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Muslims tout Ramadan charity work to combat Islamophobia

A volunteer with Islamic Circle of North America Relief puts coins into a dryer for Anaheim residents during a free laundry night, sponsored by the Islamic charity group.
A volunteer with Islamic Circle of North America Relief puts coins into a dryer for Anaheim residents during a free laundry night, sponsored by the Islamic charity group.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/ KPCC
A volunteer with Islamic Circle of North America Relief puts coins into a dryer for Anaheim residents during a free laundry night, sponsored by the Islamic charity group.
A volunteer with Islamic Circle of North America Relief signs up a women for the free laundry event at an Anaheim laundromat.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/ KPCC
A volunteer with Islamic Circle of North America Relief puts coins into a dryer for Anaheim residents during a free laundry night, sponsored by the Islamic charity group.
An Islamic Circle of North America Relief table outside the group's free laundry event in Anaheim last week. Islamic Circle has held other recent laundry events, but stepped up its outreach during the holy month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/ KPCC


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At an Anaheim laundromat one night last week, volunteers from an Islamic group did laundry for locals, for free. People from the surrounding working-class neighborhood, along with a few homeless locals, lined up at the door with bags and baskets of clothes.
 
"We provide the quarters, the dryer sheets," explained Annan Aboul-Nasr of Islamic Circle of North America Relief, the nonprofit Islamic charity that sponsored the laundry night.

The group has held other free laundry nights in recent months. But during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday, it stepped up its publicity efforts, sending out a press release and distributing flyers.

For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer and charity. Local Muslims have quietly done charitable work tied to Ramadan for years - but this year, some feel it’s time to let the general public know.
 
On Sunday, the Muslim Public Affairs Council co-sponsored the annual "Humanitarian Day" feeding of the homeless on downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row. The event is 17 years old; organizers have publicized it before, but this year there was an extra push, along with the hash-taggable moniker "HDAY."

It’s crucial for Muslims to counter negative stereotypes, given ongoing terror attacks and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign, said Edina Lekovic, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

"We know that it is critical that we reach out our hands in as many different creative ways as possible," she said.

"We want people to know us for what we are, rather than merely in reaction to what others say we are," Lekovic said, "whether that is ISIS or whether that is Ted Cruz and Donald Trump."

Spreading the word about charity work is one way to create a more positive narrative about Muslims, activists say.

"We see things in the media and we want to counter that," Aboul-Nasr said. "We want people to know that we are here, and we have been working in the community."