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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

US Muslims start fund-raising to help Pittsburgh synagogue victims

More than $650,000 has been raised by Muslims and immigrants for the victims of the shooting

Mourners arrive outside the Tree of Life synagogue a day after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh. EPA
Mourners arrive outside the Tree of Life synagogue a day after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh. EPA

Hours after the horror unfolded at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh when Robert Bowers walked in and murdered 11 worshippers on Saturday, US Muslims launched efforts to support the victims and the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

Since the time of the attack, several crowdfunding efforts started by Muslim Americans and an Iranian immigrant have raised more than $650,000 (Dh2.4 million) to help support the victims of the shooting.

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"Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue" is one of the campaigns started by Tarek El Messidi, the founding director of Celebrate Mercy, to help those affected. He started the campaign on Saturday and has already raised more than $110,000 (Dh404,000).

In a phone call with The National, Mr Messidi said he did not expect the campaign to go viral. “We are on average receiving $1,000 every 20 minutes.”

The Celebrate Mercy campaign is inspired by “Prophet Mohammed’s own life in responding to evil with good, and to hate with love”, he said.

“We saw a community that is hurting and is under attack at its own house of worship, and we wanted to help and show a gesture of good will.”

Mr Messidi described a sense of empathy felt by many Muslim Americans towards the Jewish community given the recent increase of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US. “There is lot of threats, lot of bigotry. While the money will not give back their loved ones, we hope it helps with the funeral costs, and medical expenses.”

Some of the funds will be transferred as soon as today to the synagogue via the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

Another campaign prompted by the attack was started by an Iranian American living in Washington DC Shay Khatiri has raised so far more than $540,000 (Dh1.9m) that will go directly to the Tree of Life Synagogue. More than 5,000 people have donated to his campaign.

This is not the first effort by Muslim Americans to fundraise after tragic attacks. Last year, the community raised more than $100,000 (Dh367,000) to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised in Missouri. Following the Portland and San Bernardino attacks, Muslim Americans also organised national crowdfunding efforts.

Only hours before he directed his fire at the synagogue worshippers, Mr Bowers was railing against immigrants.

“Hias likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” Mr Bowers wrote on an online website before storming into the synagogue.

Hias stands for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which works to help resettle refugees in US communities. Founded in 1881, the society helped Jews fleeing Europe, and has recently supported many immigrants and refugees including Muslims to come to the US.