food Drive at East London Mosque, 12-2pm. Muslim Aid volunteers will be accepting food parcels and packing them into vans to be delivered to Crisis.

17/18 December Muslim Aid volunteers will be packing “Keep Warm Kits” for the homeless and the elderly at 100 Whitechapel Road from 10am to 6pm.

21 December Muslim Aid volunteers will be distributing “Keep Warm Kits” at a Christmas dinner for the elderly at St James The Less Church in Bethnal Green.

21 December Rucksack distribution to the homeless with comedian Guzzy Bear in Birmingham from 4 – 5pm.

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