ICNA Relief Blog

Working With Harbor House to Raise Domestic Abuse Awareness in Central Florida



On the weekend of April 24th, ICNA Relief alongside Harbor House visited three different mosques across Central Florida to educate the muslim community on domestic abuse. Members of the community were able to get much needed information on how to identify, react, and refer survivors of domestic abuse. With over 1.3 million cases for women in the state of Florida and 1 in 5 men, domestic abuse has become a rampant epidemic. With the core tenets of Islam that speak against harming others and giving both men and women rights in relationships, this workshop served as a reminder and a way for the community to join the greater American community as we all others to take a stand against abuse.

ICNA Relief staff along with Harbor House as well as imams across Central Florida will be working to create curriculum to educate Muslims across the state of Florida and nationwide. We ask God to bless them in this effort. If you are interested in more information on Harbor House, visit their website at www.harborhousefl.com.




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One-on-one with ICNA Relief Chicago and Aliyah Banister, Dept. Head Muslim Family Services

Aliyah Banister is a licensed therapist specializing in the Muslim American population. She currently works as the social-emotional counselor for Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park, IL and is the head of the counseling department at ICNA Muslim Family Services in Glendale Heights, IL.  Her Master’s degree, from University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, focuses on clinical social work with an emphasis on marriage, family, and children. Ms. Banister takes a faith-based approach to mental health, citing that many answers to our daily concerns can be found in the Quran and Sunnah.  

Life changes can sock us in the stomach. In my experience, a person can be doing all the right things, come from an affluent family, be well educated, have good tarbiyah at home, basically be set up for success, but may still have serious concerns they need help with. When you ask for help, and make moves to better your life, that actually is to be applauded and admired, rather than stigmatized. At least you know when you are in a rut and have the courage to ask for help to get out of it. One of our weaknesses, as a community, is our tendency to judge others, and ourselves, by our mistakes or behavior.

Whether it’s relationship issues, cultural concerns, identity issues, premarital counseling or creating programming for community members, every interaction with the community, especially the youth, is a blessing.  This job has taught me one thing. That Allah (swt) doesn’t discriminate in the trials he gives. Bad things can happen to anyone. We try our best, but the results are up to Allah (swt).

Making a positive difference by helping others is a Sadaqa Jariyah.  Helping His ummah is a form of dawah.  I love ICNA Relief because besides counseling, there is also the social work aspect. Not only can we help clients with social-emotional-spiritual concerns, we can also help them with emergency assistance, food, shelter, clothing and more. People, in dire straits, need help on so many levels and its amazing to be able to offer that.”

For information about services contact: (630)-506-2312; chicago@icnarelief.org


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Women's Shelters Director Holds Nurturing Healthy Families Workshop in Illinois



Respect and responsibility, love and mercy - these qualities form the bedrock of healthy relationships whether between parents and children, or between spouses. Speaking at the Islamic Center of Wheaton (ICW), Sr. Malika MacDonald provided audiences with insights on a broad range of topics from marital harmony to preventing child abuse.

“A healthy match is two people coming together with the understanding that they are two different individuals. We honor, trust, respect, accept and care for our friends, in spite of our differences. These are the aspects of friendship we should bring to our marriages. A happy marriage needs a solid foundation and continuous care to grow and flourish,” said Sister Malika MacDonald.

Sister Malika also spoke on preventing child abuse - an important topic that most Muslims are reluctant to discuss. Defining child neglect as “maltreatment related to the failure to provide needed, age-appropriate care of minor children”, she said that children are often victims of domestic abuse. Child abuse takes on many forms including; physical, emotional and sexual. The perpetrator of such abuse may be a relative, a trusted family friend, a community leader or a stranger.

She stressed the importance of empowering children to protect themselves and seek help. “Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old, teaching them the actual names of their private parts. Let them know of the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched and by whom. Teach them, and respect, their right to control their bodies and that no one should physically hurt them, especially in their private parts,” she added. “Talk to your kids about unwanted advances, even from trusted older adults.” Given that predators often tell children that the act is “a secret” between just the two of them, Sr. Malika said it was necessary to explain to your child that a secret is still a secret when shared with the parents.

“One of the most important things parents can do is encourage children to trust their gut around their safety. As vital is telling them that you will believe them if they tell you someone is hurting them and, finally, make sure you actually tell your kids that they won’t be in trouble if they come to you. ” Parents often assume children feel safe coming to them with a concern, but assumptions can be costly.

Urging attendees to consider these conversations as act of care and concern, rather than an awkward moment, she said, “Frame the conversation for yourself as a way of loving your child.”


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Face-to-Face with ICNA Relief's Sister Amtul Atya Kazmi,

Coordinator Muslim Family Services,  ICNA Relief Chicago


“Following the 9/11 incident, I strongly felt the need to join an organization committed to bringing about positive change, not just at the individual level, but within the community at large. My search led me to ICNA Sister's Wing and I am truly grateful to Allah (swt) for guiding me to it. It fused my quest for Islamic knowledge with opportunities to actively participate in building the community through volunteerism. Then came the opportunity for relief work when ICNA Relief Chicago’s Muslim Family Services (MFS) was established in 2013.  Its vision is to build strong communities by sustaining and strengthening families. This is indeed a huge task and with the help of Allah (swt), a dedicated team, and with collaboration from other organizations,we can build a society that can truly see us as Muslims For Humanity.

When our MFS helpline was launched back in March 2014, we began getting calls from needy families and single mothers from all over Illinois. Needy families and struggling sisters approached us. After proper screening, we see to it that everyone gets the required help. Whether it is transitional housing, rental assistance, paying utility bills, providing cars or counseling and mentoring, we try our best to ease their plight and guide them. We coordinate with local masjids and other social service organizations to empower the underserved and neglected to become self-sufficient, integrated members of our community.

