U.S: Muslim restaurant owners offer free meals

A free meal and a friendly smile aren't easy to come by. But a pair of Muslim immigrants changed that for some in Montreal with a s...


A free meal and a friendly smile aren't easy to come by. But a pair of Muslim immigrants changed that for some in Montreal with a sign in their restaurant window.

Motivated by their own experiences with hunger in Iraq and Iran, they offer a free meal to anyone in their adopted community who needs it -- no questions asked.

 "We went through this," said Ali Amiry, 51, who left Iraq in 1992, fleeing the regime of Saddam Hussein and crippling sanctions. "We know what it means to be hungry."


Ahmad Badawi, left, an immigrant from Egypt, wanted to work for his food rather than take it free. The restaurateurs needed a cook, so they hired him.
"Sometimes when you're out of work or out of sources like money, you can't get decent food. At best you'll find it for $4 or $5; it might be a lot for a lot of people. So I came here for the free food. I was looking for a job as well," said Ahmad Badawi, 42.

"We always say you have to work for your own hat," he said. "Rather than take free food, I prefer to eat from my own hand. You're at the end of the month, looking for a job. I said 'I'm looking to work, and to eat from my own hand.' The store manager said, 'We are hiring', and I had restaurant experience. Now I get paid and I get free meals."

A sign of welcome

Amiry's 16-year-old daughter, Ramin, made a sign about nine months ago to hang at the restaurant, inviting people to eat free if they couldn't pay.
"People with no money welcome to eat free," the sign read in English and French.

A man tested the policy and, finding it to be true, shared the sign on social media. Requests for free meals ramped up.

Before long, the duo was giving away as many as 20 meals per day. Demand diminished as other restaurants followed their lead.

Meantime, some customers started giving a bit extra to help offset the costs of free meals.

The offer came at the perfect time for 27-year-old Kris Begg. The struggling musician recalled how his mother sent him a link about the restaurant.
"I was having a tough time," he said. "They gave me rice and meat and potatoes."

There was no judgment, just goodwill.

"I've gone there three times," he said. "I don't go there everyday, I go maybe once a week. I don't want to be the guy who's always asking for free food. Get it when you really need it. It's a great service. They are really nice; they don't judge you."

'We wanted to give back'

Providing the food is just part of the business' expenses, Hashemi said.
But the sign has come down -- as some local businesses complained the restaurant put it up to get publicity.

Still, Marche Ferdous continues to give free meals. Needy people in the area know about the generosity, with or without the sign.

"We appreciate Canada," Hashemi said. "We wanted to give back what we have been given in these years."

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