A group of young Muslim men flew out of the shopping mall on Sunday morning to collect waste and empty trash cans. Following President Trump's warning Friday that a partial closure of the government could take months or even years, the men arrived with garbage bags and gloves to do what the federal government no longer does – collect garbage. Their peers did the same at the weekend in national parks in Pennsylvania, Florida, California and Ohio. "It is exactly what we do," said Sarmad Bhatti, 23, while he emptied trash cans along Independence Avenue. "If there is a chance to serve, that is what Muslims do." The men are part of the youth group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a branch of Islam that preaches about the importance of tolerance and that has been persecuted all over the world. The group, whose ages range from 15 to 40, said that part of its purpose is to dispel negative stereotypes about Muslims and to increase the understanding of their religion, a core principle is service. [Park Service takes ‘extraordinary step’ of dipping into entrance fees to bolster operations] "It is our duty to come in and serve – not as a show, but as an act of faith," said Saud Iqbal, a 33-year-old specialist in information technology. "I do not think people realize that." Bhatti and Iqbal wore yellow cardigans with an American flag stitched on the back and black letters with the text "Muslims for Loyalty." Together they carried a full garbage bag from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to their meeting place near the Capitol. "We are just as American as everyone else," said Iqbal. "We are just as loyal as anyone." When they stopped to catch their breath, almost two hours later in collecting refuse, a passing jogger smiled and thanked them for their volunteer work. Throughout the country, volunteers, cities, states and private institutions are trying to fill the void created by the closure. They do this with little certainty about repayment and no idea when the shutdown, now in the third week, will end. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, which has more than 5,000 nationwide members, organized clean-up actions at Philadelphia Independence Hall, Everglades National Park, Florida, Joshua Tree National Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. At least seven people have died on national park sites since the closure began at 9 pm on 21 December. The parks have largely been unguarded, trash cans run over and toilets are closed or are not maintained. [In shutdown, national parks transform into Wild West] In the district, the city pays for garbage removal at the mall and other federal parks for about $ 46,000 per week. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has urged Trump to end the shutdown, claiming that it hurts the residents and businesses of the city. Many of the approximately 30 Sunday volunteers said they were surprised to see little obvious litter or crowded trash cans on the sidewalks between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. But they did find complete cans that had to be emptied at the foot of the Capitol, near the George Mason Memorial and on Independence Avenue. At the eastern end of the Mall, volunteers fished empty water bottles and a mitten from the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Perrin McHugh and Raheel Tauyyab, both 18-year-olds from Northern Virginia, have emptied a trash can and put a new bag in it. McHugh, a senior at the Madeira School, a private school in Fairfax County, decided to join because her mother learned about the event on Twitter. She has been protesting since Trump took office, but said she liked to pick up garbage because "this is a concrete way to help people." "If the government does not take the lead, then people should," said McHugh, who lives in McLean. Tauyyab, a freshman at George Mason University, joined the Ahmadiyya youth group when he was 15 and said that he went out early on Sunday because he is proud of his country and wants to take care of it. "These parks are ours, and they are something we love," said Tauyyab, who lives in Chantilly. "We break stereotypes everywhere about what people think about Muslims and what people think of young people." Tauyyab, who was accompanied by volunteers wearing shirts that #MeetAMuslim said, noted that about 62 percent of Americans had never met a Muslim, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study. He said he wants to change that by engaging in honest discussions, also with people who are wary of their message. Further west on the Mall, Faizan Tariq, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, bent over to pick up the caps and cigarette butts. Tariq, whose family moved from Pakistan to Alexandria in his third year, said he did not hesitate to drive to the center in the early morning. "This is our country, and we have to make sure, even if politicians do not want that," he said.