by Julie Siddiqi, founder of Sadaqa Day
Last weekend was Sadaqa Day, the day of social action that saw Muslim communities up and down the UK showing acts of kindness to others, often in union with their Jewish neighbours and friends.
It was brilliant watching the buzz in the build up to Sadaqa Day, then seeing photos and articles being tweeted and shared on social media over the weekend.
Only in its second year, it is already very clear to me that people want something like this – it has motivated them to do more, to try things they otherwise wouldn’t have and, perhaps, to go out of their comfort zone.
The word ‘Sadaqa’ is very commonly known and used by Muslims, usually with a link to giving money in charity, the same as ‘Tzedakah’ in Judaism. And British Muslims give millions of pounds every year to various charities here, much of which goes abroad for relief work there.
But ‘Sadaqa’ is much more than giving money. It is also about compassion, helping others, giving ourselves in service.
I was inspired to start Sadaqa Day, after seeing the fantastic success of Mitzvah Day and we partnered together on 10 events – taking place from London to Leeds – at the weekend.
Of course, people have said to me “but charity is all year round” and yes it is! But it is so good to give people a focus, something specific to aim for. It gives them a taste of volunteering and, possibly for the first time, working alongside people of other faiths for a shared goal.
We had volunteers visiting elderly care homes, visiting sick people in hospital, clearing litter, collecting for foodbanks, cooking for the homeless. Hundreds of volunteers, especially young people, getting involved and loving every minute of it.
As with any of this work, the collaborative approach is always the best way to go. People from different faiths and different backgrounds have joined hands and have done some fantastic work together. Muslims and Jews worked side-by-side to help those most disadvantaged in society.
Friendships and trust are so important, especially in the world we now live in. Working together, doing good things in service for others, joining hands in partnership – these are all crucial elements.
Seeing the horrific events in Brussels unfold this week, I am reminded even more strongly of the importance of the work we are all doing. It becomes even more important, not less. We need to come together more, not less. The alliances we have built become so important at times like this.
We are all horrified and sickened, how can people do this to innocent people? The killing is indiscriminate. Anyone can be caught up in these things, they don’t care whether victims are Muslims or Jews or Atheists, young or old. They want maximum impact, maximum exposure, they want the world to be talking about what they have done. They have a twisted and evil ideology that they will say is linked to my faith – in fact it couldn’t be further from it.
In weeks like this, work like Sadaqa Day and Mitzvah Day may seem irrelevant, not politically important. In fact, I feel the opposite.
Finding ways to build friendships, to break down barriers, to address misconceptions – all of that is so important. I want Jewish people, and those of all faiths and none, to make friends with Muslims, to have someone at the end of the phone that they can ask difficult questions to at times like this.
The terrorists want people to be divided, they hate it when people work together and do positive for all of society, that does not fit their black and white narrative.
I am motivated more by the positives, by the good people, by the benefits that this work can bring. But in weeks like this I feel angry and upset by the damage these people have again caused, not just in Brussels and the direct victims of these attacks or their families – but on all of us.
Yes, Brussels was an attack on us all, a stark reminder that we need to come together, build bridges, understand each other better and never allow terrorists to define our narrative or tell our story.
Never allow them to think they have won.