The focus on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina must remain on its survivors as well as the ongoing marathon of hurricanes, which have doubled in 35 years. However, we cannot but wonder why Muslims have not given enough attention to bring in the limelight the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and Muslim human and financial resources for the support of Katrina's victims.
It may be because God tells us in the Quran that we must take care of the poor without any expectation of reward from them. On an individual level, that is the right thing to do. But at the community level, we don't think it is against Islamic spirituality to let our neighbors know how Muslims have contributed to help survivors. This is especially considering that only bad news about Muslims finds a place in news headlines.
Muslim countries have contributed over $1 billion to relief efforts. Thank you to the anonymous person who compiled the following list:
Kuwait: $500 million ($400 million in oil, $100 million cash)
Saudi Arabia $255 million
Qatar $100 millions
Libya $100 million
Egypt $30 million plus other aid
Algeria $30 million
Tunisia $10 million
US - Muslim Hurricane Relief Task Force (MHRTF) pledge $10 million
Jordan $5 million plus other aid
Syria $5 million
Morocco $5 million
Bahrain $5 million
Lebanon $2 million
Pakistan $1 million
Bangladesh $1 million
It is also important to remember that this is the largest Muslim relief effort focused on North America. About 5,000 Muslims have been involved as volunteers. Since the Islamic charity infrastructure in America has been destroyed, many Muslims are donating through the Red Cross, but still. Since the fall of 2001, 28 Muslim charities have been charged but have never been found guilty of ties to terrorism. The US government has frozen millions of dollars in Muslim donations to these charities since then.
Nonetheless, Muslims have donated several million dollars to the relief efforts for Katrina's survivors. The newly established Muslim Hurricane Task Force has pledged to collect $10 million.
ICNA Relief has set up an office in Baton Rouge and has been helping house survivors. In Houston, Islamic Relief became the major catalyst for contributing $1 million from the local Muslim community to feed 25, 000 for a whole week. While the Zakat Foundation focused on taking a trailer of specific supplies others were missing to the disaster areas.
In terms of volunteerism, Muslims and their institutions have also participated in a big way. Mosques, in fact, were the first frontline of relief efforts. New Orleans' only surviving mosque became a health clinic for survivors; mosques in the nearest city, Baton Rouge, LA, became shelters with people sleeping inside and outside the mosque.
In Shreveport, MS, two Islamic centers also became shelters. In Houston, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston declared all mosques open to take in survivors. They also mobilized 2,000 volunteers who fed those housed in the Houston Astrodome.
Muslim individual stories are important too. Many Muslim doctors, one of whom was interviewed on Radio Islam (www.radioislam.com), volunteered to stay behind with patients and volunteered to stay behind and help. They were evacuated five days after the storm hit.
So far, 90 percent of Muslim charitable giving is focused on disasters around the world. In the past, Muslims have done some charity work in North America by opening soup kitchens and food pantries, holding meat drives during Eid ul Adha and participating in fast-a-thons during Ramadan. However, helping survivors of Katrina seems to be the biggest effort Muslim charities have devoted significant funds and volunteers to on this continent. I hope this trend of taking care of our neighbors continues because under Islamic Law (Shariah) Muslims are required to take care of neighbors before we assist those living further away. It seems these latest developments were a necessary correction on the Muslim charity scene.
However, we live in a global village. The Tsunami, which was a truly huge tragedy, opened the heart of everyone around the world. But at the same time, the cause of fighting drought, hunger and death in Africa suffered. Humanity has plenty to give and I hope at least Muslims will try to match dollar for dollar what they gave for Katrina. I especially pray that the world of Islam, which has contributed more than $1 billion to Katrina relief, does the same for Niger and Mali.
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