(Photo: Fatina Abdrabboh (center), director of ADC Michigan, with her volunteers. Photo courtesy of ADC Michigan )
Muslims attend prayers at mosques more during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, than any other time of the year.
With so many of their congregation in attendance at once, particularly during the nightly prayers, mosques and nonprofit organizations often use the time to seek donations.
Ramadan also presents an opportune time for other types of outreach.
“The mosques represent the pulse of this community in a number of ways and Ramadan is an ideal time to talk about community,” said Fatina Abdrabboh, director of the Dearborn-based Michigan chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
That’s what ADC Michigan has taken advantage of in Dearborn’s mosques. ADC Michigan, although not a religious organization, represents people who are often religious, she said.
“The specialness of this month for the Arab and Muslim community can’t be overstated,” she said.
As a community-based civil rights organization, ADC Michigan has been spending the month at the mosques to let people know about their services and to revive pride in Arab heritage.
“Ramadan is a religious month, but it’s also a cultural month,” she said.
Abdrabboh, who studied Islamic history, which is intertwined into Arab history, at Harvard University, is coordinating courses for children on the topic at mosques across Dearborn, like in the south end and on Tireman Avenue.
Mosques typically offer baby-sitting for children, usually between 3 and 10 years old, who cannot participate in the hours-long prayers with the congregation. Abdrabboh said ADC Michigan is changing what normally would have been playtime into a chance for kids to gain pride in Arab history.
Her courses also focus on Abyssinia and other civilizations, as well as Arab influence on math and science.
“It’s kind of like Arab Jeopardy,” she said.
In addition to reaching out to children, ADC Michigan also is extending a hand to the general Muslim community in Dearborn.
ADC Michigan volunteers continue to promote its civil rights app, launched in April,that gives, among other tools, victims of hate crimes a direct avenue for reporting incidents from their mobile devices.
“Our volunteers see people with their iPhones sending their last text message before they enter the mosque to pray and say: ‘Hey, have you heard about our app?’” Abdrabboh said.
With that simple question, ADC Michigan has seen about 500 downloads of the app so far in Ramadan alone, she said.
“The reality is that what we’re actually doing is new and unprecedented," she said. "Almost daily, we’re available to the community. It’s a huge opportunity.”
Whether at the nightly prayers or at iftar, the meal at which the fast is broken, Abdrabboh said ADC Michigan is able to talk about civil rights issues at times when such topics are normally not discussed.
“Our message is we’re here to represent you and we’re here to address your needs,” she said.
The outreach is working. Abdrabboh said someone who hears about the organization for the first time on Sunday will give her a call on Monday. That, she said, is exciting.