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October 4, 2011

Mosque feeds poor two hot meals daily

The Canadian Charger

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Beginning Friday September 30, a Mosque run by the Jamia Riyadhul Jannah (JRJ) religious organization in Mississauga, was the first mosque in North America to offer free lunch and dinner to the needy, on a daily basis, from 12 p.m. until 7 p.m.

The Mosque is at 6680 Campobella Road, Mississauga, near Mississauga Road and Argentia Road.

JRJ, opened on August 6, 2010, operates under the auspices of the Canadian Society of Peace and Relief (CSPR), a non-profit organization formed in 2006.

JRJ administrator Mushtaq Khan said hot meals will be provided everyday to ensure that nobody goes to sleep hungry.

“We want to make this area hunger-free,” Mr. Khan told The Canadian Charger.

The hunger problem remains under-reported, perhaps somewhat hidden, until one has some first-hand experience with people in the community, Mr. Khan said.

“We were really surprised. At a glance it looks like a well-to-do community. But if you look a little further, there are so many people who don't have shelter and two meals a day. I'm surprised. We are one of the developed nations of the world, yet a lot of people are below the poverty line. I don't know why.”

After many people approached JRJ with family problems, Mr. Khan said members of his organization felt compelled to act.

“We thought, 'Why not start a program to help the general public?' At least we can feed the majority so they have two good meals a day.”

He added that everyone is welcome regardless of gender or religion.

The Biryan King Restaurant will be preparing the food fresh daily, focusing on providing two or three different types of nutritional meals, low in fat. Mr. Khan said his organization will be encouraging feedback from the patrons about the food and the service in order to cater to people's needs.

“We'll be asking them what they need. If they want pasta for instance, we'll try and provide it. We'll focus on what a group of people have in common.”

He said three or four generous people in the community are funding the dinners and a lot of other community members have started making donations. “It's a community funded program.”

JRJ is advertising its dinner service on local television stations such as ATN and local newspapers such as Mississauga News and the Burlington Guardian, as well as radio stations such as 680 News.

Many dignitaries such as Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, Conservative MP Brad Butt, Liberal MPP Bob Delaney, Mississauga Councillor Ron Starr and many community leaders were at the September 30 opening of the dinner service.

The CSPR was formed in 2006 to bring different communities together, to bridge the gap between them. Mr. Khan said the CSPR tries to educate people on how to be good Canadians.

“For new immigrants we help them settle in Canada. We take them to get social insurance numbers and drivers' licenses and health cards, and we take them to HRDC to get jobs. Every month we hold social and religious gatherings. Many families attend. We teach them how to integrate into mainstream politics and business.”

Mr. Khan said that on a regular basis, Professor Syed Badiuddin Soharwardy, chairman of CSPR, holds religious lectures and interfaith dialogues.

“We are a Muslim community promoting peace and harmony between different religions such as Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus. They are all given a chance to express their views,” Mr. Khan said. 

A food bank drive, family counselling, youth fitness and development program, and disaster relief programs are among the many community activities at CSPR.

“When there's a disaster anywhere in the world, we try to provide money, food, clothing and medicine,” Mr. Khan said.

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