Muslim-American groups have come together to raise nearly $135,000 for the families of the 14 killed and 21 wounded in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
Faisal Qazi, a neurologist and president of the MiNDS Network, launched the local fundraising campaign, Muslims United for San Bernardino, one day after the tragedy at the Inland Regional Center, a facility for people with developmental disabilities.
It was intended as a local campaign for Muslim-Americans in Southern California until Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the nonprofit CelebrateMercy, reached out to Qazi and suggested broadening the scope to a national level.
“We care for this country. We love this country. While no amount of money will bring back victims’ loved ones for their families, we hope this will alleviate some of the financial burden for these families,” El-Messidi said in an interview with Yahoo News.
El-Messidi, who has experience with countrywide campaigns, secured promotions and endorsements from major Muslim organizations throughout the United States, including Zaytuna College and Mental Health 4 Muslims.
Within 48 hours, the campaign on LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform focused on Muslims throughout the world, reached its initial goal of $50,000, so the organizers raised the bar to $140,000.
In the wake of the tragedy, El-Messidi said, many Muslims were frustrated and scared that some people were lumping them together with extremists.
Perhaps the most public indication of this was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The proposal has garnered both domestic and international ridicule, and several prominent scholars challenged it on constitutional grounds.
El-Messidi lamented what he considers the unfair and inaccurate representation of most Muslim-Americans as violent and treasonous in parts of the news media.
“The truth is far from that. Muslims make about 1 percent of America,” El-Messidi said. “We are actively contributing to America and helping to build society. This campaign is one example of how American Muslims are trying to build and not destroy.”
Imam Omar Suleiman was the first major national Islamic figure to endorse the campaign. He said he wanted to bring whatever comfort and relief he could to the families.
“Obviously, losing someone is not something that could be compensated in any way. At least we could demonstrate that we were with them as fellow citizens and fellow human beings. This was a phenomenal outpouring of love,” Suleiman told Yahoo News. “Our hearts and minds are with the families of these victims.”
Echoing El-Messidi’s sentiments, Suleiman said that these tragedies force the Muslim community in this country to grieve as Americans and worry as Muslims.
Muslims have been among the victims, he continued, of major terrorist attacks, including Sept. 11 and the attacks on Paris last month. Anies Kondoker, who survived being shot three times in San Bernardino last week, attended the same mosque as the terrorists.
“We suffer as a community, like everyone else,” Suleiman said. “It’s a terrifying climate now where even a disabilities center is not even safe anymore. We are praying for an end to gun violence and terrorism of all sorts.”