US Muslim groups raise funds to help rebuild burned black churches

(Photo: LaunchGood)

A coalition of Muslim groups has started an online fundraiser to help rebuild predominantly African-American churches damaged in a recent spate of fires across the South of the United States.

At least eight churches have suffered fire damage since a shooting on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine black parishioners dead, aljazeera.com reported July 7.

The church burnings occurred within just 10 days of one another, and police are investigating three as possible arson cases.

"To many, it is clear that these are attacks on black culture, black religion and black lives," the coalition wrote on the campaign's LaunchGood page.

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"It's Ramadan, and we are experiencing firsthand the beauty and sanctity of our mosques during this holy month. All houses of worship are sanctuaries, a place where all should feel safe," the group noted.

The coalition consists of U.S. organizations such as Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Arab American Association of New York as well as digital startup Ummah Wide.

It raised more than $23,000 in five days and after the campaign finishes July 18, the money will be given to pastors of the burned churches that need it most, said the coalition.

Quoting from the Qur'an the coalition says, "If God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will certainly help those who help Him - God is All-Strong, Almighty." (Qur'an 22:40)

The group said that like black communities in the United States, rote, American Muslims are also vulnerable to intimidation, though not to the same extent as African-Americans.

"The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans," organizer Imam Zaid Shakir wrote on the campaign's website.

Muslims can, however, understand the "climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country," he wrote, urging the American Muslim community to stand in solidarity with African-Americans.

The Aljazeera story noted that a mere 65 miles (105 kilometers) north is the church where professed white supremacist Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people.

There investigators took samples from the charred rubble of Mount Zion AME Church.

Authorities said last week they were assessing whether accelerant was used to fuel the blaze at the church, which the Ku Klux Klan had razed to the ground two decades ago.

Two other church burnings - God's Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, and College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, Tennessee – also had suspected arson attacks and are being investigated.

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