Friday, February 12, 2010

Questioning the Muslim Response to Haiti’s Tragic Earthquake

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was propelled back onto the international stage after being shaken by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Within hours, members of the international community raced to the aid of trapped and injured Haitians. Despite the fact that relief has come from all corners of the world, some individuals have sought to minimize the efforts of others.

In a January 27th, 2010, op-ed, the president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Steven B. Nasatir, rightfully notes the generous contributions from his organization, the Jewish-American community, and from Israel; however, he also tosses in a sharp jab toward Saudi Arabia by claiming that they have sent nothing to Haiti but a “letter of condolence.” Had Mr. Nasatir done a bit of research, he would have found that prior to his op-ed, Saudi Arabia announced a $50 million donation to the UN fund for Haiti. In addition to this error, the Israel National News site published an article entitled “Haiti Relief: Israel Sends 220- Muslims Send 0”.

Even Jamie Allman, an award winning radio talk show host in St. Louis, MO, claims that the Muslim world is missing from those contributing to Haitian relief. As if this assumption were not enough, Mr. Allman goes on to make other offensive comments, which include a joke that he has “another creative idea for that Danish cartoonist: Draw a desperate Haitian desperately scribbling a cartoon of Mohammed. The cutline: ‘Maybe now they will pay attention. I might even get kidnapped.’”.

Although these authors seek to blatantly divide Haitian relief efforts along religious and ethnic lines, reality tells a very different story. Wikipedia offers a thorough list of the humanitarian responses by national governments, while the Arab American Institute also offers a detailed list of those who have donated to the Haitian relief effort. Despite this plethora of information, ignorance and lies continue to be propagated.

The above lists, along with others like them, include substantial contributions from Arab nations, Muslim communities, and Islamic organizations. Contributions like $1 million from Kuwait, 30 tons of aid from Syria, and $1 million worth of medical supplies from Morocco cannot be denied. In addition, the efforts of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), the Zakat Foundation, and Islamic Relief-USA have all made significant contributions to the relief effort. The Zakat Foundation, for example, has been purchasing and trucking in supplies from the Dominican Republic. They help to ensure that Haitians have access to food and water, while also providing food to some 700 orphans. Islamic Relief-USA has pledged $1 million and is working in coordination with the Mormon Church to send supplies. IMANA has been sending rotating teams of doctors to work in the health care facility that they set up in an old amusement park. Even CAIR-Chicago's own Executive Director, Ahmed Rehab, and Board Member, Yaser Tabbara, just returned earlier this month from Haiti after providing hands-on aid to the devastated country on behalf of the Chicago Muslim community.

While the exact death toll from this earthquake may never be known, officials estimate that upwards of 230,000 people have lost their lives. The number of injured, however, is many times this number. Haiti is likely to become a nation of amputees that does not inherently have the health care system to support the needs of its people. Even before the earthquake, Haiti, which is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, was home to many challenges. Recent years have been plagued by food riots, government coups, and devastating hurricanes.

Despite these hardships, the Haitians have always persevered with strength and determination. With the rainy season near and the hurricane season only a few months away, it is time for all of us to end bickering and finger pointing. Just as the world came together in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, each and every one of us, as part of the global community, should do all that we can to help the Haitians in their time of need.

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