Joplin, Missouri,  9 Rabiul Awwal 1434/21 January 2013 (MINA) –  In a show of unity with their fellow Americans, a leading Muslim organization will be leading a relief effort with Jewish groups to rebuild the tornado-hit city of Joplin in Missouri.

      “When a disaster happens, we help people based on their need, regardless of their religion or skin color,” Shahid Farooqi, outreach director for the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief USA told Joplin Globe, according to report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA) Monday (21/1).

       Grouping under the banner “Rebuild Joplin”, volunteers from ICNA Relief would be working with the Jewish Disaster Relief Corps (JDRC); and Bridges, a Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue composed of New York University students.


       Farooqi said ICNA has worked with the JDRC on disaster relief projects in the past.

       He said volunteers traveled on Saturday and Sunday and begin their work on rebuilding damaged houses in Joplin on Monday (21/1).

       This is not the first visit for ICNA to Joplin city.  ICNA Relief volunteers first came to the city following the tornado that ravaged the city in 2011.

       At that time, volunteers slept in the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque, which was destroyed in a suspicious fire on August 6, 2012.  “We helped to clean up debris,” Farooqi said of the first visit.

        Last August, hundreds of Americans from different faiths gathered at a city park in Joplin in a show of solidarity with Muslims after the destruction of their mosque in an arson attack.

        Organizers said the rally was meant to give back to the local Muslim community because their mosque was a relief center for victims of the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, which took 161 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 buildings.

        ICNA officials say helping people in need, regardless of their faith, is a basic Islamic guiding.

      “Whoever helps another human being, God will help him on the day of judgment,” Mohammed Arif, assistant executive director for ICNA Relief, said.

       He said when Muslim and Jewish groups have worked together on relief projects, it has been a satisfying and rewarding experience. “There is no animosity, and this demonstrates very clearly we are all Americans,” Arif said.

        US Muslims have always joined efforts to provide relief to Americans harmed in natural disasters.  Recently, ICNA volunteers have provided relief to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

       The group recently was named New Yorker of the Week by New York cable channel NY1.  “Here in New York, they’ve been very active,” Gail Tweedy, ICNA publicist, said.

      “They’ve handed out thousands of blankets and heaters. They’ve provided free health care services. They’ve cut down trees. They’ve provided grief counseling.”

        Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.  While a 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.

        Interfaith ties between American Muslim and Jewish leaders have a history of successes.

        Founded in 1989, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has worked for years to improve black-Jewish relations as well as Latino-Jewish relations.

        In recent years, the group has focused on Jewish-Muslim relations, planning a series of efforts to promote understanding.  The group has launched an initiative titled “Twinning Mosques and Synagogues” to promote ethnic harmony and build inter-group grassroots ties.

        Since the initiative began in 2008, it brought together 50 Jewish and 50 Muslim congregations across the United States and Canada at one-on-one programs.

        A group of high-profile Muslim and Jewish organizations participate in the initiative, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM).(T/R-010/R-006)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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