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As communities throughout the country undertake special events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Muslim group with strong North Jersey ties is launching a nationwide blood-drive campaign.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has begun Muslims for Life, a nationwide campaign with a goal of collecting 10,000 units of blood in September. Locally, the organization’s first drive is planned on Monday in Rutherford; subsequent drives next week are planned in Englewood and Clifton.
“We wanted to find a way to save lives,” said Kashif Chaudhry, a doctor at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center who is youth president for the Ahmadiyya mosque based in Clifton. “The best thing we could think was to donate blood.”
He added, “You can potentially save three lives per unit of blood. We are trying to save 30,000 lives, 10 times more than the unfortunate number of people to die 10 years ago on 9/11.”
Early this summer the organization decided to conduct 200 blood drives nationwide leading up to the 10th anniversary.
“We hope to rectify the image that Islam does not respect life,” said Chaudhry. He said that in addition to the death and destruction inflicted on America on Sept. 11, law-abiding Muslims lost something, too. “Our faith was hijacked” he said. “The terrorists extorted it. … We will honor our country, America, and we will prove from our actions that we stand for life and not death.”
The four blood drives to be conducted in North Jersey in the coming week are among 20 similar events planned by the Ahmadiyya group statewide.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA was established in the United States in 1920. It is the only Islamic organization to believe in a messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmads, who claimed to be the second coming of Jesus of Nazareth. The group believes that Ahmad, who died in 1908, had been sent by God to divest Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices, to end wars, and to institute peace and justice, according to Ahmadiyya literature.
“We reached out to churches and synagogues and hospitals and universities,” said Chaudhry. “We’ve spoken to mayors. They have all helped us phenomenally. Some churches contacted us before we could get in touch with them.”
Chaudhry expects locally to average about 50 units of blood per drive to contribute toward the goal of 10,000 units. He doesn’t want people to lose sight of why the drives are being held.
“This is America. We are honoring 9/11,” he said. “We want everyone to know that.”