by Elton Gomes
A crowdfunding campaign initiated by two Muslim groups has managed to raise thousands of dollars for the victims of the shooting incident at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The crowdfunding campaign on LaunchGood, a Muslim-focused crowdfunding site, surpassed its updated $50,000 goal in less than 24 hours.
The campaign passed its original fundraising goal of $25,000 within six hours, according to the page. As of Sunday afternoon, the campaign managed to raise nearly $80,000 from more than 1,800 donors.
“The Muslim-American community extends its hands to help the shooting victims, whether it is the injured victims or the Jewish families who have lost loved ones,” the fundraising page read. “We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” the Hill reported.
Tarek El-Messidi, the founding director of CelebrateMercy, says the effort is part of his group’s larger belief in reacting to hatred with acts of goodness. “We recognize that the money can’t bring back loved ones that [families] have lost so tragically, nor can it physically heal any of the wounds,” El-Messidi told Time. “But we do hope the money can in some way lift their spirits, lift the burdens of funeral expenses and medical costs.”
Who started the fundraiser and how will the money be used
The fundraiser was started by Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change, two Muslim-American nonprofit organizations. The groups said that they will be partnering with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh to distribute the funds.
Once a final goal is achieved, Celebrate Mercy said that it would immediately transfer the funds to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, which will work with Tree of Life synagogue to distribute the funds among victims to help with medical and funeral expenses.
Wasi Mohamed, the executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said that local Muslims have pledged to support the Jewish community in non-monetary ways during this difficult period. Mohamed said that local Muslims are willing to help by offering trips to the grocery store, protection during services or help with other needs.
CelebrateMercy’s other outreach efforts
This latest fundraiser is only the latest of Celebrate Mercy’s outreach efforts, which they say are inspired by the teachings and life of the Prophet Mohamed.
After the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, the group organized a campaign wherein Muslims from around the world could write condolence letters to the family of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens. In the end, the group helped in sending 7,700 letters from Muslims in 115 countries.
The group also managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the victims of the San Bernardino shooting in 2015, and to repair vandalized Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia in 2017.
What happened in Pittsburgh
According to media reports, 11 people were killed and six injured after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Police identified the suspect as 46-year-old Robert Bowers.
The victims killed in the shooting ranged from 54 to 97 years old, and included a pair of brothers, an elderly couple who were married in the synagogue, and a dentist who was about to retire.
On Sunday, thousands of members of the community and numerous religious officials came together for a vigil at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall to mourn the victims.
Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against Bowers. 46-year-old Bowyers was identified as a resident of suburban Baldwin, and he surrendered to authorities after the shooting. He reportedly made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and has been known to target Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Bowers faces 29 charges in an attack that left the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill and the rest of the nation stunned. The attack is believed to be the deadliest so far on the Jewish community in the US, the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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