Islamic Relief’s “Songs for the Children” in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Islamic Relief USA ( IRUSA.ORG ) is a well-known and long established American charity organization founded in California in 1993 and headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. It has been assisting humanitarian projects in various countries around the globe and as its name suggests, it has focused most of its efforts in Islamic countries or countries with large Muslim populations. But it has not excluded countries in need like our very own after disasters like Hurricane Sandy have occurred.
The event was planned and part of a fundraising drive with the theme of “Songs For The Children”, but it also turned out to have a dual meaning on Friday, December 14 th, 2012 in Sacramento. Islamic Relief has aided children in need around the world but it was with great sadness that this time emcee Mohammed Amer had to start the program with a remembrance for the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Imran Abdurabbo started the proceedings with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Local thanks and a welcoming address was presented by Imam Mumtaz Qasmi from the Sacramento Downtown Muslim Mosque (V Street). Imam Qasmi asked everyone to join him in a few moments of silence for the victims of the shooting in Connecticut, and was joined in prayer by the entire gathering for the innocent souls. The Imam asked Allah to bless the gathering because it was for a good and noble purpose: to help the destitute. He said that we worry about our own children and those around the world and we all know that children need help to survive. He asked everyone to be generous and thanked the audience for their presence and contributions.
Emcee Mohammed (Mo) Amer is a known comedian who appears both solo and has teamed up with the “Allah Made Me Funny” trio to entertain audiences worldwide. He started off by asking how many people named Mohammed were in the audience. Since it is one of the most common names in the world, he added that listening to a commentary on the Egyptian soccer team can be quite interesting because one Mohammed passes to another Mohammed etc. He joked that it took him about 20 years to get his US Citizenship, since amongst many other things his first name happens to be Mohammed! On another humorous note he pointed out how Arab-Americans have cousins in just about every profession, to help you when you need it.
After dinner, area Islamic Relief Development coordinator Hamayoun Jamali started off by quoting a Hadith (saying of the Prophet (PBUH)) which states that each action is rewarded by its intention. Here, he elaborated, the intention is to help the needy and that is what Islamic Relief is all about. He added that the purpose for this event fits in with the vision of the organization. Jamali thanked all the local mosques and Muslim organizations who have supported this effort. He explained the dire situation for children in various parts of the world including the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, Palestine, Kenya, Somalia, refugees from war in Syria, and the extra efforts that are being made by Islamic Relief to help women and orphans. A video about the quality work that this organization has been doing was also shown.
The formal fundraiser was conducted by Azhar Azeez, a VP of ISNA and National Director of Funds for Islamic Relief. During his long appeal for contributions, Azeez hit all the right points, using verses from the Holy Qur’an to explain the many benefits of giving charity, especially the rewards for helping orphans.
The evening did not disappoint with its “musical” entertainment segment either, as hip-hop group Native Deen from the Washington DC/Virginia area was on hand to both educate and entertain with their powerful songs. If this scribe is not mistaken the two out of the three members of Native Deen present were Abdul-Malik Ahmed and Joshua Salaam. They sang several of their inspirational numbers, including “My Faith, My Voice” and their mega hit “Not Afraid to Stand Alone”. The third member could not make it that evening due to a family commitment but it was still a fine performance by the remainder, one which would engage and inspire youth anywhere.
Event headliner Junaid Jamshed is not a stranger to us here or in Pakistan. Recently, he has been making some positive contributions towards spreading the good about Islam outside of his home country. We cannot just call him a “born again Muslim” because his search for something more has been there all along and being a famous pop music star was not enough for him. His English Nasheeds (Naats in our language) are becoming more popular, but if one has to capture the soul of his own “Native Deen”, he is still most inspirational in his own language. Junaid is quite comfortable in English and his cooperative effort with Native Deen members was a success that evening. But his simple yet powerful rendition of “Dil Badal De” (Lord, change my heart) is just one example of how his voice can win over any heart, if one understands the Urdu language. Junaid Jamshed once again inspired his Sacramento audience with powerful vocals.
In conclusion, it was a pleasure to attend this Islamic Relief event. We wish that it could have been held under better circumstances for our nation because the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has moved us all. All Muslims and other Pakistan Link readers here join America in saying a prayer for the children (and the adults who died trying to protect them) who lost their lives to senseless gun violence. Islamic Relief’s “Songs For The Children” theme here applies to all children regardless of their faith.
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