The Scottish Muslim couple winning hearts amid coronavirus crisis
Falkirk, Scotland – It is not even 9am, and a queue has formed outside Asiyah Javed’s grocery shop in Falkirk, Scotland.
Key front-line workers and NHS staff are waiting for her to hand out free care packages full of masks, gloves and hand-sanitiser, items they desperately need during the coronavirus outbreak.
Dozens of NHS workers have died of COVID-19 and although the UK government downplays any correlation between the shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the deaths, healthcare workers across the country are struggling to cope.
For them, it is a matter of life and death, and that is why Asiyah and her husband Jawad stepped in to help.
“Instead of selling masks, I thought it’s better to donate them to the NHS because they need it more – they’re saving lives,” 34-year-old Asiyah says.
“The staff said they’re happy to pay because they’re running short, but I tell them they don’t need to pay because they’re doing a great job. We can’t take money from them.”
As the coronavirus lockdown tightened in March, Asiyah witnessed an elderly woman crying outside a supermarket because she was unable to afford necessities.
That was when the couple decided to use 5,000 pounds ($6,210) from their savings to buy masks, antibacterial handwash and other products to organise care packages for anyone that needs them.
They have donated 3,000 masks and delivered more than 1,000 food parcels to vulnerable people in the past four weeks.
An estimated 1.5 to 2 million people lost their jobs in the UK in the first month of the coronavirus crisis and there are fears this figure will sharply rise, pushing more people into poverty, according to the Institute for Employment Studies.
Many of Asiyah’s customers struggle to buy food to feed their families.
“Some people are struggling to get paid now due to coronavirus, so we thought, ‘Why should they sleep with an empty stomach while we’re eating?’ We put out an announcement on Facebook that we’ll deliver free food. We got over 200 to 300 calls so far,” Jawad said.
During the recent Easter weekend, while children were being kept indoors, the shop gave out hundreds of free Easter eggs while continuing to supply care packages, to hospitals, care homes and the elderly.
William Welsh, 73, has lived in the area for 54 years.
He greets Jawad with “As-Salam Alaikum,” (peace be upon you) as he is handed hand-sanitiser and antibacterial wipes in his garden.
“More people are starting to volunteer locally because it’s hitting home now.” William says.
“I can’t say enough good things about Jawad. He’s been doing it for weeks. The work this man has done will not be forgotten. Especially by elderly people. He’s doing a first-class job and long may it continue.”
Across Scotland, local communities have been mobilising during the lockdown.
Secretary-general of Glasgow Central Mosque, Irfan Razzaq, says vulnerable members of society need support now more than ever. The mosque is providing assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable people.
“We’re helping people from all backgrounds and if anybody is looking for help or support, we’re fulfilling that,” he says.
“We’re not going to turn anybody away. We’re getting a lot of calls from non-Muslims as well, especially the elderly. We need to come together and look out for each other and support each other.”
In Falkirk, Asiyah and Jawad plan to continue giving out free care packages, even when the lockdown finishes.
“Our local community will never struggle while we are around,” Asiyah says.
“They’ll come and ask if they ever need anything, even after the coronavirus. If they’re struggling, they’ll come and ask because they know we’re here to help.”
Another queue is forming outside the shop.
“That man deserves a knighthood,” a customer says to Jawad as he walks past.