Young Muslim men from across the country have spent their weekends clearing trash from national parks affected by the partial government shutdown.
Armed with brooms and trash bags, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association ― a nationwide youth group that works with young Muslim men ― got to work clearing rubbish from parks that have been operating with only skeleton staffs.
In Philadelphia, more than a dozen volunteers gathered in the rain on Saturday to clear rubbish from Independence Mall while their comrades took to the nation’s capital just after sunrise Sunday.
As reported by CNN, cleanups were also carried out by the group at the Everglades National Park in Florida, Joshua Tree in California and the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio.
“It’s just what we do,” 23-year-old Sarmad Bhatti told The Washington Post while emptying trash cans along Independence Avenue in the capital. “If there’s an opportunity to serve, that is what Muslims do.”
“There’s a lot of false things that are against Islam and how they teach hatred and to hate your neighbor, but we’re actually told to love our neighbor and to help the neighborhood around us,” another volunteer in Philadelphia told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a press release, the association’s president, Madeel Abdullah, said important parts of Islam included “service to our nation and cleanliness.”
“We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash,” the statement read, per CNN. “We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation.”
As the shutdown reached Day 17, the National Park Service said Sunday that it would be using money “derived from entrance, camping, parking and other fees collected from park visitors” to “provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks.”
This money is typically used to pay for future projects at the parks.
“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” the park service said in a statement.