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Hamilton Muslim groups supporting Palestinians, refugees and people who just need 'a good meal' this Ramadan

Queer Halal Time will be serving up Arab food for those in need of a hot meal April 4 as a way to give back during Ramadan. (Submitted by Aida Taha - image credit)
Queer Halal Time will be serving up Arab food for those in need of a hot meal April 4 as a way to give back during Ramadan. (Submitted by Aida Taha - image credit)

This Ramadan, a new group for people who identify as queer and Muslim is showing their love for the Hamilton community through food.

Queer Halal Time is raising money for a food drive that will see them serve a home-cooked meal to anyone who needs it on the evening of April 4, said the group's finance coordinator Bilal Ahmed.

"We don't want it to be canned foods or half-assed meals," Ahmed said. "We want to show the community we love, we care for you and we want you to have a good meal."

A team of volunteers will serve Arab food such as chickpea curry, fritters, roti and fruit chat, said Ahmed.

The group will be using the kitchen at Compass Community Health and partnering with a shelter to distribute the meals.

"Ramadan is a month of gratitude and spirituality and connecting with Allah," Ahmed said. "The best ways to please God is to reach out and connect with community."

The holy month began on March 10 and ends April 9 with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

Bilal Ahmed, left, and Jihan "JJ" Hussein have formed the grassroots organization Queer Halal Time and are raising money for a food drive and to help Palestinians in Gaza.
Bilal Ahmed, left, and Jihan "JJ" Hussein have formed the grassroots organization Queer Halal Time and are raising money for a food drive and to help Palestinians in Gaza.

Bilal Ahmed, left, and Jihan "JJ" Hussein have formed the grassroots organization Queer Halal Time and are raising money for a food drive and to help Palestinians in Gaza. (Submitted by Bilal Ahmed)

Jihan "JJ" Hussein founded Queer Halal Time two months ago, alongside Ahmed. It's Hamilton's version of the Queer Muslim Network based out of Toronto, said Ahmed.

"Being a queer Muslim person, definitely I've felt shunned" by the religious community, Ahmed said. "Being in queer circles, I felt like I had to turn off the Muslim side of me. I felt I couldn't be my true authentic self."

But with over two dozen people having joined Queer Halal Time, meet ups feel like "fireworks" and a space to embrace both queerness and Muslim spirituality, they said. Allies are also welcome.

Iftar dinner in Ancaster to support newcomers

The group has already hit its goal of $2,000 for the food drive via an online GoFundMe page. All other money raised will go to the United Nations Relief Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians in Gaza, Ahmed said.

Canada resumed funding the relief agency earlier this month.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is front of mind this Ramadan, Ahmed said.

"There's a whole nation of people who are breaking fast eating grass, who don't have the privilege to drink water," they said. "It's pushed us to come together."

Earlier this week, the European Union accused Israel of provoking famine and using starvation as a weapon of war, claims Israel rejects.

Another local group, Mishka Social Services, is also looking to help people impacted by the war in Gaza, among others, this Ramadan. The Hamilton agency connects Muslim newcomers with supports.

It's raising money to help refugees from Gaza, Sudan and other regions settle in Hamilton, through assisting with rent payments, purchasing furniture and buying groceries, said Omar Mahamed, the group's programs manager.

"The fund alleviates their stress and is more than a referral to another service," Mahamed said. "It will allow us to better support individuals in crisis."

So far Mishka has raised about $7,000 and is hosting an Iftar — the evening meal to break fast during Ramadan — on Friday in Ancaster with all proceeds going to support newcomers.

The organization will also be celebrating a "really good year" that saw an expansion of staff, programs and impact, Mahamed said.

Mishka expanded from their social work services and their Barakah Box food bank to also include senior wellness, parenting and school programs.