By Adil James, MMNS
Dearborn–February 6–This Gaza fundraiser shows off the talents of local young people who showed their generosity and hard work by raising $165,000 for people afflicted by recent atrocities in Gaza.
It was mainly Arabs who attended the Islamic Relief-sponsored fundraiser in Dearborn this past weekend.
Islamic Relief sponsored the fundraiser, which cost $25 for adults, $20 for students, and $15 for children. Dinner, of course, was provided. The dinner was titled the â€œPalestine Humanitarian Crisis Emergency Fundraiser.â€
The fundraiser began with a recitation of some ayahs from Surah Tauba, and this was followed by an introduction designed to give an idea of the basic message of the evening, â€œThis Islamic Relief dinner is your chance to offer relief,â€ explained the MC.
The Keynote speaker was Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, who explained that â€œin the past century, since the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa I have not seen people suffer as much or as long as the people in Palestine.â€
The keynote speech was interesting because Dawud Walid focused his speech on the common links among Muslims and in fact among all humanity.
Quoting from Qur`an, Mr. Walid mentioned the ayah that â€œO Mankind, surely we have created you from one soul.â€ Mr. Walid emphasized the common application of this verse to all of mankind rather than just Muslims, or just believers, or just people of the book.
â€œBrothers and sisters, we come from one soul,â€ therefore â€œwe should not just be concernedâ€ about the people suffering in Gaza because they are Muslim, or because of their ethnicity, but â€œwe should be concerned because they are human beings from one soul.â€
He mentioned his travels to 15 different countries, and his having made hajj and umra, and he said â€œI had an epiphany one day,â€ that every country in the world has â€œgawkers,â€ who while passing a car accident try to peer inside to see what has happened to the person, whether they have been injured or killed.
Walid said this comes from a good characteristic of human beings, â€œwe are interested because when someone else has been injured or killed, a part of ourselves is injured or killed.â€
He quoted the ayah that if a person kills one person it is as if they have killed all people, and if they save one person it is as if they have saved all people.
â€œSo brothers and sisters,â€ he exhorted, when you hear of people with no water or milk for their children, â€œpicture yourself without water or milkâ€ for your children.
He emphasized that Gaza is not only Muslims, that there are also innocent Christians who have suffered and who have been killed in the most recent fighting.
â€œPeople are born in fitrah,â€ he explained. â€œKeep the people in Gaza in your hearts and minds.â€
â€œOur goal for the night was $100,000, just because of how dire the situation was,â€ explained Wiam Alwan, who conceived the event.
Ms. Alwanâ€™s origin is from Syrian immigrants, and she was raised in Michigan, where her family attends the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. She is a sophomore studying media arts at Wayne State University.
She explained that â€œIâ€™m just passionate about the cause, and about humanitarian issues generally.â€ Feeling very strongly about it, â€œI contacted 5 other people, appointed chairs, finance, registration committees–and me and my cochair plannedâ€ the event.
â€œI contacted Islamic Relief, and offered to plan and advertise everything if they paid for everything.â€
Islamic Relief agreed.
Renting the Greenfield Manor cost approximately $13,000, which Islamic Relief paid for out of its budget. The labor for the evening was free, because of the generously donated time of many students.
â€œTicket sale money didnâ€™t even pay for the hall,â€ she explained, because by agreement with Islamic Relief all of the proceeds of the evening were strictly for donations.
Ms. Alwan had intended that the event be open to many different peoples, many different ethnicities. â€œWe tried to target all the masajid, we invited imams from Detroit, the Muslim Center, IAGD, Canton–maybe there was a lack of advertisement all around,â€ she said. Many people learned about the event â€œby word of mouth.â€
She suspects that it was because the event was in Dearborn that few attendees were not Arabs.
Ms. Alwan had high praise for those who worked with her, saying â€œI really appreciate all the passion and the inspired volunteers who got involved, and how hard-working everyone was for the cause of humanitarian aid, and I really appreciate that and I couldnâ€™t have done anything without what everyone did.â€
As for the future, she says, â€œwe can learn from our mistakes.â€ She hopes to help provide relief for other areas of the world, mentioning humanitarian issues in Pakistan and recent issues on the continent of Africa.
The event was really very professional, especially given that it was conceived entirely by a sophomore at a local university with no prior experience, and carried out by her and her fellow students at the university.
Ms. Alwan explained to TMO that she had never previously conducted such a large undertaking. â€œI had worked on some projects before, but nothing this big.â€ The former webmaster for Wayne State MSA had planned a masjid cleanup, had volunteered as a behind-the-scenes worker at different dinners. â€œI definitely really really liked doing it.â€
â€œI like working for any humanitarian cause,â€ she explained.
Ms. Alwan was able to secure $165,000 in aid for the people of Gaza, surpassing even her intended goal of $100,000.
â€œWe were satisfied with the amount, Alhamdulillah,â€ she says.