We were a family of ten children and, despite our modest means, it never kept my mother from opening her door to help others. She was my first role model. My father was also such a noble example of someone who valued honesty and a halal income. He was a Judge in India.  I remember once, when we were little, someone who had a case pending had sent a basket of fruits as a gift for him. At that time I didn’t realize that it was an attempt to try and influence him, but my father saw it clearly. He had the fruits returned immediately.

"[Given those experiences] what better opportunity could I have than working for ICNA Relief Chicago’s Muslim Family Services (MFS) where I can be in direct contact with those who are struggling and need assistance. It reminds me of the immense blessings Allah ta’ala has granted us and, as importantly, the huge accountability that comes with it. It gives me immense joy and comfort to be able to relieve someone’s difficulty.  I am excited about all the programs run by ICNA and hope these enable our Muslim community to participate fully in building a society that is based on core human values of justice, compassion and love.

I feel obligated as a Muslim to help anyone in need. So much emphasis is placed on this in Islam, and in the prophet’s (peace be upon him) exemplary behavior, that one just cannot ignore the profound importance of charity and helping others.”


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A Growing Need For Muslim Foster Parents: Find Out This Friday What You Need To Get Licensed
There are 397,122 foster children in the United States according to recent reports, with 15 percent living in institutions. As the Muslim population of the country increases, more social workers are receiving calls to accomodate Muslim foster children. However, many times they cannot place these children in Muslim households because there aren't enough Muslim foster parents in the system. Consider this example from the online newspaper Muslim Link: “We get calls for Muslim foster families, for Muslim children…and we cannot place them. When everyone says no, that means they are placed wherever the state can place them. That will be within a culture and religion that is foreign to them. Every day they are within a non-Muslim home diminishes their Muslim identity,” Molley Dagget of the Lutheran Social Services told the news site.
To solve this issue Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI has made it a priority to train adults to become licensed foster parents. So far, they have trained 7 parents. Join them this Friday for a panel discussion on dispelling the misconceptions many Muslims have on foster parenting. Sr. Mona Yousef will be discussing the situations that she encounters as a Juvenile Court Referee. Dr. Sarah Mohiuddin will be sharing her experiences as a child psychiatrist and the impact she has seen on displaced and/or abused children. Sr. Sameena will be sharing her experience as a licensed foster parent who is also a biological mother. Lastly, Tamika Meriman, our representative from Vista Maria Foster Care Agency will be presenting on the process of becoming a licensed foster parent through the state of Michigan. 
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ICNA Relief Chicago Sponsors 40-Hour Workshop to Combat Domestic Violence in the Community 

One of the grave concerns in today’s society is the alarming rate of the breakdown of the family structure. Out of the many reasons, one that cuts across all boundaries of religion, culture, socio-economic order and ethnicity is domestic violence and abuse.

Statistics show that every nine seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes physically as well. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult.

Muslim Family Services Chicago is helping communities to combat such problems through proper education.  To create awareness and help this cause, ICNA Relief sponsored a 40-hour “Dealing with Domestic Violence” workshop in collaboration with Hamdard Center in Chicago.  A diverse group of 10 sisters from different cultural, ethnic and racial back grounds attended the workshop.

The course was taught by a group of experts  in this field shedding on the dynamics of DV, myths & realities, working with various populations, and cultural and religious issues among other aspects.

Such training blended with Islamic values of passion and care is very helpful to equip mothers and daughters with the right technology to deal with such problems and counsel our community members confronted with such issues. With this training we hope that our sisters will not only be able to help victims of DV by guiding them to the proper help and resources they need, but also to be at the forefront of bringing positive change in our communities.

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ICNA Relief Chicago Attends Muslim Women's Alliance Annual Luncheon

Dr. Rabia, Sr. Atya and Dr. Saima had the honor of representing ICNA Relief Chicago's  Food Pantry, Thrift Store and Muslim Family Services at the Muslim Women Alliance (MWA) Annual Luncheon on March 16, a female-only event that showcases the talents of Muslim women in our community.

The Muslim Women’s Alliance is a non-profit organization whose mission is to build a strong bond between women so that they may implement the values of Islam through different channels. ICNA Relief’s actions and visions were shared  with founding members Noor Hasan and Sabina Abdul-Qadir. 

ICNA Relief’s table featured information on our food pantry,  thrift store, displaying items typically found in our food baskets, Family Services, shelter projects  and letting the word out on how to help- through shopping and donating and utilizing our family services.

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A Renewed Meaning in Life – Take Control

Omar* a 25 year old successful college student with no previous mental health concerns had suddenly found himself in a state of misery and isolation. He had happily married within the last year, only to find that marriage does not always start off in bliss. Marital issues arose between the newlywed couple neither of them aware of how to deal with the conflicts. Tension continued to rise and Omar’s wife soon left him. He was devastated. His grades at school began to slip, he became sleepless and lost 10 pounds in one month. Soon he became suicidal, feeling life was not worth living anymore. It was then that his friend, realizing the seriousness of the situation, advised Omar to visit Muslim Family Services (MFS) to see a counselor. Omar was not the type of person to seek counseling, yet he found himself at MFS. From there with weekly counseling sessions and constant follow up by the team, Omar found meaning in life again. One of our counselors said, “We worked with him carefully and slowly. He was able to take control of his life and recover his functionalities.” Therefore, the case resulted in a positive outcome in which a young individual was able to move forward and beyond his worries. More people, married and single, can benefit from such guidance as divorce rates and mental health concerns for various reasons increase.

Read more at MuslimFamilyServices.org.

*Name changed for confidentiality

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We are proud to be a Platinum sponsor for Road to Revival Conference, a project of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. We invite you all to come out and attend this Conference with your families on February 8th. Register today! 
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