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Bronx Mosque Provides Cultural Support During Ramadan for Migrant Influx

Mosques in New York City are trying to accommodate and feed migrants during the holy month of Ramadan. An imam of a Bronx mosque has converted his home into a makeshift shelter for migrants, many of whom are men from his home country of Senegal.

As the country’s newest immigration wave enters its third year this spring, some Islamic institutions in the Big Apple claim they are failing to meet the requirements of the rising migrant community.

The difficulty has become even more evident during Ramadan, which began on March 11 and will end next week.

Islamic officials said they have increased their calls to members for financial, food, clothing, and other donations in recent days.

Many have opened their doors to migrants throughout the day, transforming into de facto day centers where newcomers can find a peaceful spot to rest and recover, often after a sleepless night on the streets or on the subway.

Imam Omar Niass, who heads Jamhiyatu Ansaru-Deen, a mosque in the East Bronx near Yonkers, says giving a place for newly arrived migrants to stay is the least he can do, even if it comes at a high personal cost.

His utility expenses have long exceeded his ability to pay. He thinks that he is behind $7,000 on the home’s energy payment and another $11,000 on his water service.

“Our culture, you can’t deny the people who come to the old mosque,” he said on a recent Friday as more than 50 men gathered for afternoon prayers. “We do what we can to feed them, to help them.”

New York City’s estimated 275 mosques were among the first to suffer the effects of the latest wave of migration.

When migrants arrive in the city, they generally make their first stop at Islamic centers. Mosque leaders, in turn, have referred migrants to local organizations such as hers for assistance in navigating the numerous government programs and other resources accessible to them.

However, many argue that relying only on the generosity of faith-based groups, many of which are already fighting to stay afloat, is not sustainable in the long run.

She argued that city officials should extend rental assistance programs for migrants and turn more abandoned municipal assets into temporary shelters or long-term homes.

They must also lift the 30-day limit for single adult migrants in city-run shelters and the 60-day maximum for families with children.

Faith-based leaders, meanwhile, say Democratic Mayor Eric Adams needs to back up his appeals for places of faith to help during the migrant flow, which has attracted more than 185,000 asylum seekers to the city.

Last summer, the Democratic mayor announced with pomp a scheme that would provide cash, security, and other assistance to up to 75 churches, mosques, and synagogues that volunteered to provide overnight shelter to migrants.

So far, only five houses of worship have been permitted to help offer more beds for the city’s more than 64,000 migrants.

Many faith-based institutions face the difficulty of being housed in older buildings that do not satisfy contemporary fire safety regulations, such as sprinkler systems and other safeguards.

Dams spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said the city, in response to the concerns, reduced the maximum number of beds permitted for faith-based shelters earlier this year from 19 to 15, meaning they wouldn’t be required to install sprinkler systems under city building rules.

In the Bronx, Niass stated that he had not given the city program any thought.

He emphasized that he does not accept payment from the guys who remain with him, as opposed to the unlawful, dangerously overcrowded migrant boarding homes that the city has closed down in recent weeks.

However, the conditions in the mosque are less than optimal. During a recent visit, men sat on the floor in the basement prayer chamber between the day’s five prayer times.

Some sat in a tiny upstairs living room, watching television, while others walked around the concrete-paved backyard.

There was a shed for keeping baggage in the back of the yard, as well as a row of file cabinets under a canvas tent containing heaps of mail from various present and former tenants.

On the back stoop, a microwave and hot water kettle were set up to prepare basic meals. A makeshift port-a-potty beside the driveway was covered by a massive blue tarp, which did little to conceal the scents that attracted swarms of flies.

Written by PH

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