By Susan Schwartz
More than 200 people attended a dinner/fundraiser for Islamic Relief (IR) at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) in Los Angeles Saturday night.
The ICSC is the oldest Islamic Center in Southern California and is famous throughout the state for its interfaith and humanitarian work. The event was sponsored by the Centerâ€™s Youth Group. Islamic Relief had made a presentation to the ICSC recently, and the Youth Group was inspired to launch a fund raiser.
The title of the event was: Africa Food Crisis. The evening began with a recitation from the Qur`an with a translation following. Maisa Youssef, the coordinator of the ICSC Youth Group, greeted the attendees.
Dr. Jamil Momand, the former Chair of the ICSC, told his audience that the Prophet Mohammed (s) set a perfect example for us in always providing assistance to others. He lived to help others, and as a result of his selflessness, he left only a tiny physical inheritance when he died despite having been offered mountains of treasure by angels and men, and despite being the political ruler of a huge portion of the world at the time of his passing.
When we die (he continued) the extent of our charity will help expiate our sins. Dr. Momand recited a surah to underline his request. We should not give loose change but should instead make as large a contribution as our hearts allow.
Dr. Maher Hathout took to the podium next. Dr. Hathout, a retired physician, is a well known and beloved Islamic figure in Southern California and indeed nation- and world-wide. He is a sought after speaker, the Senior Advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and a prolific author.
Dr. Hathout said that we must define ourselves. How, he asked, does the Qur`an define us? The key concept is to bring people together to help the needy.
Absent helping others, religion is just a show.
People who do not have a support system, such as orphans, are the most needy.
Seventy percent of the worldâ€™s refugees are Muslim. Muslims are commanded to stand up for justice. It is part of what we are and have done throughout our history.
Africa, now, not through its own actions but because it has been colonized and victimized by the West is in need. It has been subject to cruel hegemony, and Muslims must act to help.
Abdulghafoor Mahboob from Islamic Relief presided over a visual presentation of the work of his organization. Islamic Relief began in the UK in 1983. The US chapter was founded in 1994. Islamic Relief has NGO status with the United Nations and often partners with other international agencies such as UNICEF.
While this eveningâ€™s emphasis was on the emergency situation in Africa, Islamic Relief is always ready for global travel when a crisis occurs. IR went to Pakistan last year in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. They also worked domestically to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
IR has permanent African offices in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Sudan, South Africa, Somalia and Malawi. The last two offices are recent additions. Islamic Relief and CARE have been invited to work in Mali/Niger. Islamic Relief also provides clean water on a permanent basis by helping to dig wells and setting up the corollary water systems. IR also provides aid including emergency medical equipment and supplies; blankets; hygiene kits, and shelter.
Mr. Mahboob read a letter from a brother in Kenya who urged his audience to respond immediately so that many will not die. The world often waits until many deaths are reported before it institutes aid. Islamic Relief wants to be proactive and save lives, and time is of the essence. In the northern region of Kenya drought and inefficient food distribution have created a severe humanitarian crisis. Ten percent of the population (3.5 million) are at serious risk. IR delivers clean water as well as food with special consideration given to babies, the elderly and nursing mothers.
Islamic Relief has a four star rating – the highest – from Charity Navigator, which vets charitable groups. IR is without doubt one of the most active and essential charities that currently exist.
A lovely Middle eastern meal was served. During the fundraising portion of the evening, people, obviously moved by the visual presentation and the speeches, were anxious to give and do their part to help resolves a humanitarian crisis.
The ambiance and the presentation created a memorable evening. The Youth group of the Islamic Center of Southern California is to be congratulated, and, it is hoped, emulated. l
Those who wish to find out more about IR may access its web site at: _www.irw.org_ (http://www.irw.org/) . To make a contribution â€“ and time and money are critical â€“ please send your check to: Islamic Relief, P. O. Box 6098, Burbank, Ca, 91510. The toll free telephone number for Islamic Relief is: (888) 479-4968.