Categorized | Brooklyn, Featured, Pakistani, Religion

Group Helps the Needy Partake in a Meaty Celebration


Women’s group in Little Pakistan gives the gift of meat to the less fortunate this Muslim holiday season.

Bazah Roohi

Bazah Roohi (center in pink) works with her employees and volunteers to package hunks of goat meat to distribute to low-income residents of Little Pakistan for the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha. Credit: AISHA ASIF

On Saturday evening, more than half a dozen women at a spacious office in Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan finished up the last bits of spicy rice and fish, part of their one-dish meal celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha. Then they folded back sleeves of maroon, yellow, and black lace on their elaborately embroidered dresses, donned white latex gloves, and set to work.

A white plastic sheet was spread on the floor and hunks of goat meat were dumped on it. Each of the women grabbed pieces of the butchered meat and bagged them in plastic, ready to deliver as holiday gifts to less fortunate families who needed the meat for their own celebrations.

“Why do we do this? It’s the way of Abraham,” said Bazah Roohi chair of the American Council of Minority Women (ACMW) in Little Pakistan, who organized the meat distribution.

Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Adha, Islam’s second most important holiday, to honor God’s mercy on Abraham when he commanded the prophet to sacrifice his son Ishmael. According to Islam, Abraham was blindfolded when he obeyed God’s order, but when he opened his eyes, he discovered God had replaced Ishmael with a ram, sparing Abraham’s son.

From this story, Islam established the ritual of animal sacrifice on Eid-ul-Adha.

“The basic idea behind it is, we should get ready anytime for any beloved thing to be sacrificed,” said Dr. Asim Maqsood who with his family attended the celebration of the minority women’s group.

By tradition, those who can afford it observe the ritual by buying a goat to slaughter, then dividing the meat of the sacrificed animal into three portions: one for the family, one for relatives, and one for the poor.

Some Pakistanis in the U.S. don’t buy goats here, instead sending money back home to have an animal slaughtered in their name, said Roohi. If they do buy an animal to slaughter here, “they only give the meat to friends, family – it doesn’t reach the needy,” she said. “They say there are no poor people here, but there are many who need help.”

Roohi chooses goats to purchase for the sacrifice of Eid-ul-Adha at Aziz Slaughter House in Jamaica, Queens. Credit: AMERICAN COUNCIL OF MINORITY WOMEN

Roohi, an accountant by trade, emigrated to the U.S. in 1998 from Pakistan. In 2005, she established the women’s group in her Little Pakistan office, to promote women’s rights. A few years later, she started a food pantry as well, which currently serves 42 families in the neighborhood. It was out of the concept of the food pantry that Roohi came up with another way to help her Muslim clients, by providing them with halal meat for Eid-ul-Adha.

Last year, Roohi and a couple of her friends pooled their money to purchase four goats for Eid.

“It was all distributed in 15 minutes,” she recounted smiling.

This year, Roohi and several friends traveled to the halal-certified Aziz Slaughter House in Jamaica, Queens where she purchased seven goats at $250 each for slaughter and distribution. Roohi also encouraged friends like Dr. Maqsood to donate portions of their slaughtered goats for the needy. In all Roohi had collected the meat of 11 goats for distribution on Saturday.

Shameem, a Pakistani woman who was wearing an apron and carried a toddler on her hip, came in from Gourmet restaurant across the street where she works as a cook to pick up a couple of bags of goat meat.

She was grateful for the gift “because meat prices have risen,” Shameem said, who did not wish to disclose her last name. Halal goat meat currently sells for $6 to $7 a pound in Little Pakistan; residents say that a few years ago, it was $4 or less per pound.

Middle-aged men stopped by Roohi’s office on their way from work. Women came in carrying their infants from nearby apartments. All of them greeted Roohi and her employees with a shy smile. Some of them promptly left with a word of thanks after being given a bag of meat, while some women lingered for a while exchanging pleasantries with the talkative Roohi. Shameem came back again with two young girls, the daughters of her neighbor, asking if there was anything left for them to take home.

Bags of goat meat

Bags of goat meat prepared by ACMW. For the Eid-ul-Adha sacrifice, Muslims must donate a third of the animal to the poor. Credit: AISHA ASIF

This year Roohi estimates that anywhere from 60 to 70 bags of goat meat were given away within an hour.

Dr. Maqsood said Eid-ul-Adha is in large part about aiding those low-income people who do not openly ask for help because they want to preserve their dignity.

“The basic idea is to help the poor without even exposing them in front of the community by keeping their privacy,” he said.


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