By Nargis Hakim Rahman, MMNS
Detroit – – A community fundraising dinner was held by a Wayne State University student organization to help raise funds for Gaza victims, in Hamtramck last Saturday.
Sixty people sat around the elegantly dressed red and golden tables. Candles illuminated the room, giving a serious tone to the event.
Bangladesh Students Association held the fundraiser to raise awareness about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After fresh air strikes in early January, the recent conflict ended in a cease-fire prior to President Obamaâ€™s swearing-in.
As of January 18, Islamic Relief reported 1,300 deaths and 5,300 injured. Nearly 33 percent of those are children. BBC reported 4,000 homes were destroyed.
BSA planned to have their annual formal dinner until the air strikes began, said BSA President Ismam Ahmed, senior and accounting major at Wayne State.
â€œWeâ€™re trying a different approach, a fundraiser that is fun but it helps victims,â€ he said.
Ahmed first learned about the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict when writing a research paper in a Near Eastern class, last semester.
â€œIt is unfair for people to take their land,â€ Ahmed said, referring to Palestineâ€™s deteriorating territories.
BSA Vice President, Nadia Chowdhury said she got her Gaza news from Facebook, a social networking website.
Both sides have stopped fighting for now, Chowdhury said. â€œThere have been 10 times as many casualties in Gaza.â€
Event Coordinator Nooshrath Farook-Chy, senior and management major at Wayne State, said knowing the event was for Gaza pushed BSA to do a better job. People are busy with school but we watch the news, Farook-Chy said.
â€œWhy arenâ€™t we preventing it when weâ€™re so educated and modern,â€ she said.
Accountant for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Jiba Reza, said she attended the dinner to help out and for the sake of Allah.
â€œIâ€™m obligated to my religion. As Muslims weâ€™re obligated to help out whoever we can,â€ Reza said.
According to www.irg.org, IR has been established in Gaza since 1998. IR has responded to the crisis with $3 million in food, medical supplies and orphan care. IR provides aid with the United Nationâ€™s World Health Organization, during designated times as humanitarian aid.
IR is one of the few humanitarian aids allowed into the Gaza Strip by the United Nations Security Council and Israeli government.
Ahmed said people can donate using IRâ€™s website, on their own time.
BBC online diary writer and IR aid worker, Hatem Shurrab said kids in the Gaza Strip are returning to school but they remember the bombings.
IR will provide psychological support in the next two months. â€œIt is only now that we can assess the real damage to Gaza, as all areas are now accessible. The UN has said it will cost billions to rebuild Gaza,â€ Shurrab said.
â€œWhen you know our own Muslim sisters and brothers are suffering, it hurts me,â€ Chowdhury said.
Guest speaker Hadil Katato, Wayne State alumnus said the more people know about the crisis, they are more inclined to help.
â€œPalestinians have been making a severe cry and plea for justice and freedom,â€ Katato said. â€œThis is not an issue of religion, but an issue of humanity.â€
As former president for the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine, she said there is a severe lack of basic needs and it is the â€œlargest open-air prison,â€ with more than half the population under poverty.
The dinner was not only to raise money, but also to give people a basic understanding of the pressing issues, Ahmed said.
â€œIf peopleâ€™s minds can change by exposure, Inshallah they can raise a hand to help,â€ he said. â€œA lot of people want to donate but donâ€™t know how.â€
Wayne State junior Shehzeen Ahmed, psychology major, said BSA showed a good gesture by changing their plans for Gaza.
President Obama recently said he wants to create peace in the conflicting area and recognize the lives lost, Katato said.
â€œLetâ€™s hope Obama brings the change he promises for the US and world, in international affairs,â€ she said.
BSA will have a boysâ€™ basketball tournament this weekend to raise more money for the same cause. Farook-Chy said more people come when the tournament is for a fundraiser.
In the past, BSA has donated to Masjid Al-Falah when they bought the church complex across the street, in Detroit.
To donate to Islamic Relief, visit www.irw.org.