Muslim asylum seekers say food served at Queens shelter is not halal and cannot be eaten during Ramadan

NEW YORK — Advocates for Muslim asylum seekers in New York say the shelters that house them are disproportionately underserved, especially since they need fast for Ramadan.

This should be a time of peaceful reflection on the holy days, but that’s not the case at the Bellerose shelter in Queens.

“We need help. Really, really, really need help,” Abdoulaye Bah said.

Bah, originally from Guinea, West Africa, has been in the United States for seven months. He lives at the Bellerose shelter with other single men, most of whom are West African Muslims and can only eat just before dawn and after sunset during Ramadan.

“When refugees receive food, they have to ask themselves: ‘Am I maintaining my health or am I staying true to my religion?’ said Muhammad Mazhar, a shelter volunteer.

Mazhar and others at the shelter say it’s because the food they receive is not halal, which is prohibited.

Before security asked them to return to the shelter on Friday, a group of asylum seekers came out to show that they were wearing the same clothes and shoes they had brought when they arrived.

Attorney Kabir Javaid explained how he has seen the city respond to requests from religious groups to intervene, as others have done with shelters that do not house predominantly Muslims.

“When Muslim organizations ask them, ‘Hey, make us the same, give us the same credentials as Catholic Charities’… there’s no funding for them,” Javaid said.

A City Hall spokesperson said around 65,000 asylum seekers were still in the city’s custody and that she was grateful to Islamic leaders who helped, and “…we will continue to work with our religious leaders on how best to provide migrants with aid.” the support they need. »

“We can deliver, we can clean. Most jobs, citizens can’t do it but they can’t give us a chance. We are Africans, we are ready to help, we are ready to pay taxes ” said Bah.

Bah fears reprisals if he speaks out, as he has previously been reprimanded for criticizing the shelter’s food. He said he had no other choice.

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