Oklahoma Muslims aid in tornado relief in bid to build bridges

Oklahoma is probably one of the tougher places to be a Muslim in America, but Muslims have stepped in to … Continued

Oklahoma is probably one of the tougher places to be a Muslim in America, but Muslims have stepped in to help with the cleanup of a massive tornado that killed 24 people.

“As Oklahomans, we’re part of this community, and our hearts just break for what happened,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of several Muslim groups collecting donations.

“We want to show the compassion and mercy that Islam teaches us.”

While several states have passed laws forbidding courts from considering Islamic law, or Shariah, in their decisions, Oklahoma is the only one to have done it twice. The Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City has been vandalized twice in the last two years, most recently on April 27.

A police captain in Tulsa even went to court to avoid having to attend a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” at the Islamic Society of Tulsa.

While Muslim-American organizations have routinely provided emergency aid following natural disasters, the Oklahoma tragedy is special because of the anti-Muslim sentiment in the state. Rather than retreating, however, Muslims increased their outreach, convinced that when Oklahomans meet Muslims, their prejudices will fade.

“I believe this helps break down barriers,” said Saad Mohammed, director of outreach at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. “But dialogue and interaction are going to have to continue if these barriers are going to stay down.”

Mohammed was at home in suburban Moore, taking cover in a closet with his wife and teenage twin sons when the tornado bore down. Their home was completely destroyed, but the family survived.

Mohammed and his family are now staying with friends, but he’s also been involved with collecting and delivering donations. “It’s a shock, but we have to keep moving forward.”

The evening after the tornado hit, Muslim leaders gathered at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City mosque to start a Muslim community donation drive. In less than two days, they had collected thousands of food items, toiletries, bottled water, and other necessities.

The Islamic Circle of North America, an outreach group from Jamaica, N.Y., dispatched its Disaster Relief Team, which helps with debris removal and patching damaged houses. Soltani and his wife were helping with cleanup efforts less than 24 hours after the tornado struck.

“Anytime people come into contact with people of other faiths or ethnicities, it breaks down the stereotypes people have,” said the Rev. Joshua Leu of New Hope Christian Church in Oklahoma City, and a local interfaith activist. “Whenever you have a disaster like this, people come together and stop caring about those differences.”

Soltani agreed.

“People don’t care if you’re Muslim or not. That’s irrelevant,” Soltani said. “It’s a testament to how Oklahomans come together when things go bad.”


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  • Channah

    It is too bad such an article as this had to be written. Because of the bigotry and hate of so many, this was written to show the solidarity of the Muslims. It should have been taken for granted that they would stand by their neighbors. Did people honestly think they would step aside in such a time?

    Muslims are our neighbors and we must all work together in supporting each other. We should automatically accept that we are one–the whole–and not question any one of us. We are Americans–no matter who we are.

  • Mary Jane Reba

    You’re right Channah, It IS too bad an article like this needed to be written….as true as it is…it is sad that too many people are so scared and misinformed about Muslims… Of COARSE Muslims would stand by their neighbors!! It is sad that anyone would think they wouldn’t, or wouldn’t want to… Human beings are human beings…and good people, which IS most people come from all creeds, all races, all citizenship’s, all genders, all political persuasions…everywhere!! It is a few, misinformed, or those who search for anything they can twist, or simply choose to believe the worst possible that label whole groups of people for the crimes of a few…no matter what those few blame for the reasons of their crimes.

    Balderdash….You tell me what instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon. I think most Muslims would like to know too. For your information, Imams and Mosques do not exist to perform acts of terror…they exist for the same reason as Rabbi’s/Jewish Temples and Pastors/Christian Churches.

    Have you ever objectively read the Torah, Bible, AND Koran? …You will find fighting, battles, and slaughter historically recorded in all of these books…but I wouldn’t recommend ANYONE to “clean up” these books or remove anything in them!! That would change the message that was intended, nullifying the book. You should learn to read them according to history and what the scholars of their religion have studied and shared the meaning clearer. This will give better understanding on something you’re down on that you DON’T understand.

    P.S. the Crusaders are the ones that coined the phrase/word “infidel”…not Muslims….and….THIS is AMERICA….if no mosques are safe…neither are any religious -Place of WORSHIP-…..

    P.P.S…..and if you blanket ALL Muslims as not being able to be trusted…you must blanket ALL humanity. Every belief and religion have % that commit crimes but it’s not the religion’s fault, even if blamed.