The event started off with an overview of what MFS does in general and what it has done in the past year. MFS is a division of the national organization, ICNA Relief USA. ICNA Relief’s purpose is to establish social service agencies and community service centers throughout the U.S. to help those in need. The Michigan branch is therefore called Muslim Family Services and focused on helping people throughout the Metro Detroit area.
MFS was founded in 1998 and has become a well-known name over the past 10+ years. With its licensed staff, it has become a prime reference point for culturally-sensitive and Islamic-focused counseling, as well as emergency services, such as food & clothing distribution, funeral funding, car donation program, among others.
Another key program of the MFS is its Foster Care Parent Workshops. Considering that Michigan, especially the Metro Detroit area, has a high Muslim population, distressing is the fact that it also has a large shortage of licensed Muslim foster care parents. One may not hear of such a case often, but it is a fact that some Muslim children are taken away from their families and do go through the foster care system, just as the children of other families, regardless of faith.
It is important that the Muslim community establishes a support system for these children and takes a step forward when a foster family is sought by government and other agencies. MFS works with other social service agencies in the area to recruit Muslims, train them for state licensing procedures, and maintains a database of trained and licensed Muslim foster parents so if a situation ever arises when one is needed, one knows where to find assistance.
Although MFS is situated in the Detroit/Hamtramck area, its services are offered to everyone. Phone and website Q&A and counseling options are available and many people from outside of the immediate vicinity use the services of MFS. However, location and proximity is a challenge the agency faces. Therefore, it has recently started establishing a stronger online presence so to reach more people and make more people aware of what it has to offer.
Dr. Katranji, Dr. Alo, and the MFS presentation emphasized the importance and necessity of such services for the Muslim community and how it cannot be understated. The issues that affect the mainstream increasingly affect the Muslim community as well, such as substance abuse, youth/adolescent issues, marital conflicts, domestic violence, and more. Therefore, it was said that services such as those offered by MFS need to be put into place to handle these issues as soon as they start because, as wisdom says, it is easier to prevent an issue than to try to resolve it or heal it later.
In addition to the Muslim community facing the same concerns as the mainstream community, there is also the fact that many Muslims are coming from different cultures, worldviews, and understandings. This can be difficult to merge with the reality of living in the U.S. and can also cause problems that need to be addressed early on.
The speakers asked everyone to pray that the cases that come to the MFS never happen within one’s own family and to donate generously to the cause because without it, the community can easily be lost.
In closing, Dr. Katranji stated that the current fear of shariah should be non-existent because it is agencies like the MFS that represent shariah: agencies that keep a community together, regardless of religion, race/ethnicity, culture, gender, and other identifying factors through goodwill, faith in humanity, and the understanding of true human deals.
For more information, find Muslim Family Services on Facebook and Twitter (MFSDetroit) & visit them at www.muslimfamilyservices.org.
Select images courtesy of Anas Alkatib