“We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash.”

Teenage members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in the United States are cleaning national parks while the federal government is shut down. From the Everglades National Park in Florida to Joshua Tree in California, the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio and other parks across the nation the energetic Muslim youths spent their spare time sweeping the grounds, emptying garbage cans and picking up litter.

“Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam,” said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of the youth group, in a press release. “We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash. 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.”

The government shutdown of most national parks to members of the public began December 22.

Other parks the group cleaned included Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and the National Mall in Washington D.C.

A Spokesman for the group, Salaam Bhatti, told CNN that several other people from the general public had joined the association to help clean after indicating their interest on social media. Bhatti said the response from the public is overwhelmingly positive to the cleaning activities.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association has 70 chapters and more than 5,000 members, all males aged 7 to 40, making it the largest association of its kind in the US. According to Bhatti, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association has expended up to 200,000 hours cleaning the environment since 2016.

“I hope it shows that we’re not here just to talk about Islam the whole time,” Bhatti told CNN. “We’re here to be part of America.”

In a press release, the National Park Service said it had “explored a number of options to address the maintenance and sanitation issues that have arisen at a number of highly visited parks.” Part of the consideration included using park fee revenue to pay workers to clean restrooms and remove trash.

Bhatti said many Americans do not know what it is to relate to Muslims and that more than 60 percent of Americans do not personally know a Muslim, and community service outings help increase dialogue with persons of other faith.

If the government shutdown continues, Bhatti told CNN the group will be looking for more parks to clean and more ways to help areas impacted by the shutdown.

 

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