CAIRO – An Islamic center in North Texas is sponsoring a new campaign to encourage Muslims to foster kids and overcome difficulties children might face if they were raised in a non-Muslim house.

“It’s a service to humanity,” Dr. Basheer Ahmed, who founded the Richland Hills clinic, sponsored by the Muslim Community Center for Human Services, told The Dallas Morning News.

“There’s definitely a bad need in the community.”

There are about 6,000 children in foster care in North Texas every year, according to Child Protective Services (CPS).

However, there were few Muslims in the area who are willing to take care of fostering children.

A local spokesperson for CPS said there are far fewer Muslim foster families in North Texas than families of other religions, or of no religion.

Of 4,000 families approved to foster and adopt children in one national database, only five are identified as Muslim, according to AdoptUSKids, a federally funded project that raises awareness about adoption and helps recruit and connect families with children who need homes.

“It’s really a disservice to children … to be in a home that has different traditions, with which the children are either uncomfortable or disagree,” Kathy Ledesma, the national project director for AdoptUSKids, said.

To place a Muslim child in a non-Muslim home is “really violating their religious freedom or their beliefs,” she said.

Ahmed, the founder of the Texas clinic, has voiced hope that the problem will be addressed by the community center.

He wants to enlist at least a few Muslim families from North Texas to undergo training with CPS.

Muslim Direction

Ahmed attributes the shortage of Muslim foster parents to different cultural traditions in Muslim countries.

“Back home, we had no concept of foster care,” said Ahmed, who was born in India.

He said that the high proportion of Muslims who are immigrants could partially explain the lack of foster parents.

In Islam, Muslim parents are urged to treat children with respect and to nurture, love and educate them.

Islam gives children many rights and is concerned with their spiritual, physical, and emotional well being.

Muslims are ordered to offer children physical needs, such as food, drink and sleep as well as taking care of their children’s emotional and spiritual needs.

Islam also endorses fostering orphan kids, said Imam Zia Sheikh of the Islamic Center of Irving.

“Looking after orphans and taking care of them is actually encouraged in Islam,” Imam Zia said.

Jamal Qadurra, a Muslim legal assistant, is trying to arrange a conference to encourage the Muslim community to support foster parenting.

He said Muslims in North Texas should act as one large, extended family, in which everyone has a responsibility to help care for the young.

“This is what our religion calls for,” he said.

“We have a duty all to help each other.”