By Susan Koomar, Emmaus Patch

Muslims from across the Lehigh Valley gave blood at the Bethlehem Township Community Center on Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

"I want to help people," said first-time blood donor Fatima Dia of Bethlehem. "Our religion is about helping. Some people don't understand what our religion means. They think all Muslims are bad."

The Easton-based chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which organized the blood drive, was formed more than a year ago and has about 55 members. They worship in each other's homes, but hope to build a local mosque some day.

The group hoped to have at least 18 pints of blood donated to the Keystone-Miller Blood Center of Bethlehem but had exceeded that goal with more than 20 pints donated by 2 pm. The drive lasted from 8am to 4pm.

They hope to make the 9/11 blood drive an annual event.

"After 9/11, everyone was so united. We want to recapture that mood," said Asad Chaudry, who helped organize the event. "On that day, [our religion] was hijacked."

The chapter's president, Naseem Waseem of Easton, said response to the event has been encouraging.

"It's been very wonderful," he said. "We want to do something for the community."

Blood donors traveled from as far as Macungie, Lehighton and even Willow Grove near Philadelphia to participate. Supporters included U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, who stopped by on his way to a 9/11 commemorative event in Nazareth.

The group plans to organize more events, including interfaith conferences.