Positive Muslim News

News about good things Muslims are doing in North America and around the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Muslim Americans strive to help earthquake-ravaged Haiti

As governments and communities worldwide mobilize to help earthquake-stricken Haiti, Muslims in the United States are doing their part by raising funds and partnering with organizations — both religious and secular — to aid earthquake victims.

This spirit of cooperation in Haiti’s greatest time of need is highlighted by Islamic Relief USA’s ongoing interfaith aid partnership with the Mormon Church.

“We are partnering with the Mormon Church on shipments of aid including hygiene kits and temporary shelters,” Naeem Muhammad of Islamic Relief USA told America.gov of relief slated for Haiti. “We do a lot of partnerships with them, such as in Indonesia with the tsunami and in Pakistan with the earthquake.”

Impoverished Haiti is familiar territory for the Zakat Foundation of America. Zakat Foundation Executive Director Khalil Demir told America.gov his organization has partnered with California-based What If? Foundation to support a meal program for Port-au-Prince’s children. What If? Foundation’s chairwoman of the board, Margaret Trost, told America.gov she is grateful for the Zakat Foundation’s support.

“The Zakat Foundation has made it possible to feed these children in large part because of their grant to us last year,” Trost said. Now, both organizations are working together to send earthquake relief to Haiti.

The Zakat Foundation aims to send two chartered cargo planes laden with supplies to Haiti. Muhammad of Islamic Relief USA said he hopes his organization will have an assessment team on the ground within days.

Fundraising for Haitian earthquake relief efforts is of utmost importance to these and other Muslim-American organizations. Islamic Relief USA launched a worldwide appeal for $1 million in aid and the Zakat Foundation pledged $50,000 in immediate assistance.

“There has been a huge response from people to our request for aid. It is the same here as it would be in Muslim countries — we have been receiving donations nonstop,” said the Zakat Foundation’s Demir.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has established a special Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund (HERF). “We established the fund because we realize the magnitude of the devastation and feel we are morally compelled to contribute to alleviate the suffering in Haiti,” said ISNA Secretary-General Safaa Zarzour in a press release.

Muslim Americans at the local level are donating earthquake aid to Haiti through ISNA and other large Muslim-American organizations. In Chicago’s 400,000-strong Muslim community, fundraising efforts are under way to help Haitian earthquake victims, according to Kiran Ansari, interim executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

“We have set up a fund at the council where we will send funds to organizations like the Zakat Foundation and Islamic Relief USA,” Ansari told America.gov. “We have sent out a request to all the khatibs in area mosques to make the situation in Haiti part of their Friday sermon.”

Ansari and other Muslim-American community leaders have made it clear that relief efforts in Haiti need as much support as possible.

“This does not have to be a Muslim-centric cause; [Chicago’s Muslims] can open their wallets to all of their neighbors,” Ansari said.

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Muslim cab driver returns $21,000 forgotten by passenger in taxi

Mohammad Asadujjaman's mother may not have schooled him in the quickest routes through the mean streets of the Big Apple or the best ways to negotiate with its famously plain-speaking inhabitants.

But she does appear to have imbued the 28-year-old New York taxi driver with an even greater gift: incorruptible honesty.

On finding that an Italian tourist had left a handbag containing more than $21,000 (£13,000) in cash - not to mention jewellery worth thousands more - on his backseat on Christmas Eve, the Bangladesh-born cabbie knew exactly what to do.

He rummaged through the bag until he found an address in Long Island. Then he rang a friend with a car and embarked on a 50-mile trip in the hope of handing over his find to someone who knew his fare, 72-year-old Felicia Lettieri from Pompeii. When his knocks at the house belonging to Lettieri's sister, Francesca, went unanswered, Asadujjaman left his mobile number and a note reading: "Don't worry, Felicia … I'll keep it safe."

A little while later the phone rang and he headed back to the Long Island address to return the bag and keep his word.


The cabbie himself shrugged off the incident, saying he had been taught never to take advantage of people. "My mother is my inspiration," he said. "She always said, be honest and work hard."

Despite conceding that such a large amount of money would have allowed him to focus on his studies, Asadujjaman insisted he was not tempted to keep it: "My heart said this is not good."

He also declined the reward the Lettieri family offered him, saying that as an observant Muslim he could not accept it.

"I'm needy, but I'm not greedy," he said. "It's better to be honest."

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