Community Flood Relief

By Adil James, MMNS

Screengrab from the youtube video Dil Dil Pakistan by Buddies Without Borders.

With entire regions recovering from the floods that swept from the Indus river in July, Muslims in the United States have been scrambling to provide relief to their beleaguered brothers and sisters in the Swat valley.  The relief efforts have come not only from Pakistanis, but also from Indian Muslims, and also Arabs.  In fact the real theme of the flood relief efforts has been the cooperation among organizations which might ordinarily have competing interests.

The flood has truly ravaged Pakistan.  The UN estimates twenty-one million people have lost their homes—it is hard to believe, but this figure is statistically more than the combined total of individuals made homeless by the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  Structural damages are estimated to exceed $4 billion, and wheat crop damages are estimated at half a billion dollars.  Estimates of the total damage to the Pakistan economy are $43 billion.

While individuals through their efforts might be unable to remedy the damage to Pakistan, and certainly they cannot bring back lost lives, they can at least soften the difficulty for the injured, the homeless, and those without medical supplies.

This article considers the aid efforts of three diverse people:  Saleem Siddiqui who originally came from Pakistan and now lives in Michigan, Dr. Tajuddin Ahmad, from Chicago, who originally comes from India, and nine year old Zara Fatteh from California, whose family is from Pakistan. 

Each of the three individuals took a different route to help.

When news of the flood came, Dr. Tajuddin Ahmad helped conduct two fundraisers under the banner of American Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI), collecting approximately $50,000 for flood relief.  “They raised from $45,000 to $60,000, and once that was complete they got in touch with a local philanthropic organization in Lahore called the Bitto Foundation.”  Bitto is “very big,” and established. And the AFMI group sent Dr. Siraj Ahmed (Tajuddin’s brother) to Lahore and to the flood areas, where he established a clinic.

Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad explains that “a local philanthropic organization donated land and one poorly-run clinic.  Dr. Siraj Ahmed took over and staffed it using Doctors Worldwide.  He bought medical supplies under the AFMI banner, and food supplies, enough to last for a month, and distributed those—creating a permanent ongoing clinic.”  Locally the Bitto Foundation will supervise construction and operation of the clinic.

Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad stimulated much of the giving by providing a matching donation to double what others gave.  The AFMI group also insisted that all supplies be locally bought in Pakistan—which provides a double help for flood relief, by helping the local economy and using the materials bought for relief work.

Indeed, given the political chasm between India and Pakistan, Dr. Tajuddin Ahmad says that Pakistanis are very surprised when Indian Muslims help them.  “They are extremely surprised that Indian Muslims are helping Pakistani citizens,” he explains.

300 miles from Dr. Tajuddin Ahmad in Chicago, Saleem Siddiqui in Michigan took a different route to the same goal of helping those affected by the floods. 

“Basically the idea came about a month and a half ago—a friend sent me an email containing pictures of the flood areas, they were heartbreaking pictures.  I couldn’t sleep—I was tossing and turning all night.  I said to myself ‘we need to do something… I need to do something… something on a larger scale’.”

“Normally,” explained Mr. Siddiqui, “Pakistani fundraisers invite Pakistanis, Indians invite Indians, Arabs invite Arabs—here I thought we should bring Indians, Pakistanis, and Arabs together on one platform.”

As Siddiqui called around to arrange the fundraising event, he found that the pieces of the puzzle fell into place almost of their own volition—he obtained free of cost a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn.  “Saleem,” said the hotel manager, “I’ll give you our ballroom for free, and provide everything you need there.”  The sound person provided his services for free. The Audio-visual person also provided his work for free. The caterer provided his food at cost.  The power brokers of Muslim’s Michigan community were immediately onboard.  Ghalib Begg of CIOM and Dr. Hamzavi of ISPU were immediately cooperative, Dr. Hamzavi even helped by providing one of his employees to help make arrangements for the conference.

Siddiqui, who himself is affiliated with HDF, explains that the fundraiser will have five not-for-profit beneficiaries, namely HDF, Islamic Relief, EDHI Foundation, Zaman International (an Arab charity), and the American Red Cross.  “We will tell attendees you can write a check to whoever you want to—it’s a mutual platform, all of them are on board—not just one name is hosting this thing.  This is a unique idea, normally one organization hosts an event and the money goes to them.”

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Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad (right) Mr. Saleem Siddiqui

Mr. Siddiqui and Dr. Ahmed represent the diversity of those supporting flood victims, and their stories demonstrate the broad base of cooperation among organizations and individuals for flood relief.

But the most distinctive method of fundraising belongs to Buddies Without Borders, in part the work of nine-year-old Zara Fatteh and several fellow children from the Bay Area of California.  She helped put out a music video based on the song “Dil Dil Pakistan,” an adaptation which begins “We are buddies without borders,”  whose lyrics include the words my life is Pakistan, my heart is Pakistan.”  The video was uploaded by the Youtube channel “Buddies without Borders,” and although this channel was only created a week ago (September 29, 2010), the video uploaded by Ms. Fatteh has already experienced 8,310 views, and has reached several youtube prize levels, being currently 223rd most subscribed this week, 109th most subscribed by directors, and 16th most subscribed this week by Youtube Partners.

The Dil Dil Pakistan video is very high quality, available in 720P, and features information about the flood and its effects on Pakistan.  It has pictures of children affected by the flood in Pakistan, and then shows children in America showing their patriotism for Pakistan and singing what is essentially a patriotic love song for the nation of Pakistan to show support for the victims.  The video features also singing by Zara and guitar playing and drum playing by other children as well.  The video’s cast is listed as Inaya Fatteh, Ranyia Fatteh, Zara Fatteh, Ayaz Latif, Ayman Moin, Ayra Moin, Anaya Khan, Maha Khan, Sheerin Khan, Rameen Khan, Amna Lodhi, Faiz Lodhi, Shahmir Lodhi, Shahzaib Lodhi, Ayman Moin, Ayra Moin, Daniyal Rahman, Zain Rahman, Ayaan Siddiqui, and Samreena Siddiqui.  The “crew” that produced the video is listed in its credits as “Zainab Raza, Omer Rana, Maryam Haq, Faiza Khan, Eram Khan, Nabeela Khan, Omar Lodhi, Nashrah Moin, Saira Fatteh, Parvez Fatteh, and Timbo.”

The video encourages people to visit the website, which in turn shows several different projects and describes its mission as “to spread awareness about the dire flood disaster in Pakistan and the need to continue to help the needy through the collective power of children.  The essence behind the initiative is that children are not bound by borders, cultures, religion and language.”  The site does not actually take donations directly, but rather funnels potential donors through a “donations” link to seven other established charitable organizations where donors can give money—once again showing a willingness—first, not to accept donations directly, and second, to support a web of other organizations across religious and national denominations.

All of these efforts demonstrate the putting into practice of the hadith, “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”  It is inspiring to see such a generous cross section of humanity showing love and mercy and compassion for people suffering thousands of miles away.

Here is a link to the Buddies Without Borders video, and here is a link to the Buddies Without Borders website.


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