The Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) held an evening gala December 11 to commemorate its 15-year anniversary with dinner, a dancing performance and comedy at Chateau Del Mar in Hickory Hills.
The night was one of celebration, but that did not distract ZF from its goal of empowering lives globally through charity and innovative programs.
Sheikh Jafar Hawa of the Orland Park Prayer Center recited Quran to begin the night, and ZF Executive Director Halil Demir gave opening remarks. Mr. Demir focused on Islam’s importance in ZF’s creation, explaining the difficulty Muslims faced in late 2001 and how fear did not stop the organization from being founded.
He compared the time ZF was founded to this year, when fear of Islam has resurged. He spoke of his time in Portland meeting with InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on disaster relief and sustainable development programs. Mr. Demir and his colleagues at InterAction discussed the present social climate in the United States, and his non-Muslim associates pledged to support ZF’s work in solidarity and unity, Mr. Demir said.
Selma Demir performed spoken word poetry that addressed the difficulties of growing up with a multicultural background in a world of segregated identities. She spoke about being an African-American, Middle Eastern Muslim female in the U.S. and how society’s impact has left her feeling not black enough nor white enough.
ZF Outreach Manager Amal Ali spoke about not blaming others but instead bettering oneself, providing context and stories from hadith (hadith are the collections of traditions or sayings from the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him). She compared the story in the hadith with words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who encouraged self-purification before direct action.
Giving to charity is a way of self-purifying, according to Islam. Zakat is an obligation in Islam. It’s an expenditure meant only for the poor, needy, stranded and those in debt that’s meant to bring people together, according to a Sahih International translation of Surah At-Tawbah. ZF presented Eda Esme Tekeoglu with the Volunteer of the Year award for exemplifying what it means to give to the poor and needy, as she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.She said people take donations for the Middle East and North Africa, but ZF was the first organization she encountered to raise money to feed Somalian refugees.
The banquet’s main themes of social responsibility, abiding altruism and self-awareness were to encourage caring people everywhere to fulfill their responsibilities for the less fortunate. Celebrate 15 years of impactful, innovative humanitarianism by donating here and helping ZF continue to empower lives across the planet.