Sacramento Community Raises Funds for Pakistan Flood Victims
By Ras H. Siddiqui
It may not be in the headlines these days because politics has overtaken other important news from Islamabad, but once again hundreds of thousands of people in both Kashmir and Pakistan have been heavily impacted by recent floods. Losses have been colossal and there is a growing need for help in all forms which the government there cannot address alone. So the burden naturally falls on the Pakistani expatriate community which just has to find the space between this grim reality of suffering and the shenanigans of the political elite in a poor country. And since Sacramento, California and its surroundings have possibly the oldest “Pakistanis” in the United States today (the ancestors of some families here arrived over 100 years ago), it is only befitting that members of this community and the Muslims here took the first step to help flood victims at a gathering at the SALAM Community Center on September 27 th.
Hosted by the Pakistani American Association of Sacramento and the American Muslim Voice Foundation, this effort also had the blessings of CAIR (SV), the Muslim Mosque Association and Consulate General of Pakistan LA. Close to 300 people participated in this fundraising evening, including many women and children. Coordinated by a dedicated team from the local community (too many to be named here) one is happy to note that it received support from non-Pakistani individuals and groups as well.
Khalid Saeed, the President of American Muslim Voice (AMV) Foundation ,was the emcee for this event. Introducing the program Khalid stressed that we have to care for each other and that we were all gathered here because we care. He invited a young lady from the community for the Qur’anic recitation to start the formalities. Soon after, he returned to give a brief overview of the two organizations spearheading this effort, AMV and the Pakistani American Association of Sacramento (PAAS), whose President Bashir Choudhry was invited first to address the gathering.
Bashir Sahib asked everyone to bow their heads and say a prayer for those affected by this tragedy. He said that it was his moral obligation to help here and this was a commitment that he had made. He welcomed everyone present who had gathered for a humanitarian cause. “Donate generously,” he said.
Khalid Saeed returned and introduced some of the local AMV office-bearers and volunteers present. Sacramento AMV Chapter President Asif Sattar next took the opportunity to address the gathering. Sattar Sahib reminded everyone that around Eid season, besides the joy, it is our duty to help people in need. He asked everyone how the people made homeless by the floods will celebrate their Eid? He said that NGOs play an increasingly important role in providing relief in Pakistan. Local luminary Javaid Akhtar also took the opportunity to share some of his personal experiences while growing up in a flood-hit community.
Some housekeeping rules were announced next. Checks could be written directly to the Helping Hand USA, Islamic Relief USA, Bilquis Edhi Foundation, Imran Khan Foundation, Pakistan NDMA and AMV. Separate arrangements were made to pay for Eid Qurbani via some of the NGOs too.
To offer spiritual inspiration, Downtown Sacramento Muslim Mosque Imam Mumtaz Qasmi next offered many words of inspiration and a great deal to think about. He explained in detail as to what Islam says about helping others in need. He said that we all live in relative affluence in America, and that true Muslims want a similar quality of life for others and not double standards. “You have two weeks of food in your home. They have nothing,” he said.
Dinner and fundraising continued. Some community kids even donated the money they had saved for video games for flood relief in Pakistan. The fundraising was conducted by Sheikh Monzer Taleb who enthusiastically encouraged everyone to be generous. A closing Dua by Woodland Mosque Imam, Aamir Hussain, ended the event.
In closing, approximately $60,000 was raised to help the flood-impacted people in Pakistan. The Muslim and Pakistani community in the Sacramento region need to be congratulated for their generosity towards the victims of this calamity. Let us hope that other cities across America can learn from this example and pitch in too because the need is great and resources available are very limited. This community of ours still has a generous heart. One individual who could not make it to the event dropped off his substantial contribution at my home because he knew I would be going there. Thanks!