By Hussam Al-Mayman
15 September 2017
ISLAMOPHOBIA, rife in the United States and the West, was not used as an excuse by the Muslim community in Houston Texas to turn their face away from humanity. They showed with their actions that though branded by a segment with the word, the community showed that it did not affect the human heart. As many who have been following the destruction wrought by tropical storm Harvey, the worst to hit the Lone Star state, that left many communities flooded and destroyed in its wake. That would not faze the Muslim community in Houston to help their neighbourhoods and fellow man regardless of race, creed or religion.
A group of more than 100 Muslim youths hit the streets to help Houston residents during the storm. The volunteers passed out food, water, other supplies, they were on their boats going around making sure everyone is safe in Houston, raised more than $18,000 to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and expect to gain more volunteers from surrounding cities when the roadways open.
Despite a subjective media that fuels Islamophobia and an increase in Muslim hate crimes spiking up to 91 percent, this is not the first time these Muslim communities have aided their own countrymen as they have aided in recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in New York after Hurricane Sandy, and in Texas after Hurricane Rita.
Water will also wash away fear of Islam, as the storm hit and the flooding ensued, the mosques in the greater Houston area have been providing cots and food to displaced people who may have otherwise never stepped foot inside the venue of Islamic worship. At least five area mosques had been turned into shelters. To quote Shazia Ashraf, the chairwoman of a committee for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston the mosques serving as shelters are “completely stocked with supplies” including coffee, a hug, a smile anything that can help.” I think they have cookies too.
Asides from the usage of mosques, half flooded homes of some the volunteers still set up shop on the second story of their flooded homes taking in anyone in need of help and shelter.
I am not trying to keep score here but on a related note, Evangelical pastor Joel Osteen? the head of a mega church in Lakewood, Texas was harshly condemned for closing his church as the disaster first struck only later opening the church as a shelter after facing a backlash online. Osteen comments for his action were ‘that it was taken as a precaution, and the city didn’t ask them to become a shelter then.’
But I don’t really think the city asked Shazia Ashraf and her community to open their homes, mosques, and risk their lives to save many other lives during this disaster. It came from their hearts and love for their fellow man without an order being issued. Kind of like a superhero dedicated to fighting crime and protecting the public.
The only thing I hope this storm washes away is the sentiments of Islamophobia, because when push comes to shove and when the going gets tough, we are all humans and need help every once in awhile regardless of who we are and what we believe in.